Columbine shooting survivor's message of hope: "It will get better"

Columbine shooting survivor's message of hope

Saturday marks 20 years since the tragedy at Columbine High School. As we look back and pay tribute to those who died, we also remember the survivors who still carry the trauma with them every day.

Whoever said time heals all wounds couldn't have imagined a wound as gaping as Columbine. But unlike so many tales from that day, this one begins on a happy note.

Josh Lapp, a sophomore at Columbine all those years ago, is now a husband and father of two –  Stetson and JJ.

"I was always looking for something good, trying to find the silver lining," Lapp said.

"Did you find it?" correspondent Lee Cowan asked.

"I think I did, I have happy family," Lapp said with a smile, with wife Ashley by his side.

Josh's dad, Randy, is also beaming. He's the proud grandfather, after all. It's a home full of light and laughter.

Twenty years ago, it was anything but.

"It's hard saying that your 16 year old son should see something that nobody should ever see," Randy said in an emotional "48 Hours" interview in April 1999. It was just a day after the Columbine massacre when "48 Hours" correspondent Bill Lagattuta caught up with Josh and his dad.

"I was so scared I just ran underneath my desk," Josh Lapp told Lagattuta at the time. "I was waiting… for a sharp pain just to hit me. You know, I would close my eyes, cross my fingers, and you know, talk to God." 

"We remember that day like yesterday – or I do, anyways," he said, almost 20 years later.

Lapp hadn't seen that interview since the day it aired. His wife had never seen it.

"It just breaks my heart for him," Ashley said, choking up.

"It makes the tears roll again," Randy said.

"Some of it I remember, some of it I don't. The sharp pain in the side –" Lapp paused.

"Why that, out of everything that happened, seemed to stick out so much?" Cowan asked.

"Probably because that's what I really expected," Lapp said with tears in his eyes.

Ten students were murdered just feet away from him in Columbine's library that day – not an experience that exactly fades. Lapp said he had not wanted to talk about it at first.
"Not at all. My parents kinda – kinda forced me," he said with a laugh.

"Yeah, I told him, if we had to take him to every counselor in the state till he found one he liked, he was going whether he wanted to or not," Randy said.

"Can you tell when he's gone to sort of a dark place?" Cowan asked.

"Yeah, I try to check in with him a lot," Ashley said. "I try to be like proactive in giving him a safe place to talk about it."

All that talking has helped ease the past, but what about the future?
"How has being a dad changed how you think about all this?" Cowan asked.

"Scares me," Lapp said.

"Just the thought of your kids going to school," Cowan said.

"In my heart it scares me. My brain, it tells me it's slim – you know the chances of it happening are super slim, and I understand that, but my heart says, should they? I don't know if I can handle it. I honestly don't," Lapp said.

"Gives you a sense though, I guess, of what your dad went through that day," Cowan said.

"I can't imagine," an emotional Lapp replied. His father started wiping away tears.

"You were raw then, and it's still raw," Cowan pointed out.

"It's your kid. It's your son. Why?" Randy said.

That "why" is still unanswered. It's never answered, really, in the wake of any mass shooting. But for all those survivors, Josh Lapp has a message: "If I can be a voice to tell them, it will get better. It will never go away. It will get easier… I'm willing to be that voice in some way."

No, time doesn't heal much, but it does offer perspective.