Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kristen Sheffield Perschon - Class of 2001 - Business owner/student

Describe your experience during the tragedy.

I was in the cafeteria eating lunch, all of a sudden I heard yelling and then saw some teachers, including Mr. Sanders, signaling us to get under our tables. After a few minutes under the table ( I remember someone saying there was a food fight), I hear Mr. Sanders yell for us to run, so we started running up the stairs. As I was running up the stairs, I heard the gunshots for the first time. Luckily, I was able to get out of the school quickly. I exited in the art hallway and then had to climb a fence. I went through Clement Park to the public library where I waited until I was able to get a hold of my parents. I heard so many different things and I was both fearful and yet at the same time I didn't fully realize the magnitude of this situation until that evening and on to the days after.

After the shooting, I remember a group of students that would get together at my church building and it felt so good to be there. I also remember that my mindset in a lot of ways- I was very sensitive to certain noises, and I remember telling my parents that I didn't want to think about college and my future plans because I didn't even know if I would be alive the next day. One of the things that helped me find peace was my faith in God and the strength that I felt in the community in the days and weeks after.

How has the healing process been for you over the past ten years? Please describe it.

The healing process has been good, but slow in some areas. If I have not had my faith in God, I would not have been able to experience the healing that I have felt. I have also had a strong family that has always been there for me and given me support. One thing that I remember a counselor telling me afterward has really helped me a lot was that my life will never be the same normal that it was before the shooting. I have had the opportunity to find the new normal and the shooting will always be a part of it. I have learned so much from it that has strengthened my life and helps me to understand people around me more. I still have a hard time with loud noises, such as fireworks, but overall I am good. All of the emotions from that day come back whenever there is a big event such as the Virginia Tech shootings, or 9/11, because I can feel the pain that those people are experiencing and I realize that they will never be the same again.

Update me on your professional life - what have you been doing over the past ten years?

I have been working and going to school. I have been taking college slower as I am working while I finish. I was able to serve a church mission in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which has changed my life. I was able to testify to people there of the healing that Christ can bring to our lives. It also changed my life because I met my husband there, we have now been married just under a year.

What is your current job title and where?

I am a student at Utah State University studying Spanish and I also work full time for Marketsplash by HP as an Account Manager. I am also a small business owner- my husband and I recently started a jewelry store called Shine.

Describe your professional goals.

My husband and I just opened a jewelry store ( in February and it has been a wonderful growing and learning experience for us. I don't have any specific plans for the future besides working on our store and hopefully expanding to other locations in the future. I also plan on graduating in December.

Have you been involved in any Columbine-related projects?

Since I graduated, I have not had the opportunity to be involved in many projects because I have not been living in Colorado. Shorly after graduating (in 2001), I was able to participate in a School Safety summit with the Governor. I was also able to participate in a School Safety conference in 2006 in Washington DC that occurred shortly after the Amish shootings in PA.

Has Columbine influenced your career goals? If so, how?

Columbine has influenced my career goals in the sense that I have the desire to understand everyone better. It has also encouraged me to live my life now because we never know what can happen. I also have more confidence in the person I am and know that I can always be myself. That's why my store is called Shine- because we can all Be ourselves and Shine for others.

How did Columbine affect your spirituality? (Were you religious before or no? Did you become religious after?)

I was very religious before the shooting. However, the shooting really helped me come to understand my beliefs better and to feel the effect it has on my life. I have realized that all that is unfair about life can be made right through Jesus Christ.

Had Columbine happened, how would you be different personally and professionally?

I think I would be more naive about the world and the things that occur. I would be less sensitive to those around me. At the same time, I feel like the shooting forced me to mature at a younger age, so perhaps I would be different in that way.

Looking around at the world today, what changes (positive OR negative) do you see as a result of Columbine?

A lot of schools have tried to incorporate things that will help them in a situation such as Columbine. Safety officials have also created policies and procedures and communication methods that will help them to proceed better in another Columbine. However, I do disagree with those who have fought against guns as the cause of the problem. I strongly disagree with this and believe that the best way to change our society is by strengthening our families.

Is there anything else you'd like to add that I might have missed?

I think it is important to realize that big events like Columbine are not just something that people experience and then move on from. It becomes part of them. And then it is up to us what we will do with our experience- will we use it to grow and learn? Or will we use it as an excuse for our lives? Although I wish the shooting would have never happened, I can look back now and be grateful for my experience and for how it has strengthened my life.