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Published in Print: April 28, 1999, as 'We Thought It Was a Senior Prank'

'We Thought It Was a Senior Prank'

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Josh Ortwein's senior year at Columbine High School has ended a few weeks early.

The 18-year-old choir member was at a rehearsal last week when a student burst into the room and warned that gunmen had entered the school in Jefferson County, Colo. "We didn't take it seriously," he said in a telephone interview last Thursday, two days after a shooting spree by two students. "We thought it was a senior prank."

But the sound of gunshots and ensuing screams came quickly. Many of the 110 students in the choir room fled into the hallways, while Mr. Ortwein and about 60 classmates crammed into the 8-by-10-foot choir director's office and shoved a filing cabinet in front of the half-glass door.

From there, they could see flashes of gunfire and feel eruptions from bombs. They used the office phone to call the police and hoped the gunmen wouldn't discover their hideout.

"We were just trying to stay as quiet as we could, so no one would know we were in the room," Mr. Ortwein said. "You could hear the bombs exploding outside in the hall."

Vol. 18, Issue 33, Page 16

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