Pat Ireland was shot three times at Columbine High School, including once in the head. His dramatic fall from the library into the arms of waiting SWAT teams created the most memorable image of that tragic event. While millions of people remember that day, hardly anyone knows much about Pat, what he learned from this tragic incident, or what he had to say about the mentality that produced it.
For a year, Pat was silent. He refused to speak to the media and would not discuss what happened. Finally at a student rally organized to mark the first anniversary of this tragic event, Pat talked about what happened.
For the first time, Pat described where he was and what happened. He concluded by saying that day and the days that followed had taught him something about the nature of love and hate, the meaning of courage, and the preciousness of life. Pat asked people to remember those who lost their lives and those who were injured, but to take a moment also to think about their own responsibility.
“The battle against hate begins with simple acts of kindness,” he said, “knowing people’s names and speaking to everyone. Making a point to just be nice to people.”
You can’t solve a problem on the same level as it was created. Anger breeds anger. Revenge brings retribution. Violence feeds violence. When hate is used to combat hate, hate wins. The only way out of this descending spiral is to rise above and seek higher ground. The only way to drive out of the darkness is to be the light.