Platte Canyon High School Attack



Tragic Loss in Bailey, Colorado

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Keyes Family
who lost their precious 16-year-old daughter Emily
in the siege at Platte Canyon High School.


    When the breaking news bulletin came across my screen, I froze. A visceral physical reaction came over me, and I became nauseated. A man with weapons and claiming he had a bomb had infiltrated Platte Canyon High School, which is just a few miles away up the mountain, and taken hostages in a classroom. As the story unfolded, news, medical, and police helicopters buzzed overhead, and parents from all over the Denver and surrounding area began to frantically make their way up to the school. We were all back at Columbine High School again, and the images were a flashback.


    In the aftermath, young Emily was killed. I will not rehash the horrid details and circumstances, which were widely covered by local and national media. A Google search will reveal more details and images if you wish to know. Suffice it to say that our Colorado community was once again shocked to witness yet another attack on one of our schools, and this time, it was at the hands of an outside drifter who found it all too easy to gain access undetected until it was too late.

    For the next several days, from Thursday through the weekend, I was involved with counseling and comforting families and students in Bailey, not only at the counseling center set up at a local church, but also at local firehouses where CISM debriefings were held for the first responders. Students from the school called me, and I spent time over the phone with them, seeking to help them deal with the unthinkable murder of their classmate Emily, and come to grips with the reports of sexual assaults on the captives.

    Naturally, I cannot share any details about these sessions, but I can state the obvious... Such things shouldn't happen in our schools! These people will be scarred for life by these events, and only the grace of God can ever wash away the painful memories. I wrote a story about the memorial service up in the beautiful valley near Bailey, and I share it again below.

    Please remember to hug your kids every day. Life is fragile, and precious beyond comprehension.


The Memorial for Emily Keyes


The canopy of the deep blue sky overhead was framed by majestic snow-capped peaks far in the distance. Closer at hand, craggy rock cliffs soared upward for hundreds of feet all around us. Within this valley, watered by a babbling stream of crystal-clear water, and festooned by multi-colored aspen trees in their fall colors amid stately pine and conifer trees, we gathered to mourn the death of sixteen-year-old Emily Keyes.

Under the bright sunshine of early autumn, thousands of us stood on the green grass, awed by the beauty all around us, and holding one another in shared grief. The stark contrast of the beauty of God’s creation against the hideous evil that assaulted our community, our hearts, and our children last week was almost overwhelming. Often heard among the small groupings of people hugging and weeping together were the words, “How could something like this happen here, in this beautiful place?

At first, the memorial service for Emily Keyes seemed at times like an outdoor music festival, with some of Emily’s favorite music playing through loudspeakers all around the field. However, any hint of festivity faded as the black limousines bearing Emily’s family members approached along the valley road along the river, accompanied by police, Highway Patrol, ambulances, and fire trucks with emergency lights silently flashing. A hush fell upon the assemblage as everyone stood to their feet in respect, and the music faded into silence. The only sound, other than the chirping of birds and the steady drone of the stream flowing past, was the crunch of gravel under the slowly turning wheels of the approaching procession.

Standing with the firefighters who had the difficult task of rendering service and aid to Emily in her final minutes, I could read the sorrow in their welling eyes and the deep weathered lines of their faces. Nothing is more difficult for a responder than to see a precious life slip away in spite of their best heroic efforts. These men and women are totally focused and trained to save lives, and they take it personally when someone, especially a child, slips into eternity beyond their grasp. One firefighter grabbed me from the side and laid his head against mine. Barely stifling our sobs, he thanked me for coming to stand with them.. It was I who felt the greater gratitude to have the honor to stand with such as these.

Joining the honor procession with police and firefighters, we walked slowly forward to form a half-circle behind the makeshift platform, decorated with flowers, hand-drawn posters, letters, and tributes by Emily’s classmates. Her smiling picture displayed on the platform was an image of a joyful young woman, full of promise, life, and hope. All this was now taken from this world, and we would all now entrust Emily’s soul into the hands of Him who knows the heart of each one of us. Into His mercy, we committed young Emily Keyes, under a deep blue Colorado sky, sun- kissed and framed by God’s beautiful creation. May she behold the face of Jesus in the glory of eternity, and come to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

May God comfort her parents and siblings, her friends, and all those in this small mountain community who knew her and will forever feel a certain void in their hearts when they think of her.




©2006 Torchgrab, Inc.