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Local Counselors Understand the Grief in Littleton, Colo.

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CHAPEL HILL — For the Colorado students who saw their friends killed right in front of them, moving past the horrible incident probably seems impossible, but crisis counselors say there is hope.

It is hard to forget the images of the slain students -- some who literally stared death in the face -- others who watched their friends die.

The tears, the shock, the sorrow. How does anyone who has been through it, get over a tragedy like the Littleton school shooting?

"This is a traumatic violent event which makes it doubly hard. Even for people that didn't know the students, it's going to be very traumatic," says Sherron Leplin, who along with Susan Spault, oversees the crisis intervention program for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system.

They know all too well what crisis counselors in Colorado are dealing with.

They have helped students and faculty get through several traumatic events, including last year's suicide of a young girl who shot herself at Culbreth Middle school.

They say the first step in a crisis is to assess the situation, and let people grieve.

"You're supposed to be upset at a time like this," Spault said. "This is not the time for a stiff upper lip."

But since everyone experiences grief differently, Spault and Leplin say crisis counselors can help determine who will take longer to recover and who might need on-going care.

For some, in Littleton Colorado, life will probably never be the same, but counselors know from experience that this community, too, will survive.

"I continue to just be amazed at people pulling together and people's awareness of how important each person is, and that hope does come back," Leplin said.

Chapel Hill school officials have already sent a telegram of condolence to the crisis team at Columbine High School. They are also planning to send a small monetary donation to help.


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