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Students return to fortress Columbine

WITH PARENTS and former students forming a human chain of support around them, nearly 2,000 teenagers returned to class at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, yesterday for the first time since their lives were ripped apart by two deranged senior pupils armed with pipe bombs and semi-automatic weapons.

Frank DeAngelis, the principal, urged students to "take back" their school after the rampage of 20 April, which cost 15 lives. Most pupils expressed the simple wish to get back to normality.

But normality was the last thing they found. The large suburban high school was more like an armed camp, with guards posted at every entrance, sniffer dogs patrolling the grounds and dozens of police patrolling the area.

Inside the school building, 16 video surveillance cameras have been installed. Many of the rooms where the assault launched by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took place have been redecorated, including the cafeteria, which the two boys tried to blow up. However, the library, where most of the killings happened before Harris, 18, and Klebold, 17, took their own lives, remains closed, the entrance blocked by a wall of blue lockers.

If the returning students were nervous, it was largely because of a heavy media presence and the eagerness of reporters to find some momentous significance in this first day back. The human chain, numbering some 400 people, was formed precisely to shield children from the media.