Sam Granillo was a junior at Columbine High School during the 1999 shootings and more than 12 years later he is finally ready for some counseling.
Granillo lost three friends and spent hours trapped inside the school listening to the shooters torment his classmates and teachers. He still scans the room for exits everywhere he goes and suffers from chronic nightmares because of the trauma he experienced at age 17.
Granillo, now 29, began seeking out help about two years ago, asking friends how they were coping only to find that a lack of insurance and funds left many victims without any support. As a television and film freelancer, Granillo — a University of Colorado alumnus — is also without benefits or the finances to pay for counseling, so he began looking to his film degree for help.
Granillo has started making “Columbine: Wounded Minds,” a documentary about the aftermath of the shootings and the lack of care for the victims in need.
“We were told we would have help for life,” Granillo said. “We thought there would always be support for us and now we are all searching for help.”
The film will recount the experiences of faculty and students at Columbine during the shootings and updates about how they continue to cope, Granillo said.
“We had support after it happened for about two years but then the funds ran out and after 9/11 everyone’s focus shifted to that,” Granillo said. “I’m hoping to stir things up again and the end goal is to get help for everyone who needs it.”
Granillo said his mom has offered to pay for his therapy “but that’s not the point.” Granillo won’t be satisfied until all of those still suffering from the Columbine shootings gets help.
Frank DeAngelis has been the principal at Columbine High School since 1979 but when he walked out of his office on April 20, 1999, DeAngelis said he stepped into gunfire.
DeAngelis said the experience was traumatic and though he sought therapy immediately, he continues what he calls “maintenance therapy” even now.
“We are still healing and learning to cope,” DeAngelis said.
DeAngelis will be featured in the documentary and said he hopes Granillo’s vision will help connect victims of any tragedy and show them they are not alone.
“As time moves on people seem to feel like we are going to wake up some morning and forget about everything that’s happened,” he said. “They say time will heal our scars, but our scars whether they’re physical, emotional, spiritual, will be with us for the rest of our lives.”
DeAngelis said while the documentary may take people back to April 20, 1999, that’s not the intent.
“It’s to state that there are a lot of kids and young adults effected by this tragedy and to help them lead productive lives and get help they need,” DeAngelis said.
Granillo said the drive behind the project is clear but the end goal remains vague, providing support for victims.
“I don’t know how we’re going to do it yet, that’s the beauty of this project,” Granillo said.
Columbine is personal for Granillo who said he thinks he can help make a difference by relaying the stories of other victims in their truest form.
“I can evoke emotions from these people that others can’t because I relate to them in a way that only people who were there could,” Granillo said. “For now, I’m focusing on what I know best.”
But he’s not stopping at Columbine.
“This isn’t just about us,” Granillo said. “I want this to help everyone, like Virginia Tech students or anyone who has been through a shooting or a bombing, soldiers who are coming home, they all need something.”
The documentary is still in the early stages as Granillo is focused on getting funding for the project before he can move forward.
Eventually, Granillo will have to raise about $200,000 to complete the documentary but he is hoping to collect $10,000 to make a trailer that will help raise the remaining funds. Granillo is working with a fundraising team and is hoping to host a silent auction in March to kick start production.