NewsColumbine: 25 Years Later


'He mattered because of the way he lived': Columbine siblings share heartwarming stories about victims

Ashley Glader and Bethanee McCandless look back fondly on their time with their brother and sister, respectfully, as the 25-year remembrance approaches.
Posted: 7:55 PM, Apr 19, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-20 11:33:37-04
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Many of the siblings of those who died in the Columbine tragedy on April 20, 1999, now have families of their own.

Several still live in Littleton and have kids attending Columbine High School or surrounding schools.

Bethanee McCandless lost her sister, Rachel Scott, that day.

“I brought one of my favorites of Rachel when she was young,” Bethanee said as she showed us some photos while sitting down with us in the Columbine High School library. “This was taken at our church.”

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"She's forever 17." Bethanee McCandless, sister of Rachel Scott.

For the siblings of the victims, it is those photos and the memories they will forever hold in their hearts.

“He bought me a Barbie Corvette and stuck on stickers on the back that looked like taillights,” said Ashley Glader, whose brother, John Tomlin, was killed in the library.

“We played a lot of board games together,” Bethanee said of her sister Rachel. “We sang and played piano together, even though she couldn't carry a tune.”

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Ashley Glader, sister of John Tomlin, speaks to Denver7 in the Columbine High School library.

For Bethanee, it was Rachel’s sweet nature she will always remember.

“I love talking about Rachel as a sister,” she said. “Rachel was in the middle of five kids. And so, she could have easily probably gotten lost in the mix of all of us, but she was really her own person. Rachel was a little bit sugar and spice. She was feisty and fun and sarcastic and silly.”

John Tomlin had a lot of personality, as well.

“Some boys just have that more sensitive, caring side and that’s definitely how John was,” Ashley said. “He was just so kind. He’d take me and my brother for rides in his truck. You just felt like that older, loving, protective brother.”

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Ashley, pictured with her brother, John.

Ashley’s family is now dealing with yet even more heartache.

“We’re going through a lot right now with my other brother,” she said. “Pat was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer at 34. It’s been really hard for my family. Our faith helps us through a lot.”

It is, in fact, a common theme among the families of Columbine victims — their shared faith, their compassion and their remarkable resilience in turning pain into purpose.

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Bethanee McCandless speaks to another Columbine family.

“You don’t want to relive all of the things, but you feel like if something can come out of it — if something good can come out of the pain, and we’re going through a lot of that pain right now with my other brother — and so, just bringing some goodness out of everything,” Ashley said.

“We just want to have Rachel remembered and we also had a message of forgiveness as a family,” Bethanee said.

And as we approach the annual remembrance, Ashley, whose brother John was killed in the library, and Bethanee, whose sister Rachel was killed outside the school, both reflect not on that day but on the mark their siblings made on the hearts of others.

“Of course, I think about him all the time,” Ashley said.

“I think about it a lot,” Bethanee said. “It's definitely been an emotionally wonderful gift to be able to turn Rachel's death in life into something much more beautiful than just that day at Columbine.”

“I think about what kind of uncle he would have been to my kids,” Ashley said. “His life didn’t matter just because of the way he died. It mattered because of the way he lived.”

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The 13 victims of the Columbine High School tragedy.