Input on how SupaHotBeats convinced him to share his harrowing Columbine experience
Kari Geha Input (aka Gustavo D'Arthenay)
Tell me the story behind the song. First of all, just give me some context. How old were you when you were at Columbine?
I was fourteen years old, so I was a freshman. The song itself...at Columbine, when it happened, when the whole shooting happened, I was in the science hall. So I was caddy corner to the library on the second floor of the building. So, we, essentially, were...I mean, I guess the best word to say is 'hostage.'
We were in the school for about four and a half hours, four and a half to five hours, and we listened and heard everything -- every gunshot, everything. So we were just sitting there waiting for something...to get out of the school. So the song is literally a story of kind of what my life was like before Columbine -- just, really, it's three verses, but it turned out to be a five minute song with some pretty in-depth verses.
But the story basically goes: I grew up in a Catholic school environment. So I went to private school from the time I was five years old until eighth grade. I was supposed to go to a private school for high school, but I didn't get in. So I ended up going to Columbine, public school. So I went from this fifty person class in eighth grade to a 450-person freshman class. It's kind just like a story of the change of kind of the culture shock between what it was like growing up in a very, very small, not-diverse community into this huge new world, and then my first introduction to this huge new world is the biggest tragedy in the history of our country.
That's kind of what the story follows, and it just goes from where I started that day to where I am now kind of. So it just kind of encapsulates what that day held, what happened to me that day and then kind of what grew from that day and where I am now, as an artist, due to the certain scenarios and everything that played out that day.
So how did the shooting affect you personally?
It was kind of different. One of the advantageous things for me being a new kid in that school was that I really didn't have, in that first seven months, because it happened the second semester of my freshman year, so in that first year, I made friends, but I wasn't at the point where I had really established any strong connections with anybody, where I had, like, what you could call a best friend or that kind of thing. That was a major factor for me not being personally affected in terms of knowing anybody, because I didn't know anybody that was a victim in the shooting.
I had class with one of the shooters, but still nothing was ever personal. It was all just like -- I wouldn't even say it was an acquaintance. It was just somebody I saw on a daily basis in classes, but nothing beyond that. So it didn't really affect me much in high school or after the fact, but it was one of those things when I did that documentary on the shooting and kind of revisited the entire thing, I realized over the last fourteen years of my life -- because it was literally fourteen years ago, and now I'm 29, so it was just like the halfway point of where I am now -- that I've been holding on to this adolescence that was taken from me at that time.
As soon as the shooting happened and we got out of that school, there was nothing. We weren't able to live a normal childhood or high school life. Everything turned into a media frenzy, and you couldn't get away from anything. So I realized, finally, that I had been holding on to this wanting to be a kid again. And so the documentary we shot and then the writing of the song was like this huge therapy and release off my shoulders, actually understanding that I'd been carrying this dead weight that I wasn't even allowing myself to be conscious of. It was pretty crazy to finally come to grips with that, and the realization of letting it go was one of the most humbling and free-spirited things I've ever been able to experience.
How did it affect you otherwise? Were you traumatized afterward?
No, no, not at all, man. I mean, it was crazy. I remember, like a year after it happened, every April 20, we would leave Littleton, whoever my group of friends were at the time. We would leave, because the swarm of media and the coverage that came around Littleton was so unbearable that you had to get out of town. I remember the year after the shooting, we went up to my friend's dad's farm in Ft. Lupton. We went up there, you know, typical high school getting drunk and whatnot, and four hours into all of us drinking -- it was me and eight or nine of my close friends -- every single one of my friends admit in this open forum circle that they had been going to therapy for the last twelve months since the shooting.
I was just blown away by it, because it didn't affect me at that point, where I was like...you know, I didn't have nightmares and I didn't have any kind of like... You know, every now and then a car backfiring or a loud bang will catch me off guard, like it does anybody else, but it doesn't ever, like nothing ever shoots me back to that moment where I'm, like, terrified, you know, or like [having] crazy flashbacks. It never got to that point with me.
Why do you suppose that is?
I don't know, man. I mean, like I said, I think one of the advantageous things was that I didn't develop those relationships to really be personally attached to anything in that school, because I was still, in a sense, identifying who I was. So I was more focused on me. So I think that I just... I don't know why it was so easy for me to brush off. You know I think I just had so much more identity crisises going on at the time, that outside of everything else...like, the shooting happened, and I was like it was what it was, but the only thing it really pushed me to do was live my life more.
I realized at that moment: When you're lying on a floor and you're listening to all this shit going on, it was like...there were moments in time where I literally didn't think I was going to get out. And once you kind of get yourself so far to that point -- that you're accepting of death, where you're basically waiting to die -- once you come out of that and survive, I think that just made me want to live and want to succeed and want to be something. I think that's what drove me past the traumatized state of mind.
It's crazy. People ask me that all the time. There's certain people, a lot of kids and people I talk to now always ask me if I have a problem [talking about it]. They're like, 'Oh, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to.' I'm like, 'Naw, I tell you my story. You got an hour? Let's talk.' It's one of those things where it never affected me to tell the story over and over. It was actually kind of -- I think it was almost beneficial for me, especially now where I am with music and everything. I don't think that I had not retold the story so many times that my memory would be so fresh as to what my day consisted of. So I think almost by keeping it alive, in a sense, was kind of like a destiny for me to get to where I am now.
It's been cool, man. My teacher that actually introduced me to writing in a creative writing class at Columbine my senior year, this last semester, he actually had me come in and I spoke to a few of his classes about my experience that day and what my writing is now and kind of [describing] my processes for writing and stuff.
So it was cool to kind of come full circle and stand in front of a classroom full of these fifteen year old kids where I was at the time of the shooting. I was seeing myself in these kids' eyes but being able to kind of show them that it wasn't all...There's such a negative light over the whole thing that nobody ever talks about the positives that come out of it, because nobody thinks that positive things can come out of tragedy, I guess. I wanted to be able to show that it's not all trauma and a ruined life because you experienced something like this.