LITTLETON, Colo. -- The Columbine High massacre has left an indelible mark on Colorado, but it should be easier for residents to deal with the effects of the deadly rampage once today's anniversary has passed, Gov. Bill Owens said.
''I think Columbine will be with us forever just as the Oklahoma City bombing,'' Owens said this morning as he stood in Clement Park near Columbine High School.
''There will never be much closure,'' he said. ''For at least a generation, those of us who lived through it will always be living in it.''
Owens planned to lead a public service at the Capitol in downtown Denver, including a statewide moment of silence at 11:21 a.m., the time the attack began a year ago today.
At the school, classes at the school were canceled and attendance was optional. A private assembly was planned, followed by a public remembrance and an evening candlelight vigil in the park. In addition, graveside services were planned by some victims' families.
The park and school remained mostly empty in the early hours today, except for a camp of news media satellite trucks and equipment.
Todd Branson of Thornton, a Denver suburb, visited Clement Park early this morning because ''I had to be here.''
''You think about Oklahoma City and you are remorseful for them, but it's not in your back yard. This is in my back yard,'' said Branson, who wore a blue and silver ribbon -- the Columbine school colors -- on his shirt.
''I know all the names of all the victims,'' he said. ''We've got to give a visible sign of support to the students. It will go a long way toward helping them recover.''
While some planned to attend the private assembly, others like Kim Blair, who watched her best friend critically wounded, planned to stay away from the school.
''Most of the people I've talked to are trying to get as far away from this place as possible -- the ones who were actually there,'' said Karen Nielsen, who was working in the cafeteria when the first shots rang out.
Workers unloaded barricades at nearby Clement Park on Wednesday, preparing for thousands of mourners bringing flowers, handwritten messages and teddy bears.
Columbine's attendance has dropped steadily this week, and 624 students were absent Wednesday -- about a third of the school, district spokeswoman Marilyn Saltzman said.
Nate Wooten, a freshman, said Wednesday there was little talk about the anniversary among Columbine students.
''They care, I know that,'' said his friend Brad Bootsma, a sophomore. ''I guess they're just trying to go on with their lives. I know I am.''
Greg Zanis, a carpenter from Illinois who erected memorial crosses near the school last year, brought the wooden structures back to Colorado on Wednesday to restore the tribute.
He planned to put up the 13 crosses today -- each representing those killed by the two student gunman -- in a special area of Clement Park that is reserved for religious symbols.
''They offer the only hope,'' he said. ''It's the darkest moment in American history.''
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