VEEDERSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. That day two students killed 12 classmates and one teacher.
The teacher was Dave Sanders, an Indiana native. Sanders was a star athlete at Fountain Central High School who went on to be a teacher and coach himself. Those closest to him say that selfless leadership is exactly what lead to his fate 20 years ago.
The basketball court in Fountain Central High School is a popular spot. During lunch, boys play pick-up games and often dribble over a name, Sanders’ name. It was 50 years ago when he played his own games on the hardwood.
“He was kind of the glue to the basketball team that we had at that time,” Al Harden, Sanders’ high school basketball coach, said.
The pictures of Sanders with his team and Coach Harden back in 1969 are in the yearbook in black and white, but for the men who knew him, the memories are vivid.
“There’s always that one student in every school that everybody likes and he liked everybody,” Greg Lighty said.
Lighty called Sanders one of his best friends from those days.
“The only problem with that description is, everybody else said the same thing and that’s great. He was one of a kind. Always had a smile on his face, always thinking about other people, always putting other people in front of himself,” Lighty said.
And that’s what people say Sanders did on April 20, 1999. While two teens started shooting inside Columbine High School, Sanders rushed into the school cafeteria to get as many students to safety as possible. Lighty remembers his wife calling him that day and telling him a teacher was missing after the massacre.
“I told her right then it’s Dave. I guarantee you he stayed behind to help students, help get them out of the building or whatever he needed to do to save lives and we didn’t know it at that time,” Lighty said.
Sanders was reportedly in the upstairs hall trying to get more students safely hidden in classrooms when he was shot from behind. He bled to death in a classroom surrounded by students.
“It was a perfect example of who Dave was, putting others before himself and risking his own life and the ultimate sacrifice for his students,” Lighty said.
Now, Lighty, Harden and the Fountain Central community are reminded of Sanders’ legacy when they visit the gym. A plaque details his history and sacrifice and his name also graces the wall and the court named after him with the phrase ‘character counts.’
“Dave defines character, the good character that we all look for in people. The people that you want to be your friends, the people you want to be leading the community,” Lighty said.
“He had a big heart and he got the best out of anything he had physically and mentally in life,” Harden said.
Sanders was 47 years old when he died. He left behind his wife, four children, and five grandchildren at that time, plus thousands of students whose lives he had impacted during his 25 years of teaching at Columbine High School.
A scholarship has been created in Dave Sanders’ name to recognize students aspiring to become teachers. Those scholarships will be awarded Wednesday, May 8 at the Fountain Central High School senior banquet.