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Man Remembers Earlier Columbine Tragedy

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Charles Abernathy has seen a lot in his 87 years, everything from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Colorado.

This past spring, while watching the anniversary coverage of the April 20 Columbine High School Massacre with his neighbors, Abernathy said he'd seen something else quite unbelievable.

"We're sitting there watching ... and I said, 'I was in the Columbine Massacre,'" Abernathy recalled. "(My neighbor) said, 'How could you be in the Columbine Massacre?'I said, 'No, not the Columbine Massacre, the Columbine Mine Massacre.'"

Abernathy was just 5 years old during the Columbine Mine Massacre of 1927. He was living in a mining town in northern Colorado. At the time, coal mines were scattered across the Front Range.

In the fall of 1927, Abernathy's father, along with many other miners in the area, went on strike, complaining of the abhorrent conditions.

"We didn't know any better, but when I look back it was horrid," Abernathy said.

On Nov. 11 1927, the unarmed workers entered the Columbine Mine, which sat just a couple of mile east of Lafayette, hoping to convince the workers there to join in their effort.

Abernathy's father took Charles along, expecting no trouble.

After a skirmish at the entrance, state police, who were on hand that day, pulled back close to the mine and readied themselves.

"We were standing there and then somebody said, 'Let's go!'" Abernathy remembered. "And when that happened, the guys all made a rush and I was swooped in with them and they didn't get 20 feet and they all fell."

Six miners died under police gunfire.

"I didn't know what it was," Abernathy said. "I didn't know what dead was."

"It was a very sad day for the town of Lafayette and Louisville and Erie and all of the surrounding areas where the miners had come from," Richard Myers, who co-authored a book on the incident, said.

There's now a tombstone in Lafayette dedicated to the six who died and on Highway 7, there's a display that tells the story.

The Columbine Mine has long-since disappeared, covered up by a landfill.

To Abernathy, it's a fitting burial.

"It's a mean history," Abernathy said.

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