By Larry Zalin
He'd arrived at the scene of many tragedies before, but nothing prepared George Kochaniec Jr. for what he saw after he raced to Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.
"I knew that there'd been a shooting at the school, but I had no idea of the extent of it," Kochaniec says. "As I drove there and saw all the police cars, ambulances and helicopters converging on the scene, I knew something really dreadful must have happened."
The veteran news photographer for the Denver Rocky Mountain News stationed himself in an area where wounded students were being triaged by emergency medical staff. Soon there were more than a dozen wounded students awaiting medical attention.
"I kept my distance from the injured kids by using a 500mm lens," Kochaniec explains. "I'd never been in a situation like that, and I didn't want to make it any worse for those kids."
Kochaniec and his Denver Rocky Mountain News colleagues received the Pulitzer Prize in spot news photography last year for their photographs of Columbine. Yet more than a year after the tragedy, Kochaniec, the father of two high-school boys himself, is still sometimes bothered by what he experienced that day. "Little things trigger memories," he says. "Sometimes I think I just can't move on."