25 years after Columbine, new heartbreaks challenge victim’s family

LITTLETON, Colo. (KDVR) — Without faith and hope, it’s hard to imagine how Ashley Glader would have made it through the last two and a half decades.

Thankfully, faith and hope have never been in short supply for Ashley and her family.

“And faith was a big part of John’s life,” Glader told FOX31.

She was just 11 years old when her 16-year-old brother, John Tomlin, was killed in the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton 25 years ago this week.

“He was just a really kind and caring brother. When he was 14, he started working to pay for this pickup truck that he bought. He would take us for rides in his truck,” she said.

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His old brown truck — parked in the school parking lot on April 20, 1999 — became a memorial, covered in flowers in the days after the mass shooting. Believe it or not, the family still has that old truck.

“It sat in my parents’ garage for a long time. And it gets such low gas mileage that you drive it, and you know you’re spending 50 bucks for gas,” she joked.

Ashley Glader
Ashley Glader

Glader also leaned on her strong faith and hope seven years ago, when her son Joshua, born with severe birth defects, died just 80 days after he was born.

“And I think about them together in heaven. When my son died, I felt like John was the one carrying him up there. And it’s comforting. It’s interesting because when you’ve been through a big grief before, there are some familiarities. But then each thing is different. You know, they’re both different losses,” she said.

These days, that faith is being put to the test once again for the Tomlin family. Another of Ashley’s brothers, Pat, is currently battling stage 4 colon cancer.

“He’s actually been fighting for five years. And it’s not looking good,” Glader said.

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Thankfully, even on the days when hope fades, she still has faith. The very faith that helped her as a child, 25 years ago this week when her brother died at Columbine, is still getting her through today.

“But it doesn’t take away the pain. Sometimes, Christians like to mull over the hard and get to the good stuff and get to the happy. But you have to acknowledge the pain and the hardship and suffering to get to that point,” Glader said.

While Tomlin’s family has private plans for Saturday to mark 25 years since the shooting, other Columbine students, staff and alumni are planning a day of service to honor and remember those killed.

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