Dave Sanders's daughters were angry. Before they got confirmation that their dad was dead, they heard disturbing stories about his final hours. "My concern is that my dad was left there," Angie Sanders told an Australian newspaper. "[He] was still alive and not helped." The impression her family was getting was that twelve victims had been goners once the bullets left the chambers, but Dave Sanders had held on for well over three hours. From what Angie understood, her father could have been saved. Dave's daughters began looking into the reports but kept their mouths shut around their mother. They had to keep the TV off when she was awake. They snatched newspapers off the doorstep and magazines out of the mailbox. They had to protect Linda. She was already a wreck. Dave Sanders was just a few feet from safety when the first shot hit him. He saw the killers, spun around, and ran for the corner, trying to save a few more students on the way there. One bullet got him in the back. It tore through his rib cage and exited through his chest. The other bullet entered through the side of his neck and came out his mouth, lacerating his tongue and shattering several teeth. The neck wound opened up one of his carotid arteries, the major blood routes to the brain. The shot to his back clipped his subclavian vein, a major vessel back to the heart. There was a lot of blood. Everyone had been guessing which way was the safest to run. Rich Long, who was head of the technology department and a good friend of Dave's, had chosen an opposite route. He first heard the shooting from the library, told students to get out, and directed a group down the main stairway right into the cafeteria, unaware that hundreds had just fled from that location. Toward the bottom of the stairs, they saw bullets flying outside the windows and reversed course. At the top of the stairs, they turned left, away from the library and into the science wing, which also included the music rooms. They arrived just in time to see Dave get shot. Dave crashed into the lockers, then collapsed on the carpet. Rich and most of the students dove for the floor. Now Dave was really desperate. "He was on his elbows trying to direct kids," one senior said. Eric and Dylan were both firing. They were lobbing pipe bombs down the length of the hall. "Dave, you've got to get up!" Rich yelled. "We've got to get out of here." Dave pulled himself up, staggered a few feet around the corner. Rich hurried over. As soon as he was out of the line of fire, he ducked his shoulder under Dave's arm. Another teacher got Dave from the other side, and they dragged him to the science wing, just a dozen feet away. "Rich, they shot me in the teeth," Dave said. They moved past the first and second classrooms, then entered Science Room 3. "The door opened, and Mr. Sanders [comes] in and starts coughing up blood," sophomore Marjorie Lindholm said. "It looked like part of his jaw was missing. He just poured blood." The room was full of students. Their teacher had gone out to the hallway to investigate. When he came back, he told them to forget the test and ordered everybody up against the wall. The classroom door had a glass pane. To shooters who might be stalking through the halls, the room would appear empty if everyone huddled along the interior perimeter. That's when Dave stumbled in with two teachers assisting. He collapsed again, face-first, in the front of the room. "He left a couple of teeth where he landed," a freshman girl said. They got Dave into a chair. "Rich, I'm not doing so well," he said. "You'll be OK. I'm going to go phone for help." Several teachers had arrived, so Rich ran back out into the melee, searching for a phone. He learned that somebody was already calling for help. He went back. "I need to go get you some help," Rich said. He went back into the smoky corridor and tried another lab. But the killers were getting closer, apparently right outside the lab's door this time. Rich finally took cover. Dave had several adults with him, and plenty of calls had been made about the shooting. Rich had no doubt that help was on the way. Kent Friesen, another teacher with Dave, went for immediate assistance. He ran into a nearby lab, where more students were huddled. "Who knows first aid?" he asked. Aaron Hancey, a junior and an Eagle Scout, stepped up. "Come with me," Friesen said. Then all hell seemed to break loose out in the hallway. "I could feel it through the walls," Aaron said. "With each [blast], I could feel the walls move." He was scared to go out there. But Friesen checked for shooters, bolted down the corridor, and Aaron followed. Aaron ran through a rapid inspection of Dave's condition: breathing steady, airway clear, skin warm, shoulder broken, gaping wounds, heavy blood loss. Aaron stripped off his own white Adidas T-shirt to stanch the flow. Other boys volunteered their shirts. He tore several into bandage strips and improvised a few tourniquets. He bundled others together into a pillow. "I've got to go, I've got to go," Dave said. He tried to stand, but failed. Teachers attended to the students. They flipped over tables to barricade the door. They opened a partition in back to an adjoining science lab, and several kids rushed to the center, farthest from the doors. The gunfire and explosions continued. A fire erupted in a nearby room and a teacher grabbed a fire extinguisher to put it out. Screams filtered down the hall from the library. It was nothing like screams Marjorie Lindholm had heard before--screams like "when people are being tortured," she said. "It was like they were carrying out executions," another boy in the room said. "You would hear a shot. Then there would be quiet. Then another shot. Bam. Bam. Bam." The screaming and gunfire both stopped. Silence, then more explosions. On and off and on again. The fire alarm began blaring. It was an earsplitting pitch designed to force people out of the building through sheer pain. The teachers and students could barely hear anything over the alarm's shriek, but could just make out the steady flap of helicopters outside. Someone turned on the giant TV suspended from the ceiling. They kept the volume off but the subtitles on. It was their school, from the outside. Much of the class was transfixed at first, but their attention waned quickly. Nobody seemed to know anything. Aaron called his father, who used another line to call 911, so that paramedics could ask questions and relay instructions. Several other students and teachers called the cops. The science room group remained linked to authorities via multiple channels throughout the afternoon. Sophomore Kevin Starkey, also an Eagle Scout, assisted Aaron. "You're doing all right," the boys whispered to Dave. "They're coming. Just hold on. You can do it." They took turns applying pressure, digging their palms into his wounds. "I need help," Dave said. "'I've got to get out of here." "Help is on the way," Aaron assured him. Aaron believed it was. Law enforcement was first alerted to Dave's predicament around 11:45. Dispatchers began responding that help was "on the way" and would arrive "in about ten minutes." The assurances were repeated for more than three hours, along with orders that no one leave the room under any circumstances. The 911 operator instructed the group to open the door briefly: they were to tie a red shirt around the doorknob in the hallway. The SWAT team would look for it to identify the room. There was a lot of dissent about that directive in Science Room 3. Wouldn't a red flag also attract the killers? And who was going to step out into that hallway? They decided to obey. Someone volunteered to tie the shirt to the doorknob. Around noon, teacher Doug Johnson wrote 1 BLEEDING TO DEATH on the whiteboard and moved it to the window, just to be sure. Occasionally the TV coverage grabbed attention in the room. At one point, Marjorie Lindholm thought she spotted a huge mass of blood seeping out a door pictured on-screen. She was mistaken. Fear had taken control. Each time Aaron and Kevin switched positions, they felt Dave's skin grow a little colder. He was losing color, taking on a bluish cast. Where are the paramedics? they wondered. When will the ten minutes be up? Dave's breathing began to slow. He drifted in and out. Aaron and Kevin rolled him gently on the tile floor to keep him conscious and to keep his airway clear. He couldn't remain on his back for very long or he would choke on his own blood. They pulled out wool safety blankets from a first-aid closet and wrapped him up to keep him warm. They asked him about coaching, teaching, anything to keep him engaged and stave off shock. They slipped his wallet out and began showing him pictures. "Is this your wife?" "Yes." "What's your wife's name?" "Linda." He had lots of pictures, and they used them all. They talked about his daughters and his grandchildren. "These people love you," the boys said. "This is why you need to live." Aaron and Kevin grew desperate. The treatment had exceeded scouting instruction. "You're trained to deal with broken arms, broken limbs, cuts and scrapes--stuff you get on a camping trip," Aaron said. "You never train for gunshot wounds." Eventually, Aaron and Kevin lost the struggle to keep Dave conscious. "I'm not going to make it," Dave said. "Tell my girls I love them." ____ It was relatively calm for a while. The alarm kept blaring, the choppers kept thumping, and gunfire or explosions would periodically rumble through the hallways, somewhere off in the distance. Nothing had sounded particularly close for a while; nothing seemed imminent. Dave's chest rose and fell, blood oozed out, but the boys could not rouse him. Aaron and Kevin kept trying. Some of the kids gave up on police. Around 2:00 P.M., they informed the 911 operator they were going to hurl a chair through the window and get Dave out themselves. She insisted they abandon the plan, which she warned them might draw the attention of the killers. At 2:38, the TV suddenly caught the room's attention again. Patrick Ireland was tumbling out the library window. "Oh my God!" some of the kids yelled. They'd hidden quietly for hours, but this was too much. Coach Sanders was not an isolated case. A kid was just as bloody just down the hall. They had assumed it was bad out there; now they had proof. Some kids closed their eyes, pictured loved ones, and silently said good-bye. Just a few minutes later, the danger suddenly drew close again: screams erupted from the next room. Then everything went silent for a minute. All at once, the door burst open and men in black rushed in. The killers were dressed in black. The invaders toted submachine guns. They waved them at the students, shouting fiercely, trying to outscream the fire alarm. "I thought they were the gunmen," Marjorie Lindholm wrote later. "I thought that now I was going to die." Some of the men turned and pointed to the huge block letters on their backs: SWAT. "Be quiet!" an officer yelled. "Put your hands on your heads and follow us out." "Someone's got to stay with Mr. Sanders," someone said. "I will," Aaron volunteered. "No!" an officer said. "Everyone out." Then how about hauling Dave out with them, Kevin suggested. There were folded tables--they could improvise one as a stretcher. No. It seemed heartless, but the SWAT team was trained to make practical choices. Hundreds of students were trapped. The gunmen could reappear any moment. The team had to assume a battlefield mentality and evacuate the maximum number in the minimum time. They could send a medic back for the injured later. The SWAT team led students single file down the stairs to the commons. They waded through three inches of water that had rained down from the sprinklers. Backpacks and pizza slices floated by. Don't touch them, the officers warned. Don't touch anything. A SWAT member held the door. He stopped each student, held them for two seconds, then tapped them on the shoulder and told them to run. That was a standard infantry maneuver. A single pipe bomb could take out an entire pack of children; a well-aimed machine-gun burst could do the same. Safer to space them. Outside, the kids ran past two dead bodies: Danny Rohrbough and Rachel Scott. Marjorie Lindholm remembered "a weird look on their faces, and a weird color to their skin." The girl just ahead of her stopped suddenly when she saw the bodies, and Marjorie caught up. A SWAT officer screamed at them to keep moving. Marjorie saw their guns trained right on her. She gave the girl a push, and they both took off. Two SWAT officers stayed with Dave, and another called for help. It fell to a Denver SWAT member outside the building to recruit a paramedic. He spotted Troy Laman, an EMT who had driven out from the city and was manning a triage station. "Troy, I need you to go in," the SWAT officer said. "Let's go." Laman followed the officer through the flooded commons, up the stairway, past the rubble, and into Science Room 3. By that time, Dave had stopped breathing. According to emergency triage protocol, that qualified him as dead. "I knew there was nothing I could do for this guy," said Laman, who had no equipment. "But because I was stuck in a room with him by myself for fifteen minutes, I wanted to help him." The SWAT officer eventually cleared Laman to keep moving. "There's nothing you can do," he said. So Laman went on to the library. He was one of the first medics to go in. ____ Dave Sanders's story got out fast. Both local papers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, described his ordeal on Wednesday. On Thursday the Rocky, as it's often called, ran a piece called POLICE DISPUTE CHARGES THEY WERE TOO SLOW. "A lot of people are angry," one student said. But the bulk of the story focused on the police response. "We had 1,800 kids rushing from the school," said Jeffco sheriff's spokesman Steve Davis. "The officers had no idea which were victims and which were potential suspects." The Rocky offered this summary of the SWAT response based on the department's claims: "Within twenty minutes of the first panicked call for help, a makeshift six-man SWAT team rushed into the sprawling school, and within an hour, dozens of heavily armed officers in body armor launched a methodical, room-by-room search of the building." The department would eventually admit that it took more than twice that long, 47 minutes, for the first five-man team to enter. The other half of that team attended to wounded students on the lawn, but never proceeded in. A second team entered after nearly two hours. Until the killers' bodies were found, that was it. ____ The situation grew hotter on Friday when a veteran suburban cop laid down thirteen roses in Clement Park and then described the SWAT response as "pathetic." "It pissed me off," he told reporters. "I'd have someone in there. We are trained to do that. We are trained to go in there." The officer's statement was widely reported. He became an instant symbol. And his department foolishly extended the story by placing him on nondisciplinary leave and ordering a "fitness for duty" evaluation. They backpedaled a few days later. Members of the SWAT teams began responding in the press. "It was just a nightmare," said a sergeant. "What parents need to understand is we wanted teams in there as quickly as we could. We were going into the situation blind. We had multiple explosions going off. We thought there could have been a band of terrorists in there." Officers were nearly as confused as TV viewers. Outside, they could hear the blasts. But once they entered, they couldn't even hear one another. The fire alarm drowned out everything. Communication was limited to hand signals. "Had we heard gunfire and screaming, we would have gone right to that," a SWAT officer explained. The barrage of noise and strobe lights beat down their psyches like psychological warfare. Officers could not locate anyone with the alarm code to shut it down. They found an assistant principal, but she was so frazzled she couldn't remember the digits. In desperation, officers tried to beat the alarm speakers off the walls. One tried to disable the control panel by smashing the glass cover with his rifle butt. The alarms and sprinklers continued until 4:04 P.M. The strobe light that flashed with the alarm continued for weeks. Those were legitimate obstacles, the Sanders family acknowledged. But more than three hours after he was shot? Linda's sister Melody was designated family spokesperson. "Some of his daughters are angry," she told the New York Times a few days later. "They feel like, had they gone in and gotten Dave out sooner, he would have lived." Melody said the Sanders family didn't hold the SWAT members responsible. But the system was a disaster. "It was utter chaos," Melody said. The family expressed gratitude for the efforts that had been made. As a gesture of goodwill, they invited the full SWAT teams to Dave's funeral. All the officers attended.