The Confusion Over Two "Littletons"

The City of Littleton became famous for something that didn’t happen there -- the shootings at Columbine High School.

Columbine High School is in an unincorporated area in the southern part of Jefferson County, Colorado, while the City of Littleton is in Arapahoe County, Colorado. But because the high school and the surrounding neighborhoods use Littleton in their post office address, national and international media assumed the school was within the city.

The high school is served by the Littleton Fire Department through a contract with the Littleton Fire Protection District. Littleton firefighters were the first emergency medical personnel to respond to the call. Eight units and 36 personnel from Littleton Fire were on the scene until the last victims were removed. Several paramedics found themselves in the line of gunfire as they rescued the wounded from outside the school.

The Littleton Police Department, including its SWAT team, was among the first law enforcement agencies to respond when Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office called for mutual aid.

These facts added to the confusion as the media descended on Columbine and reported the events back to the world. In search of pieces to the Columbine story, members of the media called what they assumed to be official spokespeople — Littleton Mayor Pat Cronenberger and Public Information Officer Kelli Narde. They also called the historical museum, the city council members and Littleton schools, looking for information about Littleton, Colorado. Each Littleton contact tried to correct the confusion about the school’s location, as did their Jefferson County counterparts, but the media continued to reference Littleton in their stories

The city graciously assisted as best it could, answering hundreds of media calls as well as assisting with the planning efforts for the Governor’s memorial service. The mayor even spoke at the service. She reiterated that while Columbine High School was not in the city of Littleton, boundaries did not matter and the citizens of Littleton joined the rest of the world in grieving for the students, their families, the teacher and the community.