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One year later, Columbine scars remain

LITTLETON, Colorado-- A community and nation shocked by the deadly student shootings at Columbine High School have had a year to put the bad memories to rest. For many of those touched by the tragedy, it's not enough time.

To mark Thursday's one-year anniversary of the suburban Denver massacre, there will be a daylong series of events -- starting with a private ceremony for Columbine students and staff.

But other survivors, like Kim Blair, are staying far from the school and the horrible memories of April 20, 1999 -- the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold stormed through Columbine High, killing 12 classmates and a teacher before committing suicide in the worst school shooting in U.S. history.

'Trying to get as far away from this place as possible'

Blair, now a Columbine senior, was not injured in last year's shooting spree. But the tragedy still left her deeply scarred, so much so that she's developed a fear of balloons.

During a hospital visit to see a friend wounded in the attack, Blair remembered seeing some balloons behind her. When one popped, the two young women jumped.

"I was so frightened by that silly balloon. I cannot stand any popping sound. It reminds me too much of the gunshots last year," said Blair, an associate editor of the school newspaper.

She planned to spend Thursday with her family in a hotel.

Blair is not alone. "Most of the people I've talked to are trying to get as far away from this place as possible -- the ones who were actually there," said Karen Nielsen, who was working in the cafeteria when the first shots rang out.

"There's a lot of fear, people are afraid," acknowledged Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis. "I'm afraid, but (also) knowing that we're not in this alone, that we can get through this," he told CNN.

Public, private remembrances

At nearby Clement Park, thousands of mourners are expected, bringing flowers and handwritten messages. A public remembrance service and a candlelight vigil are planned at the park.

Elsewhere, victims' families organized memorial services.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens planned to lead a public service at the Capitol in downtown Denver, including a statewide moment of silence at 11:21 a.m., the time the attack began.

Greg Zanis, a carpenter from Illinois who erected memorial crosses near the school last year, brought the wooden structures back to Colorado on Wednesday to restore the tribute.

He planned to put up 13 crosses -- each representing those killed by the two student gunmen -- in a special area of Clement Park that is reserved for religious symbols.

"They offer the only hope," he said. "It's the darkest moment in American history."

Parents of Columbine victim sue sheriff's department

As the victims of the shooting are being remembered, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department finds itself being sued by the parents of one of the youngsters.

Brian Rohrbough and Susan Petrone filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, alleging that their son, Daniel, was actually killed by a bullet fired by a sheriff's officer.

"Based upon two eyewitnesses, one of whom is a law enforcement officer and the other is a teacher, the trajectory of the bullets as contained in the autopsy report, the position in which Daniel Rohrbough fell, the allegation and the complaint based on the information that is available to us at this time is that the parents believe that a sheriff's deputy's bullet was the fatal shot that killed Daniel Rohrbough," attorney Jim Rouse told CNN.

Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas said the lawsuit came as a surprise to him.

"I still don't know of any evidence to support that. I do know that the sheriff's department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation have worked tirelessly over the last year to piece together everything that occurred in this case and, at least as it's been related to me by them, the evidence does not support that having occurred," Thomas told CNN.

Twelve other parents have joined as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which also claims that deputies had the opportunity to stop Harris and Klebold when they were outside the school and failed to follow the teens when they re-entered the school.

The suit also claims there were numerous threats and warnings about the attack.

School attendance down

The school itself remains off-limits to the public.

Classes are canceled for the day and attendance is not mandatory, but officials expected a large number of students at the morning assembly, which is closed to outsiders.

Columbine's attendance has dropped steadily this week, and 624 students were absent Wednesday -- about a third of the school, district spokeswoman Marilyn Saltzman said.

Nate Wooten, a freshman, said Wednesday there was little talk about the anniversary among Columbine students.

"They care, I know that," said his friend, Brad Bootsma, a sophomore. "I guess they're just trying to go on with their lives. I know I am."

Correspondent Jeff Flock and The Associated Press contributed to this report.