(NEW YORK) — Thirteen years ago on Friday, Sam Granillo, a Littleton, Colo., high school junior, was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his school’s cafeteria when two students unleashed a deadly attack that would go down in history as one of the country’s most horrific murder sprees.
Granillo and 17 others were trapped in Columbine High School’s cafeteria for about three hours until a SWAT team arrived and rescued them. By the time the April 20, 1999 attack was over, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had murdered 12 students and a teacher, and killed themselves.
Today, Granillo is a film school graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. He’s 30 years old and works on commercials, films and television shows like Rescue Renovation and American Idol.
Despite the passage of time since the Columbine attacks, Granillo says he is still haunted by nightmares, panic attacks and depression. Many of his former fellow classmates, he found, are suffering similar symptoms but are finding affordable mental health services hard to come by. He says some of his friends have gone into deep debt paying for counseling.
So now, on the 13th anniversary of the shooting, Granillo is putting his filmmaking skills to work, producing and directing the first documentary about Columbine by a student who was actually there.
“I started thinking about what I needed to do to create this documentary to raise awareness that we need help,” he said.
Granillo isn’t exactly sure yet what form that help should take — perhaps a foundation or organization that offers free counseling for anyone suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
Making the film, Granillo says, is also part of a journey to help Columbine survivors talk about their experiences. He’s hoping to take advantage of a “thaw” he senses among some Columbine students who have rarely — if ever — spoken publicly about that day. Some are now opening up to him for the first time.
Granillo says he’s already started recording interviews and has put together short trailers. So far he’s raised less than $20,000 of the $250,000 he needs to complete the project. One major expense: travel. Many former Columbine students no longer live in Colorado, or even the United States.
Another expense is animators. Rather than using the much-repeated Columbine footage shot from TV news helicopters, Granillo says he’s making a stylistic choice to rely heavily on animation to depict the events of April 20, 1999.
“There’s no reason to show the violent images,” he said. ”The biggest thing about this is moving forward. And everything in the past needs to be animated because it gives that feeling that it’s real, but you can’t touch it anymore.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio