UCHealth nurse devotes his life to healing after surviving Columbine tragedy

Makai Hall was shot and saw friends die at Columbine High School 20 years ago. Hall coped with the aftermath of the trauma for years. Now, he shares a message of hope and resiliency.
April 19, 2019
headshot of Makai Hall, UCHealth nurse
Makai Hall was shot at Columbine High School 20 years ago and endured years of suffering. Now, the UCHealth nurse helps others heal. Photo: Rocky Mountain PBS documentary, Ripples of Columbine.

Makai Hall was shot in the library at Columbine High School 20 years ago.

“One of the first shots they took was at our table,” Hall recalled. “The first volley hit my right leg and the side of my face and my chest.”

Next to him, Hall’s friend raised his head to try to administer first aid to others.

“That’s when I witnessed my friend Patrick being shot in the head,” Hall said.

Hall is featured in a Rocky Mountain PBS documentary called Ripples of Columbine. The documentary is a tribute to survivors of the devastating school shooting that shook the world on April 20, 1999.

For years after the Columbine shooting, Hall said he struggled to deal with the aftermath of the trauma. But now, he is married and a father of three young girls. His life is a testament to resiliency and healing. He is now a nurse at UCHealth in Aurora.

Hall told interviewers with Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS) that he decided to pursue a career in health care because of the kindness of those who tended to him 20 years ago.

“I remember visiting the hospital a lot and I remember admiring the health care personnel and providers and I always thought that was something I could possibly do,” Hall said.

“I feel that I’m able to comfort somebody,” he said.

“Unfortunately violence happens in many people’s lives and it’s an unfortunate thing. But part of the comfort that I draw from it, and part of the comfort that I think some of the patients that I’ve had have experienced, is that there’s a common thread. To say something simple about it would be to say that I can listen to what your story is,” Hall said.

In turn, Hall said his co-workers provide comfort to him.

Hall believes that the trauma of the shooting and losing friends set him back many years.

“I was very depressed, very angry,” he told RMPBS. “I couldn’t get over the fact that I had gone through something and I felt like the world owed me something.”

Like other survivors, the sounds of bullets, fire alarms and shattering glass can instantly take him back to the April day 20 years ago, when the innocence of high school students was forever shattered.

Now, as an adult, Hall offers a powerful message of hope.

Makai Hall sits down to breakfast with his wife and three daughters.
Columbine survivor Makai Hall said getting married and having children has been the best decision of his life. Photo: RMPBS documentary, Ripples of Columbine.

“If you find yourself after an experience like this or having experienced violence in a bad place, it’s not hopeless,’’ Hall said. “There’s a way to kind of come back to the light.”

Hall has told his little girls exactly what happened to him.

“I told them, ‘when I was a boy at my school, someone shot me,’” Hall told RMBS.

He said his girls were angry. But, he reassures them that they are safe and encourages them to live carefree lives.

“I don’t want to transmit my fear to them,” he said. “There’s no need to have a crippling fear about going out and living your life.”

About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Coloradan. She attended Colorado College thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summers in college.

Katie is a dedicated storyteller who loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as an award-winning journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and at an online health policy news site before joining UCHealth in 2017.

Katie and her husband, Cyrus — a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer — have three adult children and love spending time in the Colorado mountains and traveling around the world.