Auburn says goodbye to its oaks
April 23rd, 2013
05:49 PM ET

Auburn University cuts down iconic oaks after poisoning

By Ben Brumfield and Phil Gast, CNN

(CNN) - Two years of rescue efforts could not save them. So, Tuesday, Auburn University cut down two iconic trees that a disappointed fan of its intrastate rival poisoned after his team lost a game to Auburn.

The landmark live oaks, used for celebrations by fans, who rolled them with toilet paper after big victories, were more than 130 years old. On Tuesday, they were coming down branch by branch from the campus gathering place, Toomer's Corner.

Local television news cameras broadcast the removal live.

"While it is sad, it will do nothing to change the spirit of Auburn," Auburn junior Carlee Clark told CNN iReport Tuesday, as the trees came down. "I think I speak for students and alumni alike when I say that I count it a privilege to be a part of this family, and the presence or absence of two trees could never alter that."

In 2010, both the Auburn Tigers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football teams were nationally ranked.

On November 26, Auburn, playing at UA in Tuscaloosa for the annual Iron Bowl, came back from a huge deficit to squeak past the Tide by a point, beating its tough sibling 28-27 on its home field.

Man pleads guilty in poisoning of famous Auburn trees

Revenge for a loss

Tide fan Harvey Updyke didn't like losing and did something about it, which he confessed anonymously two months later on a UA sports radio show. He called in as "Al from Dadeville."

"Let me tell you what I did the weekend after the Iron Bowl. I went to Auburn, Alabama, because I live 30 miles away," the caller said. "And I poisoned the two Toomer's trees."

He ended the call with "Roll Damn Tide," a battle cry for the University of Alabama.

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Filed under: College • Rivalries • Sports
Columbine survivor: No child should worry about gunmen
Children, a sister and brother, walk along the Columbine Memorial at the Columbine Memorial Park in Littleton, Colorado.
April 23rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

Columbine survivor: No child should worry about gunmen

Elizabeth LandauBy Katie Lyles, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Katie Lyles, who teaches third graders in Colorado, was a student at Columbine during the massacre 14 years ago.

(CNN) - At 16, my innocence was shattered when two gunmen murdered 13 people at my school and wounded countless others.

Columbine High School promised to be a safe and secure place of learning. And that promise was broken on April 20, 1999.

On that morning, I headed to school worried about my 10th grade math test and my upcoming track meet. Useless worries: The test was never given and we never held the meet.

Scars remain from that day that no one can see. Scars that made my worries about math tests or track performance pale in comparison to whether my science partner would live or whether my classmate's speech would be impaired by the shrapnel lodged in his skull. Today, those mental scars throb in large crowds and force me to scan the room for exits. They make my heart beat faster when I hear the blades of a helicopter overhead.

Now, as a teacher in my eighth year in the classroom, I consider every day that I go to work a privilege. I cherish my students' joy and enthusiasm, and most importantly, their innocence.

I believe that it is our job, as a society, to protect these virtues in our young people. I want them to be worried about math tests and track meets and about science fairs and student council elections - the kind of normal school stuff that builds character. But our epidemic of gun violence is creating a culture of fear in our schools, where students are anxious about safety and intruders. These are worries no student should have.

Opinion: It's time to change schools' culture of misery

This becomes even more apparent when we conduct our monthly emergency drill at our school. It's a way to be prepared for the worst, so we practice lockdowns, fire drills and evacuations.

The other day, I was explaining to my third graders that we were going to practice a lockdown just in case a bear happened to be on the playground - a real scenario for our Colorado school. I have used this example my entire teaching career because it's an easy and nonthreatening reason to practice a lockdown.

One girl raised her hand and asked: "Is this what we would do if a bad guy came with a gun to hurt us?"

Read Lyles' full column