Patti Nielson was a part time teacher for art at Columbine High School. At the time of the massacre, she was on hallway patrol.
Patti was on hall monitor duty when she saw a male student at the west end of the hallway with a gun. She asked another nearby student, Brian Anderson, what was going on and he told her he thought the other student was probably "shooting a movie" and that he knew the student in question and that the gun was probably a prop cap gun. Later Patti overheard [Brian] telling another teacher the student's name was Eric Harris and Brian knew he was in the video productions class. Patti didn't think it was right to have a gun in the school, pretend or not, and went to confront the student. She had just passed through the first set of double doors into the pass way where Eric Harris was at when he fired the weapon toward the outside. He then turned and, seeing her and Brian, smiled and shot at them as well. He missed, hitting the glass doors behind them. Patti was hit with broken glass and shrapnel. Screaming "Dear God! Dear God! Dear God!" in terror, she turned to run. She saw Brian] get shot in the back as he retreated with her but he was able to keep running away from the shooter with her, toward the library.
Once in the library Patti ran to the phone at the circulation desk and dialed 911. While she was on the phone, the librarian, Ms. Keating, and another teacher came in and told everyone to get out of the library. Patti could hear the gunman getting closer, though, and told the students to get down under the tables. She remained on the phone with the 911 dispatcher (see transcripts and hear a portion of this call) as long as she could but when it became clear the shooters were going to enter the library, she left the phone receiver on the floor and crawled as far under the librarian's desk as she could. She saw the shooters walk past the desk and could see they were both wearing black military-style pants. At one point she heard what she thought was a student trying to stand up to the shooters. She heard him say: "That's enough!" in a confrontational tone. Then she heard one of the gunmen say: "What do we have here?" She heard them use the racial slur "nigger" and then heard them shoot someone. During the ordeal in the library she heard them call someone "fat boy" and at a later point heard one of the girls cry out "Oh God!" and then heard one of the gunmen ask her if she believed in God. Patti then heard him call the girl "awful and hateful names". More gunfire followed. Eventually the shooters went to leave but one of them pause near the circulation desk, saying: "Wait a minute! There's one more thing!" then he smashed a chair on top of the desk. After that she heard one of them say: "Let's go down to the commons."
After the noises stopped entirely she crawled to the librarian's workroom and saw two other women, Lois and Carol, hiding in a small room off the main workroom. Patti crawled inside a cupboard and shut the doors, where she remained for approximately three hours. While she was in the cupboard, she heard more gunfire coming from the library. She heard the gunmen say they were going to blow the library up but she couldn't bring herself to leave the cupboard for fear of getting shot. Eventually Lois opened the cupboard and told Patti they needed to leave. They were able to escape the school at that point, escorted by police. She ran south to Pierce St. where she was treated for her injuries, including a grazing wound to the shoulder from a bullet. She was then taken to the hospital where she was treated and released April 20, 1999.
- She was hit in the shoulder by shrapnel near the west entrance.
- She was a Art teacher at the time of the massacre