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Thirty-six people were killed at Columbia University on July 24, 2004. Most were students, but among the dead were a camera crew from a local news station who had been filming at the college. To this day the identity of those responsible - a mutant terrorist group - remains unknown. Six terrorists were killed, the rest fleeing before the arrival of law enforcement agencies. This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of what is now commonly called Columbia Massacre.

As part of our continuing series in the lead-up to the fifth year anniversary memorial service, we spoke to Bethany Moore and Carlie Bartlet, leaders of their local chapters of a mutant-human coalition called "HeliX".

Moore, 22, is a journalism student at the Georgia State University, Atlanta. She was a resident in Salem Center, Westchester County, at the time of the massacre, and was part of HeliX's first incarnation. Bartlet, 24, is a graduate student with the Department of Political Science at Pennsylvania State University, with family in Pittsburgh. She has been involved with the group since 2004 and was instrumental in organising a number of "Coexistence Rallies" in the wake of what is now called Day Zero and the rise in anti-mutant feeling following the attack on New York. Both young women have been outspoken about the need for human-mutant coexistence, rather than segregation.

"HeliX was formed in early 2004 by Jamie Madrox from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. At first it was mostly a social club – human and mutant kids from the local schools in Salem Center getting together and getting to know each other," Moore explains. "I was part of that initial group. We used to try and do small things to help get publicity and raise awareness, local rallies and pamphlets and stuff. When my family moved to Georgia, I started again there."

“My older sister worked at Xavier’s for a while and I used to visit here there sometimes,” continues Bartlet. “I got to know a few of the students pretty well. I was already involved in mutant awareness issues – we’d started a small support group on the Penn State campus back in my first year – but I found out about HeliX from one of the Xavier's students, Forge, and decided to get involved in something bigger. The memorial on Friday for Columbia, it’s something the various HeliX chapters felt was important for us to go to, especially after the whole Day Zero thing. Anti-mutant feeling has increased significantly after that; people are scared and angry and looking for someone to blame. But not all mutants are like Apocalypse, or the ones who attacked Columbia. I mean, we’ve all seen the footage from both and there were mutants helping people in both situations. Seeing ordinary young people, mutant and human, working together is something that’s important for the public to see.”

The road to Columbia hasn’t been easy for the fledgling group, or for its participants. Many members have experienced intimidation and threats, especially in the immediate wake of Day Zero. Moore, particularly, has first hand experience of the type of negative reaction HeliX has attracted.

“There’s been attacks. Vandalism, threatening letters, that sort of thing. Back in the early days, there was a fire at the coffee shop we used to hold meetings, deliberately lit. It almost killed the group before it had really begun. But we're stubborn that way."

"It's important to show that what we stand for is bigger than the small-mindness of people like the FOH," Bartlet adds. "That we're not afraid of them."

There has been some criticism from various sources that the group, by attending the memorial on July 24, is simply cashing in on the publicity. Both Moore and Bartlet strongly deny this.

"The theme of previous memorials has been peaceful coexistence and co-operation," says Bartlet. "That's exactly what we're about; providing an example to young people that no matter what our differences, we are still human beings. It's an important message and one the memorial organizers have supported."

And what about security concerns?

"There's always going to be someone out there shooting their mouths off and making threats," Moore replies. "I trust the police and SHIELD to do their jobs. And there certainly won't be any provocation or disturbance from the HeliX side of things - this is a serious occasion and we aren't going to show disrespect to the families and friends of victims by being jerks. And hopefully, we'll help people see the world isn't all "us" and "them". Hopefully we'll start people thinking."

The Columbia Massacre Memorial begins at 11:00 a.m. on July 24, 2009, with a number of speakers, followed by a minute's silence at 12:03 p.m.


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