The PonderMonster. He leaves monster paintings around cities for people to "find, keep and ponder." The PonderMonster is also a film marker, an advanced hula hooper and a professional dream chaser.Samuel Granillo is the PonderMonster.
15 years ago,before embarking on his journey as the PonderMonster,Granillo was a 17-year-old junior at Columbine High School.He was sitting in the cafeteria studying for a test when the shooting began.Granillo found shelter in a supply room off of the cafeteria kitchen with 17 other classmates. As he closed the door behind him, he realized there was no lock on the door.As the explosions and gun shoots continued to get closer, Granillo laid down and wedged his feet underneath the door to keep it closed. "When the doorknob started turning it was just like a horror film...I remember laying on my back, wondering if this was it...We did everything we could to keep the door shut and they never got it open." Granillo and his classmates hid for three and a half hours until a SWAT team arrived.
In life,there is no set timeline for grief or healing."It didn't hit me for ten years. It's like falling on your knee. The adrenaline kicks in and it makes you get back up.It's only later when you realize 'Wow, I (messed up) my knee' ". Granillo still struggles with "the traumatizing memories of the violence he encountered that day. Even though they're ever-present,he is able to live a fairly normal life for eleven months of the year,but everything changes when the month of April (the month of the shooting) comes around.'It's spring. The weather is beautiful. Everything is blooming with life. And all I think about is death' " Granillo says.
Granillo teamed up with Dateline NBC and traveled across the US to meet other shooting survivors in Jonesboro, AR, Red Lake, MN, Dekalb, IL and Blackburg, VA. He embarked on his journey in the hopes that it would "help him find a more positive way to confront April and the tragedy that has shaped his life." For years, Granillo had felt survivors guilt,as if he didn't go through enough to talk about his experience."I don't care if you were shot or not. You were injured," Lynette Thetford told Granillo. Thetford was shot by her 13-year-old student in 1998 when two students open fired at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro,AK. "You are a victim...You should never let anyone minimize that."
Gun Control is a hot topic.It pushes buttons and generates heated debates.When NBC was screening the footage from Granillo's journey,they called him and pointed out there was nothing mentioned about gun control."What should be said about gun control?",NBC asked him. "You can say gun control is one small piece to a large puzzle," he responded. "For me,this was about sharing people's experiences and being there for each other,not creating a debate." Granillo's instincts to not mention the topic of gun control proved to be a good move."This NBC special was the most well received and didn't get any negative feedback."
Traveling has proven to be good for the soul and for Granillo's journey. It was during other travels that the PonderMonster was born. During a trip to LA, street artist Mr. Ramano posted clues on Instagram to find artwork he had hid around the city. Following the clues, Granillo realized he knew where the artwork was hidden. "It made me so happy to find it. It was just exciting. That feeling always stuck with me. I wanted to give that feeling back."
Each color of the PonderMonster's current Rainbow Collection represents an emotion. Each art piece comes with a message; "A note to those who find me: congratulations you found me! Weather you stumbled upon, or were out to find me, I am now officially yours to have and to hold. Quick, take a picture this momentous occasion and post it to Instagram (#pondermonster) so the world can see our new friendship! There are many more of us to come so keep your eyes peeled. Now, let's go home together. -Pondermonster". "Sometimes I will hid the art and wait in my car just to see the reaction of the person who finds it. It's so exciting."
When asked how he is able to put himself out in the world without reservation and give back to others after that fateful day 15 years ago, Granillo's answer is swift and genuine. "This is all apart of my life, all apart of my journey...Making the world a better place." As the interviews concludes, it is mentioned in conversation that ArtCrasher is based in San Francisco. "Ah, I'm headed to California soon. I'm going to Hula Hoop Camp," Granillo shares. Two thoughts came to mind when Granillo shared this; First, "Wow, he really is an advanced hola hooper!"; Second "Wow, here is a man who truly realizes the fragility of life. He is living on his terms and following his passions." I may not have found a piece of PonderMonster artwork (yet), but the PonderMonster has left me with a new lust for life.