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Littleton is Anytown, USA

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- A somber President Clinton reminded America that if a murderous school rampage could occur in this suburb, it could happen anywhere.

That's because Littleton is Anytown, USA.It is a quintessential suburb of 35,000, where rolling farmland in the shadow of the Continental Divide is rapidly yielding to suburban sprawl and soccer fields. A Republican stronghold, it was the site where Clinton opened the Summit of the Eight in 1997 with a campaign-style stop at the National Digital Television Center, a research arm of the telecommunications industry.

More than half of Littleton's adult residents have college degrees. As high tech and investment companies fuel metropolitan Denver's booming growth, dozens of new homes are sprouting 10 miles southwest of downtown on land that just last year was devoted to grazing and growing vegetables.

At the Leawood Elementary School, where horrified parents gathered to wait for word on their missing children, a horse pasture begins just beyond the swing sets.

The 475-mile Colorado Trail, which traces the state's most spectacular and remote mountain scenery, begins its uphill trek just beyond backyard fences and manicured lawns.

Ironically, Littleton can make the argument that it is among the oldest communities in North America.

Just a few miles south of the school rampage, archaeologists are struggling to save from bulldozers one of the continent's earliest sites of human occupation, Lamb Spring. Generations of prehistoric Indians used the site for hunting and game processing beginning in 9,500 B.C.

Littleton's recorded history began with the "Pikes Peak or Bust" gold rush of 1859. A young engineer from New Hampshire named Richard Sullivan Little established a series of ditches to divert water from the South Platte River to Denver.

In the late 1950s, the Pentagon ordered construction of the nation's intercontinental missile factory in a secluded canyon here.

At the factory, owned by Lockheed Martin, more than 10,000 employees now build unmanned rockets and satellites for telecommunications and space exploration, as well as classified military projects.