Columbine High School shooting archive - On April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold took the lives of 13 victims and their own lives


[ est. 4 21 1999 ]
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My Opinion
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One of things I'm asked most about is my opinion of this event, something that used to surprise me as I tend to think of this site as an encyclopedia of sorts and good reference materials don't have opinions in them -- just the facts. But since I've been asked so much, I've included this page as a brief summary of the conclusions I've reached over the years.

First let me say that I believe that there are only a few circumstances that warrant the death of another human being. In a life-or-death situation, I feel it's perfectly okay to use whatever means to survive that are necessary. Defending your family from a home invader is a time where lethal force would be excuseable. Murder that's spawned as an act of revenge against society born out of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore" is not okay.

I have long felt things should be changed in the school systems, even when I was a child in school myself. The prison gang environment is a trial to live through for many and no one should fear or hate the place they have to spend most of their waking hours when they're young. But killing a bunch of kids was a horrible way to "kick start" the revolution. And only partially successful.

Dylan and Eric had their reasons for being so off the deep end that they could bring themselves to gun down other people; people they knew and ones they didn't. Those reasons are woven into the tapestry that is their history and will largely be overlooked or ignored by the majority of the world because most don't care to study the villains in tragic tales like this. It's much easier to label them monsters and get on with being sad for the victims they killed than it is to face what our society has belched up onto itself.

In my opinion, the heart of this matter is school. It's a common proving ground that the majority of educated people have with the next person, an experience that is surprisingly similar the world over for everyone regardless of location. Almost everyone who has attended school has had negative experiences there at some time. They felt alone, or bullied; left out, or humiliated; misunderstood or scared. Most have witnessed violence between other students or been a direct part of it. We have all known kids just like Dylan and Eric - and their victims - or were like them when in school. No matter what we think individually of what happened there, most of us can picture all too clearly what it might've been like to be there either as a victim, a survivor, or a shooter.

I've been asked often what I think about the shooters themselves. That's a complex answer that I'll try to sum up as best as I can. Essentially I think they were fairly typical of smart, middle-class boys in their late teens. I grew up in an area similar to Littleton and knew guys just like them when I was a teen. Judging from what they wrote about in their private journals, Dylan struggled with hideously low self-esteem and depression over common matters that plague most teens: Crushes, not having a romantic partner, being accepted. Eric had issues with anger and resented the world at large for creating and then rejecting him.

Theirs was a toxic friendship that allowed them to make into reality what most disaffected anarchy-bent teens used to just joke about when they were pissed off at the establishment . But that's just it: Other people have felt just like the shooters. Heck, from grade school many of us used to sing songs like:

Glory, glory! Hallelujah! Teacher hit me with the ruler. I met her at the door with a loaded .44 now she don't teach no more.

I've heard people in their 70s sing worse. I'm sure the current kids midway through their own school careers know jump-rope rhymes or have songs of their own they sing when the teacher isn't listening. The thoughts that Klebold and Harris expressed were not at all unique. Even shooting people at school wasn't unprecedented. What set them apart was the manner they carried it out and how far in advance they had planned it. The steady stream of detailing and practice they put into forging their dream of revenge put a bright, ugly spotlight on just how long some kids deal with being truly unhappy at school for reasons that have nothing to do with their grades.

I recently watched again the movie Falling Down (starting Michael Douglas) and realized I was watching Eric and Dylan. I'd seen the movie before the Columbine shootings but not after and hadn't thought about it much till I went to show it to someone else on Netflix. In the movie, the main character is named is Bill but is listed in the credits as D-FENS, the same name as what appears on the character's license plate in the film (interesting, Brooks Brown's internet handle is D-FENS). The movie starts with D-FENS stuck in traffic in his overheating car in the middle of summer, without a working air conditioner, a situation many of us can relate to. Pressure builds as he sits there, the mundane things that irritate us all really, and he finally just abandons his car in the jam and walks away.

From there the man, who looks like any 40-something Average Joe, begins a cross-town trek where-in he faces armed gang members, homeless bums, discrimination, immigration issues, corporate red tape and more. In every instance we can see facets of our own lives and the things that annoy us most about living with other people. And in it, D-FENS reacts in ways that normal Joes just won't or can't: He beats up the gang members, he terrorizes a Nazi-worshipping bigot, he tells off a bum before giving him a free meal, he is power to the common man. He's standing up for himself against problems that, realistically, most people would just suffer with unhappily. But he's mad as hell and he's not going to take it any more. And that was Dylan and Eric's mentality, from what I've seen. Even more interesting to me was noting that as D-FENS acquires weapons, two of the guns he uses are a sawed-off shotgun and an TEC-DC9 - two of the weapons the shooters used at Columbine High.

I suppose at the heart of it, I feel it's important to remember what happened at Columbine in order to try and prevent something like it from happening again. Till we understand what drove these two teens to commit mass murder/suicide we'll never be able to say that we're prepared for the eventuality that something like it - or worse - could happen again.