Columbine: The Evil Truth
All of the United States was shook on April 20th, 1999 when two boys arrived at Columbine High Schools’ campus in Littleton, Colorado with intent to cause chaos. With bombs placed sporadically around the school, and a plan that was devised nearly a year in advance, students and teachers inside had no way of escaping their horrific fate (“Columbine High School Shootings”).
The entire Littleton community along with the rest of America was left with many questions as to what could have stopped the events from occurring. How can we prevent this from happening somewhere else? What led to the two high school students plan for mass destruction?Over the years, researchers have found answers to some of the questions asked by many people around the country pertaining to this massacre. Within the walls of Columbine High School, there were many students all part of different cliques and from different backgrounds. Some students had artistic abilities, while others were considered “jocks”, or athletes, and some were infatuated with bizarre things such as Goth culture and Nazi tactics (“Eric Harris Biography”). Two students stuck out particularly for their infatuation with these odd and violent mannerisms, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Both of the boys were part of a self-made group known as the “Trench Coat Mafia” at their school. This group was known to have on long, black trench coats and boots, and act in an aggressive manner towards jocks, minorities, or anyone whom they had felt mistreated them. It was believed that violent video games and angry music could have played a key role in motivating the two shooters to act how they did (“Eric Harris Biography”). Prior to meeting Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris had lived a fairly normal life. His father was part of the military which required Harris to switch schools often. He spent time around other children being part of various sports teams in the towns he spent time in.
When his father retired from the military, the Harris family settled for good in Littleton, Colorado. Harris was a part of Columbine High School’s soccer team but still did not feel as if he belonged. When he started spending time with another student, who we know to be Dylan Klebold, he began to change for the worse. Harris had a hard time keeping his anger under control and would find himself getting into trouble with the law. Because Eric Harris was taking Fluvoxamine, a medication used to treat social anxiety disorder, or obsessive-compulsive disorders involving recurring thoughts or actions, he was denied from the United States Marine Corps a few weeks prior to the shootings, likely adding to his rage and will for mass destruction of his peers, teachers, and eventually himself (“Eric Harris Biography”).
Dylan Klebold was known to be a more reserved, mysterious type of person. He held his anger within himself, while his friend Eric Harris openly displayed his rage. The pair even made videos together laying out their plan to shoot inside the school, using racist slurs and hateful remarks about their peers (“Eric Harris Biography”). Klebold, too, believed that he did not fit into Columbine High School and grew a hatred for it to match Harris’s (“Dylan Klebold Biography”). The morning of April 20th, Klebold and Harris arrived separately at the school around 11:10 a.
m. The pair placed two duffel bags with 20-pound bombs in them inside the school that was set to go off at 11:17 a.m. After placing the bombs inside the school, Klebold and Harris returned outside to their cars and waited for the bombs to set off. When the bombs did not detonate, they began their rampage outside of the school. Their “Judgment Day” had begun.
After killing students who were sitting outside, Klebold and Harris started inside to terrorize the other helpless students and teachers (“Columbine High School Shootings”). The word spread fast once the two entered the school. Students and faculty took cover under desks, in closets, or anywhere they believed the shooters could not see them. Teachers did not have any clue what to do with the students to keep them safe. Approximately eight months prior to the shootings, school officials tried to put safety guidelines in place that were ignored (“What Really Happened at Columbine?”). These guidelines could have saved the twelve students and one teacher from getting brutally murdered and many others from being severely injured, mentally and physically in what is known as the “Worst School Shooting in America”.
The students who were killed during these attacks seemed to have had a lot going for them. Cassie Bernall was a 17-year-old junior who just recently became involved in her church in an attempt to turn her life around. Steve Curnow was a 14-year-old freshman who was a part of the soccer team at the school and aspired to someday become a pilot in the navy. Corey Depooter was a 17-year-old who enjoyed spending his days outside golfing and fishing. Kelly Fleming was a down-to-earth 16-year old who enjoyed writing in the library. Matthew Kechter was a straight-A student who played for the school’s football team.
Daniel Mauser was a sophomore who just began to come out of his shell by joining the debate and cross country teams. Daniel Rohrbough was a 15-year-old freshman who was a part of the hockey team and spent a lot of time with his father at his shop. Rachel Scott was a musically inclined 15-year old. Isaiah Shoels was an 18-year-old boy who recently overcame two major heart surgeries and began to play football and wrestle (“Those Killed at the Columbine Massacre”). One person really stood out above the rest, though, Coach William “Dave” Sanders.
Dave Sanders was a softball and girls’ basketball coach and teacher at the school for many years. He was a father to two girls and a grandfather to five children. While the school was being terrorized, Sanders ran out of the cafeteria to go upstairs to help the other students. While rounding the corner, he was shot down by the gunman. He lay wounded on the ground for hours, while countless students stayed with him to try and help him. One student, Mike Rotole, left a sign in the window for help to see outside which read, “One bleeding out”.
Unfortunately, by the time help had come, Coach Dave Sanders was already gone. He was the last person to pass away inside Columbine High School (“What Really Happened at Columbine?”). More than twenty more people were injured during the Columbine High School attacks, quite severely. These victims were taken to several different hospitals around the area, such as, the Swedish Medical Center, the Denver Heath Medical Center, the Centura Littleton Adventist Hospital, Saint Anthony Central Hospital, University Hospital, and the Lutheran Medical Center. Injuries amongst the victims varied.
One student, Brian Anderson was standing with hall monitor Patti Nielson, when they were shot at by Eric Harris through a glass door, sending glass shards into their bodies. Richard Castaldo was shot alongside his friend, Rachel Scott, who we know to be the first one killed in the chaos. Stephen Austin Eubanks was shot in the hand while sitting under a table in the library next to his best friend, Corey DePooter. Nick Foss was injured when one of the pipe bombs in the cafeteria went off. Teacher Joyce Jankowski was injured after falling through the ceiling trying to escape.
Adam Kyler started to run to the kitchen of the cafeteria but was hit by a chair and later treated for abdominal pain. Stephanie Munson was shot in the foot (“The Injured at Columbine High School”).These are just a few of the people who we know to be the “lucky ones” whose lives did not end in such a horrific manor. Although the shooting ended shortly after 12:00 p.m., police officers, firefighters and horrified family and friends stood outside of the building, waiting for the SWAT teams to arrive, unaware of the damage done on the inside.
Some of the obstacles that kept police from barging into the school immediately were fear of bombs, booby traps, and the belief that there were about eight shooters inside of the building, when the reality of it was there were only two, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (“What Really Happened at Columbine?”). Some of the families of the deceased expressed their anger towards how police responded. Bruce Beck, step-father of Lauren Townsend who was murdered in the shootings exclaimed, “They’re listening to kids getting shot and murdered inside the library over a 911 call and their job is to protect people!” Many other parents felt the same as Beck, but police responded by saying they did their job the way they were trained (“What Really Happened at Columbine”). Another family took a completely different approach to coping with the loss of their child, the Scott family. Rachel Scott was the first to be murdered on April 20th, 1999.
She was a bright fifteen-year-old girl who enjoyed music and making others happy (“Those Killed at the Columbine Massacre”). After Rachel’s death, her family was approached by many of her peers who had stories to tell about Rachel. They said that with her kind words and heart she had saved them from their own minds and gave them a better outlook on life. Her family took this and ran with it, creating Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel’s Challenge is a non-profit organization created by Rachel’s father, Darrell that works to reduce violence within schools.
This organization travels to different schools across the country in hopes to make a connection with students and really change the environment within the schools they visit (“About Rachel’s Challenge”). Rachel’s Challenge has noticeably impacted the way that students treat one another and themselves through their public speaking, PowerPoint presentations, and stories of Rachel’s life. Rachel Scott will forever be remembered for the impact she has had on people across America. There were others who suffered in different ways than the victims’ families, though. Sue Klebold, mother of mass murderer, Dylan Klebold, has been haunted by her sons killings ever since. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, she tells that she often looks back on Dylan growing up and realizes the changes that he made over time was not just a “phase” of growing up, it was the development of a monster.
After the shootings, Sue received a lot of hateful threats regarding what her son did. She realized over time, though that she could not hide from what Dylan had done she can only try to make it up to the families in any way she could (“Columbine Killer’s Mother Sue Klebold on Relationship with Her Son, Warning Signs She Missed, What She Went Through After the Tragedy”). She reached out to all of the victims’ families by writing them long, sincere apologies prior to the release of her book, “A Mother’s Reckoning” and her interview with Diane Sawyer. From some, she received angry responses, from others, none at all. But, one former student, Anne Marie Hochhalter, a woman who was paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet during the shootings, shared her response to Sue’s letter.
Within her response she wrote; “You and your husband wrote me a letter a few months after I was paralyzed saying how sorry you were. It was genuine and personal. The Harris letter, on the other hand, was four sentences long on a folded up piece of paper, and was cold and robotic.” She continued to read back Sue Klebold’s letter to her and expressed that it meant a lot to her that the proceeds of her book would not be pocketed, but in fact, go towards helping others with mental illness. Her letter was finished off by telling Sue she felt no “ill-will” toward her and wished her the best (“Anne Marie Hochhalter’s Full Letter To Columbine Shooter Dylan Klebolds Mother, Sue Klebold”). Within the years following the horrible events on April 20th, schools have taken a turn for the better when it comes to safety and security.
Most schools now have student identification cards, security cameras, metal detectors, and enforced school dress codes to prevent theft, violence, and the wearing of gang apparel. It has been encouraged for students to report odd behaviors to adults to have the issues at hand addressed, forcing everyone to become more aware of their surroundings. There are zero-tolerance policies put in place to try and avoid bullying or possession of illegal substances or weapons on school grounds (“9 Ways School Has Changed Since Columbine”). Although it took ending thirteen precious lives and putting others on hold, these acts of terror made schools a more safe and aware environment. Works Cited “9 Ways School Has Changed Since Columbine.
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