Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the killings at Columbine High School in Colorado, the worst school shooting in U.S. history:
- One by one, students, parents and neighbors arrived at Columbine High School on Tuesday
….Retirees Les and Vi Fast, who live nearby, walked across a field near Columbine in the morning sun. Like others, they said they were here for quiet reflection.
“We just can’t believe something like this could have happened in such a beautiful community,” Vi Fast said.
Her husband added: “Having been a schoolteacher myself, I was thinking of Dave Sanders,” the teacher who bled to death while authorities waited to enter Columbine.
Five years ago, on April 20, 1999, Columbine students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and Sanders before committing suicide. The anniversary forced many to come to grips with an unspeakable violence.
“I just want today to be a peaceful day to remember and to hope for the future,” said Kallen Dunn, 36, who went with her son, Michael, a 15-year-old Columbine student.
“Certain days are harder than others. This is one of them,” said Joe Kechter, whose son, Matt, was among those killed. “We were told by counselors that the fifth would be harder. I don’t know the reason but it is true. I wish there were other things we could have done today.”
Erin Walton was one of the last survivors to escape that day, stepping over the bodies of classmates as she fled.
“It’s very, very hard to be in a school atmosphere,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I always carry that with me and I always have to be in a room with a window and a door. It’s a comfort zone for me.”
The school sat empty Tuesday, its 1,700 students given the day off. The building has been overhauled since the tragedy, with a new library replacing the room where 10 of the students were slain.
….The only administrator left from 1999 is Principal Frank DeAngelis, who said staying at Columbine helped keep him sane.
“People ask me all the time when will that magical day occur in which Columbine will return to normal?” he said on ABC. “I don’t think we’ll ever return to normal.” [AP]
Two years ago I wrote this on my old site Tres Producers about 9/11 and Columbine:
If you follow Osama bin Laden’s career as a terrorist, it can be seen as an accelerating grab for attention from the aloof, uncaring authority-figure America who has allowed the other boys to pick on poor little Islam, done some picking on of its own, and HURT ISLAM’S PRIDE: “Well, if you won’t pay attention to me when I do this … then I will do this, and if you don’t pay attention to me then, I will do this …,” all the while jumping up and down, waving his skinny little arms, and crying for attention – even NEGATIVE ATTENTION – which at some point turned to homicidal hatred.
What does this sound like?:
Could anyone have stopped this senseless, horrific catastrophe?
At what point do parents share the guilt of a deranged child? Is love, or complacency, so great that warning signs are ignored? Police, school officials and some parents and students allege that:
Harris committed petty vandalism in his neighborhood, but points to another neighbor as the guilty party. The neighbor had an alibi, however.
Harris and Klebold broke into a van and stole some contents.
Harris published his plans for murder and his hate on his Web site.
Harris kept a detailed journal of his emerging plans for murder.
Harris was diagnosed with an obsessive/compulsive disorder and was prescribed Luvox as a medication.
Harris and Klebold built pipe bombs in his house and garage. The evidence is in plain view.
Harris and Klebold recorded videos as school projects which are full of violence and hatred.
Harris and Klebold wrote essays as school projects which are full of violence and hatred.
Harris cut off the barrel of a shotgun, and left the evidence on top of a dresser in his room.
It was reported that Klebold’s father telephoned the SWAT team after the shootings began and stated that he believed his son was involved and could he help – but it was too late.
Police allege that:
Petty vandalism in the neighborhood brings police attention to Harris.
Harris and Klebold are caught after breaking into a van. The judge requires counseling and probation.
The Browns, neighbors of Harris, turn 9 printed pages of Harris’s Web site over to police. The Web pages are full of violence, hatred and threats. No action was taken.
After several incidents, the school guard is told to watch Harris and Klebold.
Police and school officials also allege that:
Harris saw someone (doctor, psychiatrist) who prescribed Luvox for a brain chemical imbalance. Apparently there was no further investigation into Harris’s mental state.
A teacher is so concerned with violent essays written by Klebold, that she tells his counselor, who talks with the boy and the boy’s father.
The Trenchcoat Mafia – questions remain:
Although not totally accepted by the group, Harris and Klebold considered themselves members of the “Trenchcoat Mafia”. This Columbine group may be comprised of students alienated from the rest of the school. One of the members, not involved with the shootings but interviewed by CNN, stated that if you tease/harass people, you can expect a bullet too. If this “thinking” is condoned, what message does it send to the psychos who will actually pull a trigger?
Do weird dress and manners increase the incidences of discrimination by other students? Does the increase in alienation trigger a potential blood-bath? Had trenchcoats been banned in a dress code, could the long guns used in the killings been smuggled so easily into the school?
Did Harris and Klebold confide in any other member of the group, and did they get any encouragement from any other member of the group?
Conversely, does an inner clique of more popular students and athletes bear any responsibility for belittling, embarrassing and ostracizing students not part of their group? How much does intolerance play in the blame for such a meltdown? Is the bad behavior of “good” students enough to unbalance an already unstable mind?
The parallels to this report and recent blame tossing over 9/11 is striking. Like the Columbine killers, until absolutely forced to admit otherwise, bin Laden was viewed, at least by the Saudis, as the wayward son of a prominent family who could perhaps be appeased or otherwise be brought back into the fold. No one “would have predicted this outcome” for any of them even though the evidence was right out in the open.
If you read bin Laden’s “Open Letter to King Fahd” or any of his other screeds, his most basic complaint is the “humiliation” visited upon Islam by the West – as most visibly represented by America – in the form of it’s military, cultural, scientific, technological, etc. domination. Since in bin Laden’s pre-adolescent worldview, as clarified by Bill Quick’s brilliant theory:
Islamic Arabia is an honor/shame culture. In such cultures, the primary concern is what others believe about you. If others believe you are inferior, then you are humiliated and shamed, and you will hate not only those who perceive you in such a shameful way, but also the source of that perception.
Islam is SUPPOSED to dominate and not the other way around, something must BE WRONG with the world and the wrong must be set right by any means necessary, including the murder of innocents, none of whom are truly “innocent” because they all are witness to the shame and humiliation of a superior people laid low AGAINST THE WILL OF GOD.
Harris and Klebold also were rebelling against humiliation from their peers, and also gave ample warning of their plans, plans that were discounted as “inconceivable” by the authorities:
According to a report in the Denver Rocky Mountain News, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was supplied with evidence a year ago that “Eric Harris was contemplating mass murder — but did nothing, a Columbine father said. The father gave printouts of Harris’ Web site to a deputy to support his complaint that Harris had threatened his son’s life and had broken his son’s windshield.” The police now report that they were limited in what they could do because the parents of the child threatened by Eric Harris did not want to make their complaint public.
Eric Harris’s web site was set up more than a year before the shootings in Littleton. It read in part, “I will rig up explosives all over a town and detonate each one of them at will after I mow down a whole … area full of you.”
According to reports most adults who knew the suspects Klebold, and Harris, would agree with the opinion of the youth crime diversion program officer who wrote, in a Jefferson County report, that “Eric is a very bright young man who is likely to succeed in life. He is intelligent enough to achieve lofty goals as long as he stays on task and remains motivated.
“Dylan (Klebold) has earned the right for an early termination. … He is intelligent enough to make any dream a reality but he needs to understand hard work is part of it.”
The intelligence of none of the killers has ever been in question. How alike in tone, scaled up a quantum or two, is this depiction of what might have happened had the FBI successfully intervened on 9/11, from the mysterious Edward Nough in Charles Johnson’s comments section:
assume that the FBI had information on the exact date, time, flight number, and descriptions of suspects. So they raid all the planes, and arrest the 19 dirtbags.
…And then what? Not much, I imagine. Oh, CAIR and it’s ilk would be having a fit, of course, complaining to everyone including George W. about profiling and unfair targeting of Arab-Americans. After all, just what did the FBI find? Some box cutters? Those aren’t illegal on airplanes. Flight manuals? These men were all attending accredited flight schools, trying to achieve the American dream, etc. etc. So they had one-way tickets: is that a crime? Funeral shrouds? Are you honestly arresting these men for bringing white sheets onto a plane? Korans? So because these men are pious Muslims, you dare to assume…! And really, folks, come on: flying a Boeing into a skyscraper? You’ve been watching too many movies! Who would come up with something this complicated, when a truck bomb in a garage would do just as well?
And so on and so on. I’m sure at least half these men would have been released within a couple of days. Profiling would be discussed at length on CNN and PBS. Several specials would be made, with weeping, hijab-wearing photogenic young women, describing in perfect Midwestern English the ordeal of being singled out by airport security. American Airlines would issue an apology, and make a contribution to the Arab-American Anti-Defamation Society, with a promise of more “outreach efforts.” Norman Mineta would be outraged! and put in all sorts of new restrictions designed specifically to avoid giving extra scrutiny to “people of Middle Eastern appearance.” (hey! wait a second!) George W. would go on the record saying that “pro-filling” is “discriminatational” and against everything he holds dear. Clinton would tell a story of his Lebanese-American great-uncle who was once denied entry into the White House. Al Gore would talk about his years of service under Lawrence of Arabia. Pretty soon, the whole thing would be forgotten as another embarrassing example of the Latent Racism in American Society.
Neither the Columbine killers nor those of 9/11 were to be appeased or mollified away from their pursuit of “revenge for humiliation.” Only the death or incarceration of the perpetrators could have prevented either tragedy. Perhaps these events are different only in scale, not in kind; and perhaps we are a bit more attuned than we were to the vast imaginative capacity for evil of those who hate. I hope so.
I hope so still.