The Columbine High School shooters made out that they were bullied outcasts that wanted revenge, however, the truth is much different, they wanted to see the world as we know it burn.
On April 20, 1999, the Columbine High School Massacre in Littleton, Colorado brought the age of parents fearing for their children's safety every time they sent them to school, this was the dawn of active shooter drills in schools and increased security measures. This was the result of two disturbed teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold whose crime shook the world.
After the initial shock of the brutal Columbine High School Massacre, the feeling quickly took a turn to confusion, teachers, parents, police, and journalists were all mystified as to how two teenagers could so easily and joyfully gun down a teacher and a dozen classmates.
This question has never really been answered, in 2017, when the biggest mass shooting in American history left Las Vegas in horror, it served as a grim reminder that Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were only the beginning of a violent and troubling trend that persists to this day.
The first mistruth that was spread around was that both of the teenagers had been bullied by the popular kids, this rumour quickly spread around the news outlets, this was also an entirely unfounded narrative.
The truth was actually harder to digest and much more complicated. To try and ascertain why the two teenagers decided to cause a massacre on that fateful day in April 1999, we need to take a closer look at Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, beneath what was written in the headlines.
Eric Harris was born on April 9, 1981, in Wichita, Kansas, this is where he spent the early years of his childhood. Once Harris had become a teenager his family moved to Colorado, being the son of an Air Force pilot, he had moved around quite frequently as a young child.
The family settled in Littleton, Colorado when the father of Eric Harris retired in 1993.
Eric Harris appeared as any other teenager of similar age, not showing signs of behavioral issues or a bad temperament. However, he did have trouble fitting in around Littleton. Harris wore popular American clothing, was good at football, and developed a strong interest in computers, but underneath this, he was harboring a deep hatred towards the world.
He once wrote in his journal: "I want to tear a throat out with my own teeth like a pop can, I want to grab some weak little freshman and just tear them apart like a fucking wolf. Strangle them, squish their head, rip off their jaw, break their arms in half, show them who is God."
Harris would certainly appear from his own words to be extremely angry, but he also had a belief that he was bigger and more powerful than the rest of the world, when he met Dylan Klebold, the students shared many deep and dark ideas together.
Dylan Klebold appeared to be quieter, introverted, and more vulnerable than his friend Eric Harris, the two teenagers bonded over their hatred with school but had significantly different personality traits from each other.
Born on September 11, 1981, in Lakewood, Colorado, Dylan Klebold was considered highly intelligent and gifted in his early teenage years.
His mother worked with the disabled and his father was a geophysicist, he was brought up in an upper-middle-class family. His parents even owned their own real estate company which ensured the family had a sizeable income and offered a comfortable home environment for Dylan Klebold to grow up.
Klebold had a relatively standard childhood, mostly based around studying, video games, and baseball, he was a big fan of the Boston Red Sox, he also worked on audio-visual projects for school productions, and had an interest in bowling. It wasn't until Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris became good friends and started to share their mutual dissatisfaction that something darker started to form.
How Eric Harris And Dylan Klebold Started To Plot The Columbine Massacre
Both of them were united with their cynical view of the world and everything in it, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris spent most of their time playing violent video games, dressing entirely in black, and then exploring their mutual affection for firearms and explosives or just simply anything that was capable of causing destruction.
They both worked at a local pizza place together, to start with they were just a pair of angry teenagers. Their friendship didn't instantly turn into the script of the horrifying school shooting that would later follow, it progressed at a slow pace and appeared to be largely based around a mutual disgust and hatred for their surroundings.
Rumours circulated that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were part of the school clique known as the Trenchcoat Mafia, a self-described group of rebels and loners who would dress in all-black attire, although they certainly dressed like the group, this was just another untrue myth.
The pair's lack of interest in school work was soon reflected in Klebold's grades, his anger, rage, and depression started showing in his work, once he handed in an essay so gruesome that his teacher later said it was "the most vicious story she'd ever read."
Harris and Klebold even had their own website, the pair would openly plot violence and destruction against their local community on it and sometimes even specific people by name. In 1998, junior Brooks Brown found his name on the website and even saw that Harris had threatened to murder him.
"When I first saw the Web pages, I was utterly blown away,” said Brown. "He’s not saying that he’s gonna beat me up, he’s saying he wants to blow me up and he’s talking about how he’s making the pipe bombs to do it with."
The enthusiasm that both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had for violent video games was often suggested to be a direct link to the cause of the Columbine High School Shooting, often forgetting that Klebold was also severely depressed and both he and Harris had developed an obsession with Adolf Hitler before the massacre occurred, but blaming video games was a more digestible and simple target for the media to latch onto.
The pairs' interest in Nazi iconography, Hitler, and the violence of the Third Reich grew stronger, even giving each other a Hitler salute as a greeting whilst out in public.
By this time, Klebold and Harris were amassing a small arsenal of weapons. They had acquired three weapons that would be used in the Columbine shooting from a female friend who was old enough to buy guns in Colorado, they also obtained a bomb, they bought this from a coworker at the pizza place.
Klebold and Harris even recorded videos of themselves discussing how famous they would become after they had carried out the massacre, Klebold said in one of the videos, "I hope we kill 250 of you."
In the videos, Harris and Klebold would get their friends to pretend to be jocks whilst they would pretend to be gunmen shooting them.
Columbine junior Chris Reilly said the two future Columbine shooters "were a little upset they couldn’t show their video to the whole school. But there were guns in every scene of the video, so you can’t show that."
They would frequently submit work that highlighted their aggression and love for gore. A teacher commented on one of the essays written by Klebold saying "Yours is a unique approach and your writing works in a gruesome way, good details and mood setting."
In 1998, the year before the Columbine shooting, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were arrested for the first time. They broke into a van and stole the belongings inside, they were charged with theft, criminal mischief, and criminal trespassing.
They were both placed into a diversion program which consisted of counseling and community service, however, both of them were released a month early. Dylan Klebold was even called "a bright young man who has a great deal of potential." This was in February 1999, just two months before they carried out the Columbine massacre.
The Columbine Massacre
The massacre took place on April 20, which was Adolf Hitler's birthday, although both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had an obsession with Hitler, it was actually only a coincidence that they carried out the attack on that particular date. They had planned to bomb the school the day before, on the anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, but a local drug dealer who was providing Klebold and Harris with their ammunition was late.
Most people are still of the impression that the Columbine school shooting went as the two teenagers had planned, this was not the case at all.
Both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were obsessed with the destruction that Timothy McVeigh caused in Oklahoma City several years earlier, their goal was to outdo him in terms of causing more death and destruction.
To cause the level of mayhem that they wanted they knew they needed more than just firearms, this is why Klebold and Harris had been building pipe bombs over the course of several months prior to the attack. After succeeding in creating the pipe bombs they moved on to making two 20-pound propane bombs.
They spent hours researching online to learn about bomb-making, it wasn't until the day of the shooting that it was clear that they hadn't learned quite as much they initially thought.
The initial plan was to set off bombs in the school cafeteria, they knew that this would cause a massic panic, forcing everyone in the school to flood outside into the parking lot, both Harris and Klebold intended on waiting here, firing off rounds of bullets into every person that they could.
They had planned that when emergency services arrived at the scene, they would detonate bombs that they had attached to Klebold's car, destroying any rescue efforts. This plan could have potentially worked if the bombs had worked, luckily they didn't.
When the bombs failed to detonate, Klebold and Harris changed their plans and after killing three students and wounding several others outside, they entered the school at around 11 am.
Once the pair were inside the school they started shooting anyone that they came across, for just under an hour, Harris and Klebold killed a dozen pupils and one teacher, whilst wounding 20 others.
It is reported that the two shooters taunted their victims with "a glee so disturbing it could understandably sound fictional," before turning the guns on themselves.
Most of the fatalities from the Columbine High School massacre were in the library, 10 students lost their lives at the hands of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in the school library that day.
Before opening fire, it is claimed that Klebold shouted, "We're going to kill every one of you," they then started shooting indiscriminately and throwing pipe bombs around without any regard for who exactly would be killed.
Many survivors spoke out about the display of sadism from both Klebold and Harris, anyone that was crying out or injured immediately became a priority target for them.
One survivor, Aaron Cohn said, "They were laughing after they shot, it was like they were having the time of their life."
Another student at the Columbine High School also recalled how Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold appeared extremely joyful throughout the entire massacre.
"There was a girl crouched beneath a desk in the library, and the guy came over and said, ‘Peek a boo,’ and shot her in the neck," said Kirkland, recalling Klebold’s vicious killing of Cassie Bernall. "They were hooting and hollering and getting a big joy out of this."
The SWAT team eventually entered the school at 1:38 pm, by this time though the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had already carried out a brutal massacre and shown no shred of mercy towards any of their victims.
The whole school was a scene of death and injury with blood splattered everywhere, the sprinkler systems had been set off by the pipe bomb explosions which only added to the chaos. One girl was shot nine times in the chest, whilst another student in a classroom was holding up a piece of paper to a window that read, "Help me, I'm bleeding." Other students used desks and chairs to attempt to barricade themselves into their classrooms whilst some tried to escape through the heating vents.
Another student, Wade Frank, watched on in horror as one of the killers shot a kid at point-blank range in the back of the head. "He was just casually walking, he wasn't in any hurry," he recalled.
By the time law enforcement actually stormed the building, the brutal rampage that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had carried out was over. Just over an hour after the start of the massacre, both shooters turned their guns on themselves, committing suicide in the library.
In the meantime, petrified parents, fearing for the lives of their loved ones were taken into a nearby elementary school to provide the police with names of their children so they could match survivors and victims to the correct families.
Pam Grams described how waiting to hear if her 17-year-old son was dead or alive was indescribable, "It was the most anxious hour of my life, there’s nothing worse." she explained after finding out her son was safe.
For dozens of other parents, the news wasn't good, for more than 10 hours they waited for information about their children, in some cases, only to be told that they had been killed. That Tuesday in Littleton, Colorado, would be one that none of them would ever forget.
Could The Columbine Shooting Have Been Prevented?
The biggest untrue myth that was spread by the media about the Columbine massacre was that it came out of nowhere without any warning signs, many news outlets reported that both Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were just two normal kids who never showed any signs that they may have been troubled or potentially dangerous.
Columbine author Dave Cullen’s conversations with survivors, psychiatrists, and law enforcement revealed a whole roster of ominous signposts along the way, including Klebold’s thoroughly evolved depression and Harris’s coldblooded psychopathy.
The personal writings of Dylan Klebold were discovered by authorities after the Columbine shooting, these clearly showed that he had been suicidal for quite a while, he also expressed his anger at the fact he wasn't dating anyone.
"The man unloaded one of the pistols across the fronts of four innocents. The streetlights caused a visible reflection off of the droplets of blood… I understood his actions." Dylan Klebold.
Unfortunately, much of this was discovered too late, and what was found earlier was not taken seriously.
The report produced about the mental state of Eric Harris during his probationary period a year before the shootings even ended on a positive note, reading, "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."
It would appear no one wanted to believe that hope could be lost on two young teenagers. No one wanted to think about the worst-case scenario, even though it grew increasingly obvious that something was terribly wrong.
Even now, over 20 years on from that fateful day, people are still trying to answer the question as to how two teenagers could have carried out such a brutal atrocity.
Now you have read the story behind the Columbine School Shooting, make sure you read about the Russian cannibal killer who was arrested after a headless corpse fell from his car.