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Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Fun Facts about the Columbine Tragedy

Ok, it's not the anniversary of Columbine or anything -- that was on weed day/hitler's b-day, April 20th. But I feel the need to get these facts out, since there are a lot of misconceptions about the events of that day. Consider this the first part of our discussion of Zero Day and Elephant, two movies that prominently feature Columbine-style school shootings. A great site to check out (if you have some time to waste) is this Denver Post site, which has links to every story they ever printed about the shootings before April 7, 2001. I mean, it's got just about anything you can think of, from every angle imaginable. Also check out this even better expose from Sept. 1999 that exposes many of the myths surrounding the shootings. Who knew was good for something?

I don't know why this particular event has such a morbid fascination for me. There have certainly been much bigger and weirder tragedies since, but something about Columbine has always gotten to my core. I remember wanting to know the exact timeline when it happened. Maybe it was the fact that my then near-wife was teaching high school when it happened. Maybe it was the video of students pouring out of the windows of the school. Maybe it was the spineless cops who just made a perimeter outside and waited. Whatever the reason, I present to you now some facts about Columbine that you may not know (warning -- this is not for the faint of heart. This is some serious horror.):
  • There's a scene in Elephant where the killers are walking towards the school building and they pass a kid walking the opposite way, and they tell him to leave and not come back. This actually happened -- On his way towards the school, Eric Harris saw his "friend" Brooks Brown and told him to leave "because he likes him".
  • The original plan was much, much worse -- the actual Columbine tragedy represents bad improvisation on Harris' and Kleibold's part. They planted duffel bags full of timed explosives in the cafeteria. The bombs were to go off at 11:17am, killing most of the 488 people inside the room. They planned to then stand outside the cafeteria and shoot those who were still alive and trying to escape. The bombs never went off (we don't know why they didn't, btw), so they got out guns and just started shooting.
  • The first Sherrif's deputy got there before Kleibold and Harris got inside the school. They exchanged gunfire.
  • They planted a bomb (one that worked) about three miles from the school as a diversionary tactic. It didn't divert as much attention as they planned it to.
  • A student was on a payphone with her mother and saw Kleibold's trenchcoated arm shooting a rifle. She dropped the phone and hid in the bathroom until it Kleibold was gone, and came back out and told her mom to come pick her up.
  • By far the deadliest portion of the attack came in the library, where kids were hiding under tables -- 10 dead and 12 more injured. These were the last of the killings, though Harris and Kleibold made eye contact with several other students in walking around the school after this.
  • They tried to detonate the bombs in the cafeteria later by shooting at them, and futzing with them. They never went off.
  • There's a scene in Zero Day where the killers taunt a student before fatally wounding him. That happened, in the library, except in real life they decided not to kill him.
  • Remember Cassie Bernall, the girl who answered Kleibold and Harris' question, "Do you believe in God" and was shot for it? Never happened, probably. This is under some dispute, but the police and investigators believe that the story about Bernall actually happened to another girl, Valeen Schnurr. This girl told the killers she believed in God, and they mocked her and left her alone. She wasn't killed. Cassie Bernall was just a tragic random victim of maniacal killers. Like I said, all this is under dispute.
  • Kleibold and Harris killed themselves shortly after noon in the cafeteria. Just two minutes before this, the SWAT team entered the school using an outdated floor plan. They expected the cafeteria to be on the East side of the building, and all the killing was on the West side. This is one reason for the huge delays in the the rescue of wounded victims. They finally reached the library and found Harris and Kleibold at 3:22pm.
  • Unlike in Elephant, both shooters committed suicide. Eric Harris did not shoot Kleibold. There was some confusion about this because of the surveillance tape, which is unclear.
  • There were a bunch of lawsuits filed by various victim's families over the tragedy(all of which were thrown out eventually), the most interesting being the one filed by the family of Dave Sanders, the teacher who died from his wounds hours after the shooting had stopped. The SWAT team finally reached him at 2:40 (this is from the police report, mind you -- the lawsuit alleges it was more like 4pm), and sat there with him waiting for the paramedics to arrive, which they never did. He was dead by the time they tried to evacuate him, 20-30 minutes later. The police and patholigists have said he would have died anyway because of his neck wound.
  • Another lawsuit alleged that one of the students killed outside was actually killed by a police bullet.
  • Yet another lawsuit alleges that a police sharpshooter saw Harris and Kleibold commit suicide, meaning the police knew they were dead at 12:08. This lawsuit also says that the same sharpshooter had a clear shot at Harris earlier, but was told not to shoot by a supervisor.
  • Yet another lawsuit alleges that the 10 library deaths could have been prevented had the 911 operator (in the now-famous gunfire-ridden 911 call by the librarian) not told the librarian to keep the students there and that help was on the way, which it wasn't.
  • When the SWAT teams got into the building, there had been reports of a team of 6-8 shooters in body armor, along with snipers on the roof. The sniper on the roof turned out to be an air conditioning repairman who was hiding. Police have determined there was no third shooter as was originally speculated because of the guy on the roof.
  • The SWAT teams had trouble communicating with each other and the police outside because each jurisdiction's radio equipment was different and incompatable.
  • The SWAT team had to deal with fire alarms and emergency flashing lights going off everywhere. When they finally got janitor to turn off the alarm, they heard hundreds of abandoned cell phones ringing as family members were calling students to see if they were ok. Creepy.
  • Kleibold and Harris made a list of 67 "targets" at the school...none were among the victims.
  • Thirteen months before the attacks, Brooks Brown's parents alerted officials to death threats Harris had made against their son, as well his homemade hateful web site. After the massacre, the police investigated Brooks Brown as a possible co-conspirator (and the sheriff publicly named him as such). The made the Browns quite upset, to say the least. Brown was later exonerated.
  • Remember the Trench Coat Mafia, the group that was supposed to have "grown" the two killers? They weren't really members of it. There is also no evidence that Eric Harris was gay, or that Marilyn Manson pushed the boys into a muderous spree.
  • Robyn Anderson, a longtime friend of Kleibold's, bought the guns used in the rampage at a gun show. She had no knowledge of what they were planning to do with them, and went with Kleibold to the prom 3 days before the killings.
  • Oh, and the killers skipped their 6am bowling class that morning. Michael Moore was inaccurate -- imagine that.
So now you know, and knowing is half the battle. The other half is finding out why Kleibold and Harris did it. People are calling it indiscriminate hate. It may have been preventable if parents or authorities had done things differently, but that doesn't make it any less disturbing. The kids were sociopaths -- that's the real problem and horror of it all.



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