Earlier version of the Columbine High School rebel mascot on a t-shirt before April 20th 1999 (left) and today (right). Note the conspicuous absence of a gun in the modern image. Interestingly, Eric Harris chose to go by the nickname "REB" or "Rebel" while attending Columbine.
NEW YORK, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- It's been almost five years since Eric
Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students, a teacher and themselves in what
remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Today's kids claim
that most of the time no one at Columbine even thinks about "Columbine." They
say they're just like high-schoolers everywhere. But more than 60 interviews
with students and members of the community reveal a school that dwells
simultaneously in its past and its present, reports General Editor Susannah
Meadows in the November 3 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, October
Last week Klebold and Harris showed up again. On Wednesday police released
a 15-minute home video showing the boys taking target practice in the woods
six weeks before they opened fire at Columbine. Tom Mauser, who lost his
15-year-old son, Daniel, says, "It's just too bad that it comes out in bits
and painful pieces like this, rather than all at once." But the video was
only the latest reminder. In the wake of last year's Oscar-winning documentary
"Bowling for Columbine," a new film, "Elephant," depicts a massacre just like
Columbine's in unrelenting detail.
"People keep saying, 'Well, now are you back to normal?' But there's never
going to be normality here," says principal Frank DeAngelis. Since the
shooting-era students left a year and a half ago, the school's taken its
greatest steps toward recovery. Though tourists still peek in while school's
in session, there's more giggling in the halls now. "For the three years after
the tragedy, it was a very different place. It was too quiet," says counselor
One indication that the school is reaching a new normal is that bullying
is back. A student was recently suspended for writing a note to a friend about
wanting to get rid of Jeremy Lodwig, the lone boy on the color guard. Why
would someone write that? "I'm different," says the 15-year-old sophomore with
bright orange hair glued into little spikes. "I have more girlfriends than I
do guys." Heidi Cortez, who was a sophomore when everyone hiding under the
library tables around her was killed, says, "Did we not learn anything?"
Because many kids -- and armchair psychiatrists -- think peer abuse may
have contributed to Klebold and Harris's rage, some students are strangely
sensitive for teenagers. "You want to be like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe
she does her hair that way, she's such a loser!' [But] you try and hold
yourself back. You never know if you're going to be the one person to break
them," says freshman Jaimie Hebditch, a "watergirl" for the JV football team.
Students whose older siblings survived the massacre are the most vigilant.
Ty Werges, a sophomore on the soccer team, tells how he came upon some kids
slamming shut the locker of a student who's mentally impaired. "I was like,
'Why are you doing that? Do you feel cool now?' They were shocked because out
of nowhere someone sticking up for another kid is kind of weird," says Werges.
But the bullying stopped. Columbine's counselors (four out of five of whom
spoke to Newsweek) argue that the massacre wasn't caused by bullying and that
kids will always beat up on other kids. For them the return of such behavior
is actually something of a relief. "Oh, it's a girl fight. Something normal,"
counselor Ken Holden says he hears colleagues say.
The real legacy of the massacre lies in what's missing. The Columbine
mascot, a 1776 Revolutionary "Rebel" soldier, no longer carries a gun. The
bare vinyl floors of the school are striking to anyone who remembers that all
the carpet was ripped out after the mess of that day. The library, which was
above the cafeteria and where most of the shootings occurred, has been removed
and rebuilt in a different part of the school; now students eat their lunch in
a sun-filled atrium that fills the space where the library used to be. The
names of those who were lost are now inscribed on the memorial in the new
What's most surprising about Columbine is that, despite the ghosts of the
past, all kinds of students -- flag-twirlers, cheerleaders, self-described
dorks, drummers, soccer players, choral singers -- say they love coming to
school here. "We take such a pride in our school," says Danny Beyer, a senior
in the choir whose older sister, Lauren, survived 4/20. "Even though we might
not be the best, but because this is our school."