Columbine High School shooting | Why?
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Newsweek magazine Columbine High cover WHY?
Why? Helluva fine question and one that will never truly be answered because the two guys who knew are dead. Critics have blamed everything from Doom and other violent games to goth/industrial music, clothing, Hitler, internet chatrooms, bikers, racism, gun control, mental instability; even the parents and the school district suffered the brunt of finger-pointing for not having a better idea of what was going on in the lives of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

There are many contributing factors in this sad story, several of which are delved into on this website. Some of the 'why's may never be known. Police reports showed a history of trouble Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold got into prior to the shootings at Columbine. Reports of threats and violence that were swept under the rug by the local law enforcement, kept hidden for months after the tragedy. Teachers noted their schoolwork reflected their dark interests. Even their friends were aware that they were playing with guns and explosives.

So why didn't anyone see the Columbine High School shooting coming? Why didn't anyone notice the foreshadowing that seems so obvious in retrospect? Were the Klebolds and Harrises so certain their smart sons were good people that they could overlook that they were finding pipe bombs in their bedrooms? The way the boys dressed, getting caught with alcohol, going shooting at Rampart Range... they broke into a van, threatened neighbors, wrote violent stories... these things were known to both of the boys' families.

Eric's parents did take him to therapy. He was in treatment for anger management and was supposed to be taking medication to help stabilize his moods. Medication that has since be shown to increase thoughts of violence and suicide in younger people. Dylan's father Tom Klebold showed up at the scene and told officers he had a "feeling" his son was involved after Nate Dykeman called and told him about the shooting. Yet, just days before, the Klebolds were in Arizona scouting a college dorm room with Dylan. Friends at prom said Klebold seemed genuinely enthusiastic about the future and even made plans to keep in touch after he left Colorado.

There may have been insight on the Basement Tapes, but no one saw them before the shootings and Jefferson County refused to release them to the public afterward. In 2006 they considered releasing them, but eventually decided against it. JeffCo has since said that they destroyed the tapes, though they did release more of the shooters' writing and other pertinent files (found in the 946-page Columbine Documents). The Harrises fought the release of those materials because Wayne Harris' personal diary was included in the files, detailing out how he'd been tracking Eric's unusual and criminal behavior before the shootings.

What little we've seen of the Basement Tapes paints a stark portrait of two very angry young men. I go into more detail about their social situation and the lens they viewed the world through in my upcoming book, A Columbine Book, but the summary is this: Initial reports characterized Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris as loners, outcasts with no friends who couldn't get girlfriends. They were, according to the news, weaklings who were preyed on. Pushed beyond their limit. They were mad as hell and just couldn’t take it anymore. It made a less frightening story if their actions were justified by a frame of being frail, abused nerds.

But the reality was: They were fairly typical young men for their time and location. Which is a large part of why their plans went undetected until it was too late.

Also, what happened at Columbine wasn't exactly what the shooters planned. They wanted to blow up the school and pick off the survivors from the parking lot, then go out in a blaze of glory when their car bombs went off. It should have only taken about 15 minutes, according to their written plans. The failure of the explosives in the cafeteria forced them to come up with a Plan B on the fly. The slow intervention (archived offsite link) on the part of the SWAT teams certainly factored into how long it took the situation to end and the death of Coach Dave Sanders. It took them over an hour to get inside the building just to free twenty of the hundreds of people trapped and another two hours to make it into the area where weapons had been fired.

As I searched for the 'why?' myself over the years, I collected the information I found and organized it into this website. In order to better understand the flow of events I put together a narrative timeline leading up to and including April 20th, 1999. The information is derived from various sources, primarily eye-witness reports taken directly from the news and the Columbine Report. My upcoming book has an even more extensive and detailed narrative retelling of April 20, 1999 and includes a timeline that covers over 100 years of information, all the way up to 2024.

In the end, the only people who really knew why the assault happened were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The closest we'll come to knowing what was on their minds is by studying their journals and videos and the other clues they left behind.

I do have my own opinions and thoughts on this subject and due to the surprising number of requests for it, I've put the short version of it here.