Columbine. Before April 20th, 1999 Columbine was just an unincorporated area of Jefferson County in the American state of Colorado, but after that terrible day, the name Columbine has become synonymous with school shootings. And it’s not about to be forgotten either. How could we forget something so senseless and tragic? Like all the other dark days in recent history, the Columbine Massacre is burned into our memories. And the memories are raw; making it hard to believe that in a few weeks’ time it will be 18 years since the shootings took place.
On that day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered their school, Columbine High, disturbed, armed, and extremely dangerous. They went on the rampage, setting off bombs and shooting indiscriminately at students and teachers for 50 terrifying minutes before committing suicide together in the library. Their attack left 13 people dead (12 students and 1 teacher) and another 24 injured.
The question of why these two boys carried out the shootings still remains unanswered. Plenty of theories have been put forward; depression, sociopathy, revenge for bullying but there is nothing concrete. But if you really think about it, what reason in the world could excuse such a massacre?
15. Group Photo About Two Weeks Prior To The Shooting
About two weeks prior to the Columbine Massacre, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold posed for a group photo along with their classmates. This photo, meant to preserve happy memories of youth, is truly creepy. If you zoom in on Eric and Dylan, who sat in the far upper right-hand corner, you see them pointing towards the camera imitating guns with their hands. A grim message about what was to come?
Looking at this picture now is enough to send icy chills down your spine because we know that the pair planned their attack months in advance. Their harrowing journals and videos documented the boys murderous planning and ideas so we know that while they posed for this photo they knew exactly what they were about to do.
14. Wounded Student Lies On The Pavement While Others Take Cover During The Shoot-Out
Dylan and Eric did not just wake up one morning and decide to go on a killing rampage. The two had been planning the attack for quite some time; stocking up on arms and ammunition and making bombs. Their original plan had been to detonate two propane bombs in the cafeteria and to shoot students as they ran from the building following the explosion.
These two bombs did not go off as they planned. This is extremely fortunate because if they had exploded with full force the 488 students in the cafeteria would surely have been killed or severely wounded. At the same time, the ceiling would have almost certainly collapsed, bringing down the library on the first floor.
13. Crosses Erected For Shooters Alongside Their Victims
This is a photograph of the early memorial for the victims of the Columbine Massacre. You’ll notice that in this picture the camera is focused on a marker bearing the name of Dylan Klebold. These crosses were erected atop a hill near the school shortly after the shootings and Dylan and Eric both had crosses alongside their victims.
Some people felt that the shooters had been victims themselves, but others in the small community couldn’t agree and this created quite a lot of controversy. A short time after this photo was taken the father of one of the victims cut down the crosses of Eric and Dylan.
12. The Grief Goes On
The fallout from the Columbine Shootings was massive. The question that everyone wanted an answer to more than anything was why. Why would two young men, with their whole lives ahead of them, resort to such an act? And more importantly, what could be done to prevent something like this from happening again?
The year after the attack tougher gun laws were put in place and the importation of high capacity ammunition magazines was banned. The incident also sparked changes in the way that police respond to such incidents. The Immediate Action Rapid Deployment technique was introduced with the aim of containing the damage in such a situation.
But none of these measures can take away from the heartbreak the massacre left behind. This picture, taken by George Kochanlee Jr., captures that grief in a powerful way and was the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.
11. The Faces Of The Victims
These are the faces of the 13 people who walked into Columbine on that fateful day and never walked again. The students’ names were Rachel Scott, Daniel Rohrbough, Kyle Velasquez, Steven Curnow, Cassie Bernall, Isaiah Shoels, Matthew Kechter, Lauren Townsend, John Tomlin, Kelly Fleming, Daniel Mauser, Corey Depooter, and the teacher was William “Dave” Sanders. Dave was the third victim that was shot but the last person to die.
There was so much confusion as the attacks began because most of the students thought that what they saw was simply another senior student prank because it was a common practice at the time. Who would have expected something like that to happen anyway?
10. The Killers’ Final Walk
On the day of the attacks, CCTV cameras were rolling as Dylan and Eric made their way through the school. These cameras captured the absolutely terrifying moments of their fellow students and the callous behavior exhibited by the boys. Survivors said they shouted things like “Who’s ready to die next?” Dylan walked past one injured boy pleading for help, said “Sure I’ll help you,” and shot him in the head.
In this picture, we see the boys in the corridor shortly before the attacks began both wearing black trench coats. Dylan had on a black t-shirt with the word “WRATH” in red and Eric wore a white t-shirt with the words “Natural Selection” written in black. You can be sure that these outfits weren’t chosen at random.
9. Get Out If You Can
A police deputy, Neil Gardner, was stationed at Columbine High School as a full-time armed school resource officer. He usually ate lunch with the students in the cafeteria, but on April 20th he had been eating his lunch in his patrol car on the northwest side of the campus. A few minutes after the shootings began a call came in over the school radio from the custodian, requesting assistance. Moments later, another call came in saying there was a shooter in the school.
By noon, about 40 minutes after the attack began, SWAT teams had arrived on scene. Students that could escape the building were evacuated and the injured were transported to hospital. This picture shows three girls running from the school supporting another girl who had been injured.
8. Memorial Stone In Clement Park
Eight years after the shootings took place, a permanent memorial was dedicated to the victims. The memorial is located in Clement Park – a meadow across from the school where impromptu memorials were held in the days after the attack. The memorial was built using donated funds. This picture shows one of the memorial stones in the small park.
The school underwent major renovations following the shootings. The library (located above the cafeteria) was completely demolished as this was where the majority of the murders took place. The library and cafeteria building had been built in 1995, just four years before the massacre. The site was transformed into a memorial ceiling and atrium. A new library was constructed on the hill where the shootings started and the building is dedicated to the victims.
7. Shooters Viewed As Heroes By Fans
This picture shows Dylan and Eric walking through the cafeteria. By this time they had removed their trench coats which had been used to conceal their weapons and they are carrying their guns in their hands, looking for potential targets.
As hard as it may be to believe Dylan and Eric have become cult figures, some people even idolize them. The boys have become unlikely heroes, especially for teenagers who feel alienated and angry with the world. They are seen by their fans as heroic avengers who stood up for themselves. With the rise in online social media platforms, there is a growing fandom for the boys on sites such as Tumblr. These people call themselves “Columbiners” and they create fan art and fan fiction related to the shooters.
6. The Preparation
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were, like most teenage boys, heavily involved with computer gaming. They enjoyed playing first-person shooter games like Doom and Quake and Harris hosted various websites with gaming files. On these websites, he openly expressed his hatred for society and people in general.
The pair also experimented with making bombs and practiced shooting their weapons in a wooded area close to their homes. They filmed some of these activities and posted them online. This is a still image from one of those tapes.
These websites have since been closed down but preserved by the FBI. There was also about four hours of videotape known as “the basement tapes” but all known copies have been destroyed. The police feared that if the tapes were made public they could have incited more violence.
5. Surviving The Impossible
Patrick Ireland was one of the students that Dylan and Eric shot in the library. He had attracted their attention when he tried to help another student who had been wounded by a bullet to the knee. Ireland was shot a second time by Dylan; hitting him twice in the head and once in the foot. Miraculously he survived the massacre.
In this picture you see members of the SWAT team reaching to grab Patrick after he fell from the library window. Unfortunately, they were not able to catch him and instead of falling into their arms, he fell seven feet and landed on a police vehicle’s roof. This picture was taken around 2:38 pm, almost three hours after the shootings began, and Patrick had already suffered severe blood loss from his wounds.
4. The Weapons Of Columbine
This picture is of the actual weapons recovered from the Columbine Massacre, preserved in a glass case as a grim reminder. The boys began procuring these weapons months before the attack.
On the day of the attacks, Dylan Klebold was armed with a TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun, high-capacity magazines, and a 12 gauge double barreled sawn off shotgun. It is estimated that he fired the handgun around 55 times and shot about 12 rounds from the shotgun.
Eric Harris carried a 12 gauge pump action shotgun, which he fired about 25 times and a 9mm carbine with thirteen 10-round magazines. He fired the carbine almost 100 times. Both boys also carried a number of knives on them, although they didn’t use these during their attack.
3. A Martyr Is Born
Cassie Bernall was a beautiful all American girl with big blue eyes and long blonde hair. When the shootings started she, along with a group of students, took cover in the library. It was the last thing she ever did.
Well, almost the last thing. Cassie was a Christian and while she cowered in terror under a table she prayed aloud. According to some eyewitness statements, Eric Harris walked up to Cassie and pressed his gun to her head asking “Still believe in God now?” When she replied yes in a firm voice he shot her in the head.
Within days after the shootings, Cassie was already being referred to as a martyr for the Christian faith and compared to other saints who died defending their faith. Her parents wrote a bestselling book about her (She Said Yes) and there are thousands of websites dedicated to her memory.
2. The Scars Of Columbine
For the survivors of the Columbine Massacre, the heartache will never truly end. All of the students and teachers who were at the school that day will have to live with what happened for the rest of their lives. The emotional scars will always be there and for some survivors, like Lance Kirklin, there are physical scars to deal with too.
Lance, who was 16 years old at the time of the shootings, was critically injured when Eric shot at him and his two friends with the 9mm carbine as they went up the west staircase. The three friends were among the first victims of the massacre. Lance was shot in the leg and bullets ripped through his neck and jaw, leaving him alive but disfigured.
1. A Deadly Legacy
These are photos of Eric and Dylan, who will forever be remembered as mass murderers and the perpetrators of one of the deadliest school shootings in history. But their reign of terror didn’t end the day they killed themselves…
The W. R. Myers High School shooting occurred on the 28th of April 1999, just eight days after the Columbine Massacre. This incident was the first, but sadly not the last Columbine related copycat crime. In this case, the shooter was a 14-year-old boy named Todd Cameron Smith, who opened fire on his classmates, killing one and wounding another.
Seung-Hui Cho, now known as the infamous Virginia Tech Shooter, was in the eighth grade when the Columbine massacre took place. Classmates reported that he was transfixed by the media coverage of the attack and he even wrote an assignment about wanting to “repeat Columbine”. In 2007, armed with two semi-automatic weapons, Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 others.