Kevin J. Quintero
14 December 2018
The year is 1999. The Pokémon craze is as strong as ever, Boybands are becoming the new mainstream, the internet is in its earliest age, and one of the most prominent fears at the time was the computer collapse that would come with Y2K. Then, a real tragedy struck. On April 20th, two high school students, named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, followed through with a horrific plan to murder the students of Columbine High School. For a year in advance they had schemed, intending to plant bombs around the campus in an attempt to cause as much death as efficiently as possible, gunning down any stragglers. They had every hope to have the events televised for the whole nation, wanting the bloodbath to be the biggest massacre of their time. It was all for the fame and murder. The plan, however, didn’t go as anticipated, as most of the bombs had malfunctioned and remained duds. The backup plan then became to indiscriminately wander the school and torture the distressed students, killing whoever they felt like killing. Disappointed with their failed bombing run, the two soon called an end to their “game,” and shot themselves dead. Twelve students and a teacher had been murdered that day, and the events that took place had become branded on the American culture like a hot iron. The Columbine Massacre left behind lasting shockwaves that still affect people to the present day. It is the event that can be attributed as a direct cause for various future occurrences both good and bad.
Harris and Klebold can be considered as monsters that held no remorse for their crimes, and frankly, it is more than likely the truth. Both of them had been diagnosed posthumously with mental health issues, Klebold being suicidal and depressed while Harris was a sociopath with a superiority complex. “‘Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,’ Fuselier says.” (Cullen, Dave, 8) The two could have been considered outcasts by their peers. Many psychiatrists that examined the lives of the boys came to the conclusion that Harris was the true mastermind behind the murders. He had kept a personal diary that had contained disturbing verses about wanting to kill others for the fun of it, as well as never-ending hate speech. “Isn’t America supposed to be the land of the free? How come, if I’m free, I can’t deprive a stupid f—ing dumbshit from his possessions if he leaves them sitting in the front seat of his f—ing van out in plain sight and in the middle of f—ing nowhere on a Frif—ingday night. NATURAL SELECTION. F—er should be shot. “(Cullen, Dave, 17) Klebold, on the other hand, was more hotheaded and solitary with his problems. His personality was a volatile mix with Harris, and vice versa, further bringing to the surface any issues either of them had. It is believed that Harris’s influence is what ultimately led Klebold down a dark path. Klebold could have been salvageable, but Harris is assumed to be a lost cause from the start given his condition. These conditions relate the two into Cohen’s fourth monster thesis: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. “By revealing that difference is arbitrary and potentially free-floating, mutable rather than essential, the monster threatens to destroy not just individual members of society, but the very cultural apparatus through which individuality is constituted and allowed.” (Cohen, 12) The boys were outcasts, but still human. Mentally different, but still aware of their actions.
The mental health of both individuals would spark a conversation about treating these illnesses before they got out of hand. Most notably, it caused the mother of Dylan, Sue Klebold, would dive headfirst into that topic. Due to the grief of not only losing her son but also knowing he prepared and committed atrocities under her nose, Sue began to look into mental health. Her desire to find an understanding eventually inspired her to write a book about her experiences and missteps after the events of the Columbine shooting. “…I would have to turn what I thought I knew about myself, my son, and my family inside out and around, watching as a boy became a monster, and then a boy again.” (Klebold, 1) She decided to devote her life to informing people of keeping tabs on “brain health.” Sue Klebold still gives talks on the matter to this very day.
A sort of cult began to form around the ideologies of Harris, spawning multiple copycat shootings and independent killers. “…scores of boys around the United States have been arrested since 1999 for conspiracy to commit large-scale shootings and bombings at their respective schools.” (Thompson, 210) The number of school shootings in the United States had increased significantly that year. The media quickly began to scramble to find out why exactly so many children had decided to follow the example of the Columbine Shooters. Frankly, the answer was right in plain sight. The shootings at Columbine were heavily televised, and the identities of both Harris and Klebold weren’t even close to being a secret to the public. Like many serial killers of the past, they practically achieved celebrity status among the morbidly curious. The methods and thought processes were out in the open for others to take the example of and attempt. Quickly, debates about gun violence sprang up around the country. School security systems, such as metal detectors, and guards started becoming standard across the country. Gun control became a common topic of discussion whenever another school shooting had occurred. Even in the present, shootings are an all too common occurrence. Of a more recent example, the Parkland shooter credited Columbine as an inspiration for his actions. He even did research on the event specifically before committing his own murders. “Nikolas Cruz studied the Columbine High School massacre ahead of his own deadly rampage in Parkland, Fla. earlier this year.” (Cullen, Terrence, 1). The refusal to cease and prominence of copycat killings makes these types of shootings fall into Cohen’s second and seventh theories. School shooters keep coming back despite attempts to stop them. Also, more take up their mantle as they perish. Something about their struggles clicks and inspire more shooters. Ultimately, the wish for fame by Harris and Klebold came true.
The shootings themselves left behind a wave of destruction, with many family members of the deceased in hysterics and trauma. There were many survivors among the victims of the tragedy, one notable individual being Craig Scott. Craig was caught up in the fire at the school’s library. There, he witnessed first-hand the horrible murders that the shooters had committed, taunting and berating victims before slaughtering them. He had just narrowly avoided being killed, while some of his classmates weren’t as lucky. After the events, he had received the news that his sister Rachel had been one of the victims of the shootings. She had died defending her faith against the Harris and Klebold before one of them shot her in the head. Scott was devasted considering the fact that he had last seen his sister on negative terms. In the following days, he had found his sister’s diary and in it he found a verse saying that spreading kindness to one person would start a chain reaction to another. The emotions he felt moved him to his core. He knew that a massacre like this shouldn’t happen again. Scott had decided that he needed to speak out about shootings, in order to aid victims about future shootings and hopefully prevent. He proceeded to start an organization called Value Up for this very purpose.
The repercussions of the Columbine Shootings can still be felt to this very day. School shootings have only risen number and seemingly refuse to stop. An approximate blame can be put on Harris and Klebold for inspiring others in all the most dreadful ways. Their actions, however, also gave way to new organizations, such as Value Up, to prevent new shooters from copying them at the source. Even Klebold’s mother has committed herself to teach others about the importance of mental health with her book and talks. Despite that, more tragedies like Columbine and Parkland continue to occur in the United States at an alarming rate with seemingly no end in sight.
Cohen, J Jeffrey. “Monster Culture (Seven Thesis)” Monster Theory: Reading Culture, 1996 pp. 3-20
Aronson, Elliot. “How the Columbine High School Tragedy Could Have Been Prevented.” Journal of Individual Psychology, vol. 60, no. 4, Winter 2004, pp. 355–360. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=16118866&site=ehost-live.
Shepard, Cyn. “~(@)~ 4-20-99 a Columbine Site ~(@)~ All about the Columbine High School Shootings.” a Columbine Site, www.acolumbinesite.com/.
Cullen, Dave. “At Last We Know Why the Columbine Killers Did It.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 20 Apr. 2004, slate.com/news-and-politics/2004/04/at-last-we-know-why-the-columbine-killers-did-it.html.
Cullen, Terence. “Nikolas Cruz Researched Columbine Massacre Ahead of Parkland Shooting – NY Daily News.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 25 Apr. 2018, www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cruz-researched-columbine-massacre-parkland-shooting-article-1.3953545.
Tonso, Karen L. “Reflecting on Columbine High: Ideologies of Privilege in ‘Standardized’ Schools.” Educational Studies, vol. 33, no. 4, Dec. 2002, p. 391. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9529061&site=ehost-live.
Bondü, Rebecca, et al. “Student Homicidal Violence in Schools: An International Problem.” New Directions for Youth Development, vol. 2011, no. 129, Spring 2011, pp. 13–30. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/yd.384.
Thompson, C. “Our Killing Schools.” Society, vol. 51, no. 3, June 2014, pp. 210–220. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s12115-014-9767-0.
Klebold, Sue. Amothersreckoning.com, amothersreckoning.com/
Cullen, Terence. “Nikolas Cruz Researched Columbine Massacre Ahead of Parkland Shooting – NY Daily News.” Nydailynews.com, New York Daily News, 25 Apr. 2018, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cruz-researched-columbine-massacre-parkland-shooting-article-1.3953545.