There are few alive in 1999 who don’t remember the fateful events of April 20th. It was a pleasant, sunny spring day – with older kids sneaking out to celebrate 4/20, the international pot smoking day.
But it also held another, darker significance that was likely on the mind of Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold. It was Hitler’s birthday, a fact doubtlessly known by the two boys as they left the bowling alley that morning.
What followed led to a new, heightened paranoia. Parents feared their children and schools invested in metal detectors, lockdown drills, and patrol officers.
It’s a palpable fear, an unexplained cloud of evil born out of rejection, self-loathing, and radicalism that ended up repeating itself many times over the years.
It’s not a nightmare we’re set to wake from anytime soon, but understanding the details that led up to the most famous school shooting might help us start to put the pieces back together.
10 The Shooters
Dylan Harris and Eric Klebold were both born in 1981 and had met in seventh grade. By junior year, according to classmates, the two were rarely seen without one another.
The common wisdom about the two is that they were frequent targets of bullying, and their actions were carried out in part out of vengeance against those who wronged them, namely “jocks.”
But the truth is, there are conflicting reports from students about their social standing in the high school hierarchy. Some have claimed they were unpopular and picked on, while others have reported they weren’t the subject of much discussion at all, and each had friends of their own.
In a way, this is understandable, as it can be hard to get a read on the social strata of a crowded high school.
Regardless, the journals and video diaries the two began recording a year before the incident tell their own story. The FBI concluded the footage and writings depict Harris as a brooding psychopath.
Klebold, on the other hand, more closely fits the official narrative of a social outcast. They found him to be an angry depressive, ready to lash out at those he felt abused him.
Nevertheless, other reports, such as the two being a part of the “Trenchcoat Mafia,” turned out to be completely false.
From the videos, the FBI learned Harris and Klebold began building explosives a year before the shooting. But before planning the shooting, an AOL website reveals earlier acts of mischief.
Harris worked at a fireworks stand and used them late at night. By 1997, the two were posting blogs about how to make explosives.
Other incidents, such as a van break-in in 1998, further pointed to a future life of crime. But perhaps most chillingly was the message Klebold inscribed in Harris yearbook the same year: “Killing enemies, blowing up stuff, killing cops! My wrath for January’s incident will be godlike.
Not to mention our revenge in the commons.” The “commons” was the name for the cafeteria. It’s worth mentioning Harris also fantasized about hijacking a plane and crashing it somewhere in New York City.