If you’re not a total degenerate like me, then my obsession with Columbine probably freaks you out.
I get that, because I used to really turn my nose up at the True Crime Community.
Throughout high school and college, I knew quite a number of edgy souls fascinated with Columbine. In high school, I was an alternative kid. I hung out with edgelords. The weird kids who took German instead of Spanish, and spent their free time preparing for their futures as enlightened Reddit atheists. The kids who read Ayn Rand (or pretended to) and listened to foreign death metal.
Anyway, even back at my edgiest, I thought a preoccupation with Columbine was weird. First of all, that shit was recent. Columbine happened only a couple of years before I started high school. I remember watching the news footage of it. I remember how surreal a school shooting seemed back then. I could hardly comprehend it. So the fact that it was so recent and people were already forming Columbine cults, I didn’t get it. Somehow I made it through high school knowing very little about Columbine. I only knew the main bullet points.
In college, I found myself hanging with a different crowd: Christians. I started hanging out with a bunch of Christian girls. They were really naive and innocent and awkward. I just somehow vibed with their energy, despite not having a Christian background, or having much in common with them. Here’s the weird thing about Columbine: there are two types of Columbiners (okay, three…do we have to talk about the fangirls? We disown them) there’s the type that is interested in the killers and why they committed the crime, and then there are the Christian Columbiners.
I never would have expected the Christian Columbiners. Who would have thought one true crime community could be home to both pierced alternative edgelords and wholesome Christians? Somehow it works. The Christian Columbiners are primarily interested in Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall, two of the Christian girls murdered. There’s a lot of martyrdom and lore surrounding them. Some of what is said about the girls is questionable, but I don’t care too much to question it. People take comfort believing certain things were said or done. I say, let people have that. I’m not going to run around debunking the final moments of a murdered teenager. Most people on my side of the Columbine community seem to agree. The two sides of the community don’t really interact much.
In college, I met some Christian Columbiners of the Rachel Scott variety. They loved talking about Rachel’s life, her supposed premonition about the massacre (a drawing of a flower in her journal) and just her thoughts and beliefs in general. So, before I became a Columbiner myself, I knew a lot about Rachel Scott. Way more about her than either of the killers. In fact…
My Obsession Started When I Learned There Were Only Two Shooters
Somehow, I grew up in the 90s, knew tons of Columbiners, and still had this idea that like six people were responsible for the Columbine massacre.
I don’t remember how it came up in conversation. We might have been talking about bullying. I said to my husband, “Bullying is just an excuse. Most people get bullied and grow up to be regular ass people. Look at the Columbine killers. There were like six of them and they still did all that. How do you have six friends and still feel justified killing people because bullying?”
And he looked at me and said, “Wasn’t it only two guys?”
“What? Two? No way. Two people couldn’t do all that.”
He shrugged and said, “Google it. I’m pretty sure it was two.”
This is the story of how my husband accidentally sparked my Columbine obsession. I was in my late 20s. I’d never been into true crime before.
Something about the fact that it was only two people really got to me. Just…that’s a lot of chaos for two people. I think there’s also just something so fascinating about partner crimes. You have two people that play off each other in this very intimate dynamic. They plan this whole thing out.
Alpha-beta pairs are always more interesting. And I’d know because after I got into Columbine, I started falling down other partner crime rabbit holes.
The only alpha-alpha pair I ever found was the two girls who planned a Columbine-style attack on their high school. Brooke Higgins and Siena Johnson.
Crimes are usually completed in an alpha-beta pair. One assertive leader and one placating follower (note: I am NOT saying Dylan Klebold isn’t responsible-I’m only saying Harris was the more assertive/take-charge of the two). With Higgins and Johnson, I believe their gender might be a factor. Female spree killers are very rare. Females that do go on spree killings would have to be incredible psychological outliers, much more so than male spree killers. I don’t believe a female with a passive personality could be enticed into a spree killing plot. I think in order to be involved in something like that, a female would already have to be more aggressive, take-charge, and impulsive. In short: I think only female alphas would engage in spree killings, and that is why Higgins/Johnson are a rare coupling of two alpha personalities. (Another note: I didn’t designate them as alpha types. I’m taking this from true crime author Dave Cullen).
Sorry, I’m already off on a tangent! Can you tell I love exploring the dynamics of interpersonal relationships?
Because that was really a huge part of the draw for me: the relationship between Eric and Dylan. How did these two very average boys convince each other to do something so heinous?
Reading the words of their friends, Brooks Brown, and others, it sounds like Eric and Dylan had an intense relationship. It was very intimate (although I’m not in any way convinced either of them were gay, as some Columbiners theorize). Between the two of them, they crafted this brand new world. In that space they created together, they parted ways with reality. What a terribly isolating, horrific cesspool of violent ideation they created.
It reminds me a lot of the New Zealand story that the movie Beautiful Creatures is based on.
Or the Slender Man stabbing, where two girls convinced each other they had to kill a classmate to protect themselves from Slender Man.
This is what makes partner crimes so fascinating to me. You can not create that same small world of terrible fantasy with three people, with one person. A two person crime is its own unique animal.
And so I fell into an internet black hole that was intense. I actually had my husband worried.
I watched every Columbine documentary. I watched the old news footage.
I actually cried several times. Over Columbine. Twenty years too late, I was sobbing over the massacre.
I read the killer’s diaries (well…all of Klebold’s….I only had the stomach to read about half of Harris’s journal. I might be a creep, but I’m not creepy enough to read explicit violent rape fantasies and glorifying the Oklahoma City Bombing…Klebold’s was more sad than violent-I’ll clarify again-He is JUST AS RESPONSIBLE AS HARRIS-some Columbiners like to try and let him off the hook).
I read the Jeffco police reports.
I read the FBI documents.
I listened to all of the 911 calls.
I watched the cafeteria CCTV footage in real time. That thing is like 3 or 4 hours long and I had to visit a website that looked sketchy as hell to watch it. Maybe I’m an idiot, but I couldn’t find the full thing on youtube. I watched it in real time without fast forwarding (despite the fact that nothing happens for long stretches) because it felt disrespectful to the kids crouching behind cafeteria tables, to all of the victims, not to watch the whole thing in its entirety. Nobody dies in the cafeteria footage. If they did, I absolutely would not have watched it. If the library had cameras, you couldn’t pay me enough to watch that. I almost threw up listening to the Patti Nielson 911 call.
I did, however, watch the Sheriff department walk through of the library.
Reading and watching all of this stuff is incredibly upsetting to me, so why do I do it?
To be completely honest, I’m not even entirely sure. Probably horrible reasons that reveal terrible things about my brain. I know that I want to understand why they did it. I want to understand why mass shootings keep happening. I want to understand how negative feelings can turn to violence. I want to know more about what that festering process looks like.
I think, in general, women are just more interested in people and relationships, and this is my flimsy theory as to why the true crime community is primarily female.
Ugh…speaking of true crime female……then we have the fangirls….
First of all, only one of the Columbine killers was a legal adult. You pedos.
A good deal of the fangirls are women my age. Klebold was 17.
Harris was 18, but it’s still fucking weird. Any woman in their 30s who can get wet to a high school kid has some real problems.
Then there’s the fact that they literally murdered people.
You can’t make this shit up. Women are demented. (NAWALT)
Like I’m really demented, as I just confessed, so if you’re too demented for me, you need help immediately.
After awhile, I was able to pull myself out of the thick of my Columbine obsession. I wrote my book Time Storms, which most people didn’t even realize was full of Columbine references, and that mostly got it out of my system. Time Storms was meant to draw correlations between the Columbine fangirls and mainstream romance, to highlight some of our most problematic views about romance and men overall.
So, I’ll admit I’m an absolute creep, but I do my best to use my creep powers for good, not evil.
I still have so many unanswered questions about Columbine:
Did those two boys really understand the finality, the gravity, of what they were about to do?
In their final moments, were they traumatized by the violence they’d committed? I have to imagine they were. Neither of them had ever as much as thrown a punch. If they had survived, I think they would have done irreparable harm to their own psyches and had to live with that.
Why did they do so many odd things during the massacre? Harris stopped to get a drink of water in the cafeteria. One witness who had been shot and was laying still, playing dead, was trampled by Klebold as he ran to keep up with Harris. When Klebold stepped on his leg, he shouted, “Sorry, dude” and kept running. Sorry, dude? He’s apologizing for stepping on him….after he shot and potentially killed him….I just don’t understand and really need to.
Why did they wander around aimlessly after the library massacre?
Forensic evidence indicates that Harris shot himself only a minute or two after their final shoot-out with the police. What did that look like? How do you go from a high adrenaline shoot out to committing suicide? Did he even say anything to his best friend before doing it?
Forensic evidence shows Klebold committed suicide several minutes after Harris. He was very ceremonial about it. Taking of his jewelry and lighting a Molotov cocktail. After all the chaos, after all the damage, alone in the library (well….not really, there were injured victims who couldn’t evacuate, but I mean alone, as in nobody to talk anything out with), did he regret it? Did he realize how senseless it all was?
I hope so. I really, really hope so.
I hope both of them, at some point on that day, realized what a horrible thing they’d done. I hope they felt damn stupid too. None of their bombs went off. After the initial killing spree, they didn’t even try to do anything. They let students run right past them. Students in classrooms with glass windows in the door, report seeing them walk right past. They looked into several classrooms, saw people cowering, and made no attempt to come it. This gives me hope that they knew what a terrible mistake they had made.
If only they hadn’t killed themselves like a couple of cowards. They should have had to live and face what they’d done.
These are the thoughts, the ruminations, that keep me coming back to Columbine.
Columbine just doesn’t make sense. It truly was so senseless. My brain keeps coming back to it. Like a worry stone.
Violence is never okay.
There’s always something to live for. Life is hard. It sucks.
But senseless violence like this doesn’t make it any better.