Mass deadly shootings are always shocking, from the horrible Norway massacre last year to last week’s attack in suburban Toronto to the early Friday morning tragedy at a movie theatre in Denver.
Friday’s shooting, with a dozen killed and scores injured, naturally brought comparisons to the more infamous Denver mass murder from 13 years earlier, when two students from Columbine High School killed 12 classmates and a teacher.
In the coming days, information will slowly stream out about what happened in those moments at the theatre Friday, when the gas filled the air and the bullets started flying. We’ll learn more about the shooter and maybe we’ll learn about his motive. Hopefully, we’ll hear from the victims and their pain.
We’ll also hear incorrect information that will take on a life of its own and become part of the general knowledge of the event, even if they’re completely wrong.
So many myths came out of Columbine that much of what people remember from that event is either off-base or completely wrong. Thankfully, Dave Cullen’s award-winning book Columbine clears up much of the historical inaccuracies still reported as fact about the 1999 high school massacre.
For starters, Columbine was less of a shooting and more of a failed bombing.
The killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, planted a duffel bag full of pipe bombs in the school cafeteria and set it to go off at the height of the lunch rush, when 500 teenagers would have been in the room. Between the bomb and the shrapnel, most of the students and teachers in the room would have been killed by the blast. The remainder would likely have died when the roof would have collapsed, since the bag was placed between two major supporting columns.
Both killers loaded their cars with bombs and parked then where they expected emergency personnel to mobilize. The timers they put on those bombs were for three hours after when the initial bomb in the cafeteria was supposed to explode. In other words, they planned to keep killing people even after they were dead, imagining themselves taken down in a blaze of police bullets.
The only reason the boys went into the school when they did is because the cafeteria bomb didn’t go off.
They had actually stationed themselves outside the two main doors of the high school, waiting with their loaded automatic weapons to gun down all of the students and teachers fleeing the blast.
They even took proper military-style positions, making sure there was no way they could accidentally shoot each other but could still have an intersecting killing zone to gun down anyone trying to escape through windows or secondary exits.
It’s not exaggerating to say that if Harris had been a better pipe bomb builder and his plan had succeeded, more than 1,000 people would have died on the school grounds that morning and early afternoon.
He left exhaustive notes and videos detailing his comprehensive plans, including how he acquired the weapons and the training he and Klebold underwent to use them. This was not a spontaneous event by two young maniacs — Harris, a psychopathic mastermind, and Klebold a depressed and suicidal accomplice — but a slaughter months in the making.
All the chatter about the Trench Coat Mafia and goths and jocks was nonsense. While Harris in particular wanted to kill certain people he felt slighted by, the main goal was to kill as many people as possible.
Meanwhile, the police coverup was well underway by the end of the day. The website Harris had boasting about his plans to anyone who would listen was quickly taken down. The files police had — but hadn’t pursued — detailing complaints from concerned parents about threats Harris had made against their children were tucked away.
The senselessness of deadly massacres like Columbine or Friday’s movie theatre attack overshadow the courage of the survivors and the lasting suffering of the wounded.
Our thoughts should be with the victims, with far less attention devoted to someone who sought immortality through mass murder and terror.
And we should be slow to trust everything we hear in the aftermath of these mass shootings.
An editorial from the Prince George Citizen