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Columbine - Dave Cullen

Copyright (c) 2009 by Dave Cullen

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of

1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or

transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval

system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.


Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.

Twelve is an imprint of Grand Central Publishing.

The Twelve name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

First eBook Edition: April 2009

The characteristics of psychopathy are from the Hare Psychopathy

Checklist--Revised (PCL-R; 1991, 2003). Copyright (c) 1991 by R. D. Hare

and Multi-Health Systems, 3770 Victoria Park Avenue, Toronto, Ontario

M2H 3M6. All rights reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-446-55221-9


Copyright Page

Author's Note on Sources


1. Mr. D

2. "Rebels"

3. Springtime

4. Rock'n' Bowl

5. Two Columbines

6. His Future

7. Church on Fire

8. Maximum Human Density

9. Dads

10. Judgment

11. Female Down

12. The Perimeter

13. "1 Bleeding to Death"

14. Hostage Standoff

15. First Assumption

16. The Boy in the Window

17. The Sheriff

18. Last Bus

19. Vacuuming


20. Vacant

21. First Memories

22. Rush to Closure

23. Gifted Boy

24. Hour of Need

25. Threesome

26. Help Is on the Way

27. Black

28. Media Crime

29. The Missions

30. Telling Us Why


31. The Seeker

32. Jesus Jesus Jesus

33. Good-bye

34. Picture-Perfect Marsupials

35. Arrest

36. Conspiracy

37. Betrayed

38. Martyr

39. The Book of God


40. Psychopath

41. The Parents Group

42. Diversion

43. Who Owns the Tragedy

44. Bombs Are Hard

45. Aftershocks

46. Guns

47. Lawsuits


48. An Emotion of God

49. Ready to Be Done

50. The Basement Tapes

51. Two Hurdles

52. Quiet

53. At the Broken Places

Timeline: Before




About Twelve

For Rachel, Danny, Dave, Cassie, Steven, Corey,

Kelly, Matthew, Daniel, Isaiah, John, Lauren, and Kyle.

And for Patrick, for giving me hope.

Author's Note on Sources

A great deal of this story was captured on tape or recorded

contemporaneously in notebooks and journals--by the killers before the

murders, and by investigators, journalists, and researchers afterward. Much

more was reconstructed or fleshed out from the memory of survivors.

Anything in quotation marks was either captured on tape, recorded by me or

other journalists or police investigators at the time, published in official

documents, or, in the case of casual conversations, recalled by one or more

of the speakers with a high degree of certainty. When the speaker was less

sure about the wording, I used italics. I have abbreviated some exchanges

without insertion of ellipses, and have corrected some grammatical errors.

No dialogue was made up.

The same convention was applied to quotations from the killers, who

wrote and taped themselves extensively. Their writings are reproduced here

as written, with most of their idiosyncrasies intact.

Passages of this book suggesting their thoughts come primarily from

their journals and videos. A multitude of corroborating sources were

employed, including school assignments; conversations with friends, family

members, and teachers; journals kept by key figures; and a slew of police

records compiled before the murders, particularly summaries of their

counseling sessions. I often used the killers' thoughts verbatim from their

journals, without quotation marks. Other feelings are summarized or

paraphrased, but all originated with them. The killers left a few significant

gaps in their thinking. I have attempted to fill them with the help of experts

in criminal psychology who have spent years on the case. All conjectures

about the killers' thinking are labeled as such.

Actual names have been used, with one exception: the pseudonym

Harriet was invented to identify a girl Dylan wrote about obsessively. For

simplicity, minor characters are not named in the text. They are all

identified in the expanded version of the endnotes online.

All times for the massacre are based on the Jefferson County sheriff's

report. Some of the victims' family members, however, believe the attack

began a few minutes later. The times used here provide a close

approximation, and are accurate relative to one another.

I covered this story extensively as a journalist, beginning around noon on

the day of the attack. The episodes recounted here are a blend of my

contemporaneous reporting with nine years of research. This included

hundreds of interviews with most of the principals, examination of more

than 25,000 pages of police evidence, countless hours of video and

audiotape, and the extensive work of other journalists I consider reliable.

To avoid injecting myself into the story, I generally refer to the press in

the third person. But in the great media blunders during the initial coverage

of this story, where nearly everyone got the central factors wrong, I was

among the guilty parties. I hope this book contributes to setting the story


I am a wicked man... But do you know, gentlemen, what was the main

point about my wickedness? The whole thing, precisely was, the greatest

nastiness precisely lay in my being shamefully conscious every moment,

even in moments of the greatest bile, that I was not only not a wicked man

but was not even an embittered man, that I was simply frightening sparrows

in vain, and pleasing myself with it.

--Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken


--Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms



1. Mr. D

He told them he loved them. Each and every one of them. He spoke without

notes but chose his words carefully. Frank DeAngelis waited out the pompom routines, the academic awards, and the student-made videos. After an

hour of revelry, the short, middle-aged man strode across the gleaming

basketball court to address his student body. He took his time. He smiled as

he passed the marching band, the cheerleaders, and the Rebels logo painted

beneath flowing banners proclaiming recent sports victories. He faced two

thousand hyped-up high school students in the wooden bleachers and they

gave him their full attention. Then he told them how much they meant to

him. How his heart would break to lose just one of them.

It was a peculiar sentiment for an administrator to express to an assembly

of teenagers. But Frank DeAngelis had been a coach longer than a

principal, and he earnestly believed in motivation by candor. He had

coached football and baseball for sixteen years, but he looked like a

wrestler: compact body with the bearing of a Marine, but without the

bluster. He tried to play down his coaching past, but he exuded it.

You could hear the fear in his voice. He didn't try to hide it, and he didn't

try to fight back the tears that welled up in his eyes. And he got away with

it. Those kids could sniff out a phony with one whiff and convey

displeasure with snickers and fumbling and an audible current of unrest.

But they adored Mr. D. He could say almost anything to his students,

precisely because he did. He didn't hold back, he didn't sugarcoat it, and he

didn't dumb it down. On Friday morning, April 16, 1999, Principal Frank

DeAngelis was an utterly transparent man.

Every student in the gymnasium understood Mr. D's message. There were

fewer than thirty-six hours until the junior-senior prom, meaning lots of

drinking and lots of driving. Lecturing the kids would just provoke eye

rolling, so instead he copped to three tragedies in his own life. His buddy

from college had been killed in a motorcycle accident. "I can remember

being in the waiting room, looking at his blood," he said. "So don't tell me it

can't happen." He described holding his teenage daughter in his arms after

her friend died in a flaming wreck. The hardest had been gathering the

Columbine baseball team to tell them one of their buddies had lost control

of his car. He choked up again. "I do not want to attend another memorial


"Look to your left," he told them. "Look to your right." He instructed

them to study the smiling faces and then close their eyes and imagine one of

them gone. He told them to repeat after him: "I am a valued member of

Columbine High School. And I'm not in this alone." That's when he told

them he loved them, as he always did.

"Open your eyes," he said. "I want to see each and every one of your

bright, smiling faces again Monday morning."

He paused. "When you're thinking about doing something that could get

you in trouble, remember, I care about you," he said. "I love you, but

remember, I want us all together. We are one large family, we are--"

He left the phrase dangling. That was the students' signal. They leapt to

their feet and yelled: "COL-um-BINE!"

Ivory Moore, a dynamo of a teacher and a crowd rouser, ran out and

yelled, "We are..."


It was louder now, and their fists were pumping in the air.

"We are..."


"We are..."


Louder, faster, harder, faster--he whipped them into a frenzy. Then he let

them go.

They spilled into the hallways to wrap up one last day of classes. Just a

few hours until the big weekend.


All two thousand students would return safely on Monday morning, after

the prom. But the following afternoon, Tuesday, April 20, 1999, twenty-

four of Mr. D's kids and faculty members would be loaded into ambulances

and rushed to hospitals. Thirteen bodies would remain in the building and

two more on the grounds. It would be the worst school shooting in

American history-- a characterization that would have appalled the boys

just then finalizing their plans.

2. "Rebels"

Eric Harris wanted a prom date. Eric was a senior, about to leave

Columbine High School forever. He was not about to be left out of the

prime social event of his life. He really wanted a date.

Dates were not generally a problem. Eric was a brain, but an uncommon

subcategory: cool brain. He smoked, he drank, he dated. He got invited to

parties. He got high. He worked his look hard: military chic hair-- short and

spiked with plenty of product--plus black T-shirts and baggy cargo pants.

He blasted hard-core German industrial rock from his Honda. He enjoyed

firing off bottle rockets and road-tripping to Wyoming to replenish the

stash. He broke the rules, tagged himself with the nickname Reb, but did his

homework and earned himself a slew of A's. He shot cool videos and got

them airplay on the closed-circuit system at school. And he got chicks. Lots

and lots of chicks.

On the ultimate high school scorecard, Eric outscored much of the

football team. He was a little charmer. He walked right up to hotties at the

mall. He won them over with quick wit, dazzling dimples, and a disarming

smile. His Blackjack Pizza job offered a nice angle: stop in later and he

would slip them a free slice. Often they did. Blackjack was a crummy

econo-chain, one step down from Domino's. It had a tiny storefront in a

strip mall just down the road from Eric's house. It was mostly a take-out and

delivery business, but there were a handful of cabaret tables and a row of

stools lined up along the counter for the sad cases with nowhere better to

go. Eric and Dylan were called insiders, meaning anything but delivery--

mostly making the pizzas, working the counter, cleaning up the mess. It was

hard, sweaty work in the hot kitchen, and boring as hell.

Eric looked striking head-on: prominent cheekbones, hollowed out

underneath--all his features proportionate, clean-cut, and all-American. The

profile presented a bit of a problem however; his long, pointy nose

exaggerated a sloping forehead and a weak chin. The spiky hair worked

against him aesthetically, elongating his angular profile--but it was edgy,

and it played well with his swagger. The smile was his trump card, and he

knew exactly how to play it: bashful and earnest, yet flirtatious. The chicks

ate it up. He had made it to the homecoming dance as a freshman, and had

scored with a twenty-three-year-old at seventeen. He was damn proud of

that one.

But prom had become a problem. For some reason-- bad luck or bad

timing--he couldn't make it happen. He had gone nuts scrounging for a date.

He'd asked one girl, but she already had a boyfriend. That was

embarrassing. He'd tried another, shot down again. He wasn't ashamed to

call his friends in. His buddies asked, the girls he hung with asked, he

asked--nothing, nothing, nothing.

His best friend, Dylan, had a date. How crazy was that? Dylan Klebold

was meek, self-conscious, and authentically shy. He could barely speak in

front of a stranger, especially a girl. He'd follow quietly after Eric on the

mall conquests, attempting to appear invisible. Eric slathered chicks with

compliments; Dylan passed them Chips Ahoy cookies in class to let them

know he liked them. Dylan's friends said he had never been on a date; he

may never have even asked a girl out--including the one he was taking to


Dylan Klebold was a brain, too, but not quite so cool. Certainly not in his

own estimation. He tried so hard to emulate Eric--on some of their videos,

he puffed up and acted like a tough guy, then glanced over at Eric for

approval. Dylan was taller and even smarter than Eric, but considerably less

handsome. Dylan hated the oversized features on his slightly lopsided face.

His nose especially--he saw it as a giant blob. Dylan saw the worst version

of himself.

A shave would have helped. His beard was beginning to come in, but

sporadically, in fuzzy little splotches along his chin. He seemed to take

pride in his starter patches, oblivious to the actual effect.

Dylan cut a more convincing figure as a rebel, though. Long, ratty curls

dangled toward his shoulders. He towered over his peers. With a ways to go

in puberty, he was up to six foot three already, 143 stretched pounds. He

could have worn the stature proudly, casting aspersions down at his

adversaries, but it scared the crap out of him, all exposed up there. So he

slouched off an inch or two. Most of his friends were over six foot--Eric

was the exception, at five-nine. His eyes lined up with Dylan's Adam's


Eric wasn't thrilled with his looks either, but he rarely let it show. He had

undergone surgery in junior high to correct a congenital birth defect: pectus

excavatum, an abnormally sunken sternum. Early on, it had undermined his

confidence, but he'd overcome it by acting tough.

Yet it was Dylan who'd scored the prom date. His tux was rented, the

corsage purchased, and five other couples organized to share a limo. He was

going with a sweet, brainy Christian girl who had helped acquire three of

the four guns. She adored Dylan enough to believe Eric's story about using

them to hunt. Robyn Anderson was a pretty, diminutive blonde who hid

behind her long straight hair, which often covered a good portion of her

face. She was active in her church's youth group. Right now she was in

D.C. for a weeklong trip with them, due back barely in time for the prom.

Robyn had gotten straight A's at Columbine and was a month away from

graduating as valedictorian. She saw Dylan every day in calculus, strolled

through the hallways and hung out with him any time she could. Dylan

liked her and loved the adulation, but wasn't really into her as a girlfriend.

Dylan was heavy into school stuff. Eric, too. They attended the football

games, the dances, and the variety shows and worked together on video

production for the Rebel News Network. School plays were big for Dylan.

He would never want to face an audience, but backstage at the soundboard,

that was great. Earlier in the year, he'd rescued Rachel Scott, the senior

class sweetheart, when her tape jammed during the talent show. In a few

days, Eric would kill her.

Eric and Dylan were short on athletic ability but were big-time fans.

They had both been Little Leaguers and soccer kids. Eric still played soccer,

but for Dylan it was mostly spectator stuff now. Eric was a Rockies fan and

found spring training exciting. Dylan rooted for the BoSox and wore their

ball cap everywhere. He watched a whole lot of baseball, studied the box

scores, and compiled his own stats. He was in first place in the fantasy

league organized by a friend of his. Nobody could outanalyze Dylan

Klebold, as he prepped for the March draft weeks in advance. His friends

grew bored after the first major rounds, but Dylan was intent on securing a

strong bench. In the final week, he notified the league commissioner that he

was adding a rookie pitcher to his roster. And he would continue working a

trade through the weekend, right up to Monday, his last night. "His life was

baseball," one of his friends said.

Eric fancied himself a nonconformist, but he craved approval and fumed

over the slightest disrespect. His hand was always shooting up in class, and

he always had the right answer. Eric wrote a poem for creative writing class

that week about ending hate and loving the world. He enjoyed quoting

Nietzsche and Shakespeare, but missed the irony of his own nickname, Reb:

so rebellious he'd named himself after the school mascot.

Dylan went by VoDKa, sometimes capitalizing his initials in the name of

his favorite liquor. He was a heavy drinker and damn proud of it;

supposedly he'd earned the name after downing an entire bottle. Eric

preferred Jack Daniel's but scrupulously hid it from his parents. To adult

eyes, Eric was the obedient one. Misbehavior had consequences, usually

involving his father, usually curtailing his freedom. Eric was a little control

freak. He gauged his moves and determined just how much he could get

away with. He could suck up like crazy to make things go his way.

The Blackjack Pizza store owner during most of their tenure was

acquainted with Eric's wild side. After he closed the shop, Robert Kirgis

would climb up to the roof sometimes, taking Eric and Dylan with him, and

chugging brewskis while the boys shot bottle rockets over the strip mall.

Kirgis was twenty-nine but enjoyed hanging with this pair. They were

bright kids; they talked just like adults sometimes. Eric knew when to play,

when to get serious. If a cop had ever showed up on that rooftop, everyone

would have turned to Eric to do the talking. When customers stacked up at

the counter and drivers rushed in for pickups, somebody needed to take

control and Eric was your man. He was like a robot under pressure. Nothing

could faze him, not when he cared about the outcome. Plus, he needed that

job; he had an expensive hobby and he wasn't about to jeopardize it for

short-term gratification. Kirgis put Eric in charge when he left.

Nobody put Dylan in charge of anything. He was unreliable. He had been

on and off the payroll in the past year. He'd applied for a better job at a

computer store and presented a professional resume. The owner had been

impressed, and Dylan had gotten the job. He'd never bothered to show.

But nothing separated the boys' personalities like a run-in with authority.

Dylan would be hyperventilating, Eric calmly calculating. Eric's cool head

steered them clear of most trouble, but they had their share of schoolyard

fights. They liked to pick on younger kids. Dylan had been caught

scratching obscenities into a freshman's locker. When Dean Peter Horvath

called him down, Dylan went ballistic. He cussed the dean out, bounced off

the walls, acted like a nutcase. Eric could have talked his way out with

apologies, evasions, or claims of innocence--whatever that subject was

susceptible to. He read people quickly and tailored his responses. Eric was

unflappable; Dylan erupted. He had no clue what Dean Horvath would

respond to, nor did he care. He was pure emotion. When he learned his

father was driving in to discuss the locker, Dylan dug himself in deeper.

Logic was irrelevant.

The boys were both gifted analytically, math whizzes and technology

hounds. Gadgets, computers, video games--any new technology and they

were mesmerized. They created Web sites, adapted games with their own

characters and adventures, and shot loads of videos--brief little short

subjects they wrote, directed, and starred in. Surprisingly, gangly shyboy

Dylan made for the more engaging actor. Eric was so calm and eventempered, he couldn't even fake intensity. In person, he came off charming,

confident, and engaging; impersonating an emotional young man, he was

dull and unconvincing, incapable of emoting. Dylan was a live wire. In life,

he was timid and shy, but not always quiet: trip his anger and he erupted.

On film, he unleashed the anger and he was that crazy man, disintegrating

in front of the camera. His eyes bugged out and his cheeks pulled away

from them, all the flesh bunched up at the extremities, deep crevices around

the looming nose.

Outwardly, Eric and Dylan looked like normal young boys about to

graduate. They were testing authority, testing their sexual prowess--a little

frustrated with the dumbasses they had to deal with, a little full of

themselves. Nothing unusual for high school.


Rebel Hill slopes gradually, rising just forty feet above Columbine, which

sits at its base. That's enough to dominate the immediate surroundings, but

halfway up the hillside, the Rockies are suddenly spectacular. Each step

forward lowers the mesa toward eye level, and the mountains leap up

behind, a jagged brown wall rearing straight off the Great Plains. They

stand two to three thousand feet above it--endless and apparently

impenetrable, fading all the way over the northern horizon and just as far to

the south. Locals call them the foothills. This Front Range towering over

Columbine is taller than the highest peaks in all of Appalachia. Roads and

regular habitation stop suddenly at the base of the foothills; even vegetation

struggles to survive. Just three miles away, and it feels like the end of the


Nothing much grows on Rebel Hill's mesa. It's covered in cracked

reddish clay, broken by the occasional scraggly weed failing to make much

of a foothold. Up ahead, in the middle distance, humanity finally returns in

the form of subdivisions. On fat winding lanes and cul-de-sacs, comfortably

spaced two-story houses pop up among the pines. Strip malls and soccer

fields and churches, churches, churches.

Columbine High School sits on a softly rolling meadow at the edge of a

sprawling park, in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. It's a large, modern

facility--250,000 square feet of solid no-frills construction. With a beige

concrete exterior and few windows, the school looks like a factory from

most angles. It's practical, like the people of south Jefferson County. Jeffco,

as it's known locally, scrimped on architectural affectations but invested

generously in chem labs, computers, video production facilities, and a firstrate teaching force.

Friday morning, after the assembly, the corridors bustled with giddy

teenage exuberance. Students poured out of the gym giggling, flirting,

chasing, and jostling. Yet just outside the north entranceway, where the tips

of the Rockies peeked around the edges of Rebel Hill, the clamor of two

thousand boisterous teenagers faded to nothing. The two-story structure and

the sports complex wrapped around it on two sides were the only indication

of America's twentieth-largest metropolis. Downtown Denver lay just ten

miles to the northeast, but a dense thicket of trees obscured the skyline. On

warmer days, the sliding doors of the woodshop would gape open. Boys set

their cutting tools into the spinning blocks of wood, and the sudden buzz of

the lathe machines competed with the exhaust system. But a cold front had

swept onto the high plains Wednesday, and the air was hovering around

freezing as Mr. D told the students that he loved them.

Cold didn't deter the smokers. Any day of the year, you could find them

wandering near, but rarely in, the official smoking pit, a ten-by-eight grass

rectangle cordoned off by telephone-pole logs just past the parking lot, just

beyond school grounds. It was peaceful there. No teachers, no rules, no

commotion, no stress.

Eric and Dylan were fixtures in the smokers' gulley. They both smoked

the same brand, Camel filtered. Eric picked it; Dylan followed.

Lately, friends had noticed more cutting and missed assignments. Dylan

kept getting in trouble for sleeping in class. Eric was frustrated and pissed,

but also curiously unemotional. One day that year, a friend videotaped him

hanging out at the lunch table with his buddies. They bantered about cams

and valves, and a good price for a used Mazda. Eric appeared entranced

with his cell phone, aimlessly spinning it in circles. He didn't seem to be

listening, but he was taking it all in.

A guy walked into the crowded cafeteria. "Fuck you!" one of Eric's

buddies spat, well out of hearing range. "I hate that putrid cock!" Another

friend agreed. Eric turned slowly and gazed over his shoulder with his

trademark detachment. He studied the guy and turned back with less

interest than he had shown toward the phone. "I hate almost everyone," he

replied blankly. "Ah, yes. I wanna rip his head off and eat it."

Eric's voice was flat. No malice, no anger, barely interested. His

eyebrows rose at the Ah, yes--a mild congratulation for the clever line about

to come. He went vacant again delivering it.

No one found that reaction unusual. They were used to Eric.

They moved on to reminiscing about a freshman they'd picked on. Eric

impersonated a special ed kid struggling to talk. A busty girl walked by.

Eric waved her over and they hit on her.

3. Springtime

Spring had burst upon the Front Range. Trees were leafing, anthills rising,

lawns growing vibrant in their brief transition from dormant winter brown

to parched summer brown. Millions of mini-propeller maple seedpods

twirled down toward the ground. Spring fever infected the classrooms.

Teachers zipped through remaining chapters; kids started to stress about

finals and daydream about the summer. Seniors looked ahead to fall.

Columbine had one of the best academic reputations in the state; 80 percent

of graduates headed on to degree programs. College dominated the

conversation now: big fat acceptance packets and paper-thin rejection

envelopes; last-minute campus visits to narrow down the finalists. It was

time to commit to a university, write the deposit check, and start selecting

first-semester classes. High school was essentially over.

Up in the Rockies, it was still winter. The slopes were open but the snow

was receding. Kids begged their parents for a day off from school for one

last boarding run. An Evangelical Christian junior talked her parents into

letting her go the day before Mr. D's assembly. Cassie Bernall drove up to

Breckenridge with her brother, Chris. Neither one had met Eric or Dylan


Lunchtime was still a big daily event. The Columbine cafeteria was a

wideopen bubble of a space protruding from the spacious corridor between

the student entrance at the south corner and the giant stone staircase that

could fit more than a dozen students across. Kids referred to the area as "the

commons." It was wrapped with an open latticework facade of white steel

girders and awnings and a decorative crisscross of steel cables. Inside, a

hive of activity ignited at lunchtime. At the start of "A" lunch, more than six

hundred students rushed in. Some came and went quickly, using it as a

central meeting hub or grabbing a pack of Tater Tots for the road. It was

packed solid for five minutes, then emptied out quickly. Three to four

hundred kids eventually settled in for the duration, in plastic chairs around

movable tables seating six to eight.

Two hours after the assembly, Mr. D was on lunch duty--his favorite part

of the day. Most administrators delegated the task, but Principal DeAngelis

could not get enough. "My friends laugh at me," he said. "Lunch duty! Ugh!

But I love it down there. That's when you get to see the kids. That's when

you get to talk to them."

Mr. D made his way around the commons, chatting up kids at each table,

pausing as eager students ran up to catch his ear. He was down here for the

start of "A" lunch nearly every day. His visits were lighthearted and

conversational. He listened to his students' stories and helped solve

problems, but he avoided discipline at lunch. The one situation where he

just couldn't stop himself, though, was when he saw abandoned trays and

food scraps. The Columbine Mr. D had inherited was short on frills, but he

insisted it stay clean.

He was so irritated by entitlement and sloppiness that he'd had four

surveillance cameras installed in the commons. A custodian loaded a fresh

tape every morning around 11:05, and the rotating cameras continually

swept the commons, recording fifteen-second bursts of action automatically

cut from camera to camera. Day after day, they recorded the most banal

footage imaginable. No one could have imagined what those cameras would

capture just four months after installation.


A terrifying affliction had infested America's small towns and suburbs: the

school shooter. We knew it because we had seen it on TV. We had read

about it in the newspapers. It had materialized inexplicably two years

before. In February 1997, a sixteen-year-old in remote Bethel, Alaska,

brought a shotgun to high school and opened fire. He killed the principal

and a student and injured two others. In October, another boy shot up his

school, this time in Pearl, Mississippi. Two dead students, seven wounded.

Two more sprees erupted in December, in remote locales: West Paducah,

Kentucky, and Stamps, Arkansas. Seven were dead by the end of the year,

sixteen wounded.

The following year was worse: ten dead, thirty-five wounded, in five

separate incidents. The violence intensified in the springtime, as the school

year came to a close. Shooting season, they began to call it. The perpetrator

was always a white boy, always a teenager, in a placid town few had ever

heard of. Most of the shooters acted alone. Each attack erupted

unexpectedly and ended quickly, so TV never caught the turmoil. The

nation watched the aftermaths: endless scenes of schools surrounded by

ambulances, overrun by cops, hemorrhaging terrified children.

By graduation day, 1998, it felt like a full-blown epidemic. With each

escalation, small towns and suburbia grew a little more tense. City schools

had been armed camps for ages, but the suburbs were supposed to be safe.

The public was riveted; the panic was real. But was it warranted? It could

happen anyplace became the refrain. "But it doesn't happen anyplace,"

Justice Policy Institute director Vincent Schiraldi argued in the Washington

Post. "And it rarely happens at all." A New York Times editorial made the

same point. CDC data pegged a child's chances of dying at school at one in

a million. And holding. The "trend" was actually steady to downward,

depending on how far back you looked.

But it was new to middle-class white parents. Each fresh horror left

millions shaking their heads, wondering when the next outcast would strike.

And then... nothing. During the entire 1998-99 school year, not a single

shooter emerged. The threat faded, and a distant struggle took hold of the

news. The slow disintegration of Yugoslavia erupted again. In March 1999,

as Eric and Dylan finalized their plans, NATO drew the line on Serbian

aggression in a place called Kosovo. The United States began its largest air

campaign since Vietnam. Swarms of F-15 squadrons pounded Belgrade.

Central Europe was in chaos; America was at war. The suburban menace of

the school shooter had receded.

4. Rock'n' Bowl

Eric and Dylan had "A" lunch, but they were rarely around for Mr. D's

visits anymore. Columbine was an open campus, so older kids with licenses

and cars mostly took off for Subway, Wendy's, or countless drive-thrus

scattered about the subdivisions. Most of the Columbine parents were

affluent enough to endow their kids with cars. Eric had a black Honda

Prelude. Dylan drove a vintage BMW his dad had refurbished. The two cars

sat side by side in their assigned spaces in the senior lot every day. At lunch

the boys loaded into one with a handful of friends to grab a bite and a


Mr. D had one major objective on Friday; Eric Harris had at least two.

Mr. D wanted to impress on his kids the importance of wise choices. He

wanted everyone back alive on Monday. Eric wanted ammo and a date for

prom night.


Eric and Dylan planned to be dead shortly after the weekend, but Friday

night they had a little work to do: one last shift at Blackjack. The job had

funded most of Eric's bomb production, weapons acquisition, and napalm

experiments. Blackjack paid a little better than minimum: $6.50 an hour for

Dylan, $7.65 to Eric, who had seniority. Eric believed he could do better.

"Once I graduate, I think I'm gonna quit, too," Eric told a friend who'd quit

the week before. "But not now. When I graduate I'm going to get a job that's

better for my future." He was lying. He had no intention of graduating.

Eric had no plans, which seemed odd for a kid with so much potential.

He was a gifted student taking a pass on college. No career plans, no

discernible goals. It was driving his parents crazy.

Dylan had a bright future. He was heading to college, of course. He was

going to be a computer engineer. Several schools had accepted him, and he

and his dad had just driven down to Tucson on a four-day trip. He'd picked

out a dorm room. He liked the desert. The decision was final; his mom was

going to mail his deposit to the University of Arizona on Monday.

Eric had appeased his dad for the last few weeks by responding to a

Marine recruiter. He had no interest, but it made a nice cover. Eric's dad,

Wayne, had been a decorated air force test pilot; he'd retired as a major after

twenty-three years.

For the moment, Blackjack was a pretty good gig--decent money and lots

of social opportunities. Chris and Nate and Zack and a mess of their other

buddies had worked there. And Eric was alert for hotties. He had been

working this one chick for months now. Susan worked as a part-time

receptionist at the Great Clips in the same strip mall, so she was always

having to pick up the pizza orders for the stylists. Eric saw her at school,

too, usually when he was smoking. He addressed her by name there--she

wasn't sure how he'd gotten ahold of it--and came by the store now and then

to chat her up. She seemed to like him. Eric could not abide embarrassment,

so he had been checking with her friends to gauge his prospects. Yeah, she

liked him. Business was slow Friday night because of a late spring

snowstorm, so they had time to chat when she picked up her order. He

asked her for her number. She gave it.

Susan was looking good and Eric's new boss had an announcement, too.

Kirgis had sold the store six weeks ago, and things were changing. The new

owner fired some of the staff. Eric and Dylan were keepers, but the roof

was closed: no more brewskis and bottle rockets. Eric, however, had made a

great impression. Kirgis had trusted Eric enough to leave him in charge

frequently, but on Friday, the new owner promoted him. Four days before

his massacre, Eric made shift manager. He seemed pleased.

Both boys asked for advances that night. Eric wanted $200, Dylan $120,

against hours they had already worked. The new owner paid them in cash.

After work, they headed to Belleview Lanes. Friday night was Rock'n'

Bowl, a big weekly social event. Sixteen kids usually showed up--some

from the Blackjack circle, some from outside. They jammed into four

adjacent lanes and tracked all the scores on the overhead monitors. Eric and

Dylan played every Friday night. They weren't great bowlers--Dylan

averaged 115, Eric 108--but they sure had fun doing it. They took bowling

as a gym class, too. Dylan hated mornings, but Monday through Wednesday

he drove to Belleview in the dark. Class started at 6:00 A.M., and they were

rarely late, almost never absent. And they still couldn't wait for Friday

night: same venue, but no adult supervision. They could get a little crazier.

Eric was into all this German shit lately: Nietzsche, Freud, Hitler, German

industrial bands like KMFDM and Rammstein, German-language T-shirts.

Sometimes he'd punctuate his high fives with "Sieg Heil" or "Heil Hitler."

Reports conflict about whether or not Dylan followed his lead. Dylan's

friend Robyn Anderson, the girl who had asked him to the prom, usually

picked them up at Blackjack and drove them to the alley. But this week, she

was still in Washington with her church group.

They went home early that night--Eric had a phone engagement. He

called Susan after nine, as promised, but got her mother. The mom thought

Eric seemed very nice, until she told him Susan was sleeping at a friend's

house. Eric got mad. How odd, the mom thought, that Eric would get so

angry so quickly, just because Susan was out. Rejection was Eric's weak

spot, especially by females. He wouldn't quite pull a Klebold, but the veil

came down, and his anger spilled out. It was just infuriating. He had a long

list of betrayals, an actual "Shit List" on his computer of despicable young

girls. Susan did not make the list. Her mom offered Eric her pager number,

and he pounded out a message.

Susan called back, and Eric was suddenly nice again. They talked about

school, computers, and kids who had knifed Eric in the back. Eric went on

and on about one kid who had betrayed him. They chatted for half an hour,

and Eric finally asked her about Saturday night. Was she busy? No. Great.

He would call her early in the afternoon. Finally! Prom night. He had a


5. Two Columbines

On Friday nights, Coach Sanders could usually be found in the Columbine

Lounge: an ass-kicking strip-mall honky-tonk with the feel of an Allman

Brothers club gig in Macon in the 1970s. All ages piled in--mostly

rednecks, but blacks and Latinos mixed easily, punkers and skate rats, too.

Everybody got along. Biker dudes with gleaming scalps and ponytails

chatted up elderly women in floral cardigans. Most nights included an

open-mike period, where you could watch an aging drunk strum "Stairway

to Heaven," segue into the Gilligan's Island theme, and forget the words.

The bartenders covered the pool tables with plywood sheets when the band

started, converting it all into banquet space. A stack of amplifiers and a

mixing board marked off the virtual stage, spotlit by aluminum-clamp lights

affixed to the ceiling tile frames. A narrow strip of carpet served as the

dance floor. Mostly, it was filled with fortyish women in Dorothy Hamill

wedge cuts. They tried to drag their men out there but seldom got many

takers. Dave Sanders was the exception. He loved to glide across the carpet.

He was partial to the Electric Slide. He was something to see. The grace

that propelled him down the basketball court thirty years ago had stuck with

him. He played point guard. He was good.

Coach Sanders outclassed most of the clientele, but he didn't think in

class terms. He cared about friendliness, honest effort, and sincerity. The

Lounge had those in abundance. And Dave liked to kick back and have fun.

He had a hearty laugh, and got a lot of use of it at the Lounge.

When Coach Sanders arrived in 1974, he personified the community.

He'd grown up in Veedersburg, Indiana, a quiet rural community much like

the Jefferson County he found right out of college. Twenty-five years later,

it was not such a snug fit. The Lounge sat just a few blocks south of the

high school, and in the early days it was brimming with faculty after school

or practice. They mixed with former students and parents and siblings of the

current ones. Half the town rolled through the Lounge in a given week. The

newer teachers didn't approve of that behavior, and they didn't fit in at the

Lounge anyway. Neither did the wave of upscale suburbanites who began

flooding into Jeffco in the late 1970s, overwhelming Columbine's student

body. New Columbine went for fern bars and Bennigan's, or private parties

in their split-level "ranch homes" and cathedral-ceilinged McMansions.

Cassie Bernall's family was New Columbine, as were the Harrises and the

Klebolds. Mr. D arrived as Old, but evolved with the majority to New. Old

Columbine remained, outnumbered but unfazed by the new arrivals. Many

older families lived in actual ranch houses built half a century earlier on the

small horse ranches occupying most of the area when the high school was


Columbine High School was built in 1973 on a dirt road off a larger dirt

road way out in horse country. It was named after the flower that blankets

sections of the Rockies. Scraggy meadows surrounded the new building,

fragrant with pine trees and horse manure. Hardly anybody lived there, but

Jeffco was bracing for an influx. Court-ordered busing had spurred an

avalanche of white flight out of Denver, and subdivisions were popping up

all along the foothills.

Jeffco officials had debated where the arrivals would cluster. They

erected three temporary structures in the wilderness to accommodate the

stampede. The high schools were identical hollow shells, ready for

conversion to industrial use if the population failed to materialize.

Columbine resembled a factory by design. Inside, mobile accordion-wall

separators were rolled out to create classrooms. Sound carried from room to

room, but students could overcome such minor hardships.

Developers kept throwing up new subdivisions, each one pricier than the

one before. Jeffco kept all three temporary schools. In 1995, just before Eric

and Dylan arrived, Columbine High School underwent a major overhaul.

Permanent interior walls were installed, and the old cafeteria on the east

side was converted to classrooms. A huge west wing was added, doubling

the size of the structure. It bore the signature new architectural feature: the

curving green glass of the commons, with the new library above.

By April 1999, the plain was nearly filled, all the way to the foothills.

But the fiercely independent residents refused to incorporate. A new town

would only impose new rules and new taxes. The 100,000 new arrivals

filled one continuous suburb with no town center: no main street, no town

hall, town library, or town name. No one was sure what to call it. Littleton

is a quiet suburb south of Denver where the massacre did not actually occur.

Although the name would grow synonymous with the tragedy, Columbine

lies several miles west, across the South Platte River, in a different county

with separate schools and law enforcement. The postal system slapped

"Littleton" onto a vast tract of seven hundred square miles, stretching way

up into the foothills. The people on the plain gravitated toward the name of

the nearest high school--the hub of suburban social life. For thirty thousand

people clustered around the new high school, Columbine became the name

of their home.


Dave Sanders taught typing, keyboarding, business, and economics. He

didn't find all the material particularly interesting, but it enabled him to

coach. Dave coached seven different sports at Columbine. He started out

with boys but found the girls needed him more. "He had this way of making

everyone feel secure," a friend said. He made the kids feel good about


Dave didn't yell or berate the girls, but he was stern and insistent at

practice. Again. Again. He watched quietly on the sidelines, and when he

spoke, they could count on analysis or inspiration. He had taken over as

head coach of girls' basketball that semester--a team with twelve straight

losing seasons. Before the first game, he bought them T-shirts with ONE IN A DOZEN

printed on the back. They made it to the state championship tournament that


When someone crossed Dave Sanders, he responded with "the look": a

cold, insistent stare. He used it one time on a couple of chatty girls in

business class. They shut up momentarily, but went back to talking when he

looked away. So he pulled up a chair right in front of them and conducted

the rest of class from that spot, staring back and forth at each girl until the

bell rang.

Dave spent almost every night in the gym or the field house, headed back

for more on the weekends, and ran summer training camps at the University

of Wyoming. Dave was a practical guy. He admired efficiency, tried to do

double duty by bringing his daughter to work after school. The basketball

girls knew Angela by the time she was a toddler. She hung out in the gym

watching Daddy drill the girls: dribbling, tip contests, face-offs... Angela

brought her toys with her in a tyke-sized suitcase. By the end of practice,

they would be strewn all over the bleachers and the side of the court. The

girls let out a big sigh when Dave called out for Angela to start packing up.

He worked them hard, and that was the signal that they were nearly done.

Angela treasured those late afternoons. "I grew up at Columbine," she

said. Dave was widening out into a big bear of a man, and when he hugged

Angela, she felt safe.

Her mom was less impressed. Kathy Sanders divorced Dave when

Angela was three. Dave found a home a few blocks away, so they could

stay close. Later, Angie moved in with him. It was such a happy divorce

that Kathy became friends with his second wife, Linda Lou.

"Kathy's such a sweetheart, and she and Dave got along so well," Linda

said. "I asked her one day, 'Why did you two ever get a divorce?' And she

said, 'He was never home. I was kind of like married to myself.'"

Linda thrived with the arrangement. Angie was seventeen when she

married Dave, and her two girls were nearly raised as well. Linda had been

a single working mom for many years and was used to alone time. She grew

steadily more dependent on Dave, though. She had been strong when she

needed to, but she liked it better with a man to lean on. Independence had

been great, but that life was over now.

Linda Lou often met Dave at the Lounge after practice, and they spent

the evening together there. She loved the place almost as much as Dave did.

They'd met at the Lounge in 1991. They'd held their wedding reception

there two years later. It felt like home. Dave felt like home to Linda.

Dave was exactly what Linda had been waiting for: caring, protective,

and playfully romantic. He'd proposed on a trip to Vegas. As they'd strolled

over a bridge into the Excalibur casino, he'd asked to see her "divorce ring"-

-which she still wore on her wedding finger. She presented her hand, and he

threw the ring into the moat. He asked her to marry him. She gleefully


Linda and her two daughters moved in, and she and Dave finished raising

the girls and Angela. Dave legally adopted Linda's younger daughter, Coni.

He considered all three girls his daughters, and they all called him Dad.

Dave's lanky runner's build filled out. His beard grew speckled, then

streaked gray. His smile held constant. His blue eyes twinkled. He began to

resemble a young Santa Claus. Otherwise, Dave remained remarkably

consistent: coaching, laughing, and enjoying his grandkids, but not seeing

them enough. He drove an aging Ford Escort, dressed in drab polyester

slacks and plain button-down shirts. His hair dwindled, but he parted it

neatly on the left. He wore great big oversized glasses with frames from

another age. Each night ended with him in his easy chair, chuckling to

Johnny Carson, with a tumbler of Diet Coke and Jack Daniel's in hand.

When Johnny retired, the Sanderses had a satellite dish and Dave could

always find a game to settle down with. Linda waited for him upstairs.

Out of the blue, just a few weeks before the prom, he decided to update

his image. He was forty-seven--time for a change. He surprised Linda in a

pair of wire-rimmed glasses, the first big fashion statement of his life. He'd

picked them out himself. "Woo-woo!" she howled. She had never seen a

Dave like this before!

He was so proud of those glasses. "I finally made it to 1999," he said.

The big debut came Easter Sunday. He showed up in the glasses at a

boisterous family gathering with the grandkids. Nobody noticed.

Alone with Linda that evening, he confessed how badly it hurt.

Dave was planning more changes: No basketball camp this summer. Less

coaching, more time with his own girls and his grandkids. There was still

time to set it right.

He was trying a new bedtime drink, too: Diet Coke and rum.

The Sunday before the prom, the family threw a birthday party for

Angela's four-year-old, Austin. Dave liked making peanut butter and jelly

sandwiches for the grandkids. He sliced off the edges, because they liked it

fluffy all the way through. Dave would hide a gummi worm in the jelly,

which surprised them every time.

Austin called to talk to Grandpa on prom weekend but missed him. Dave

called back and left a message on the machine. Angela erased it. She would

try again during the week.


Prom was scheduled for April 17, but for most kids, it was the culmination

of a long, painful dance stretching back to midwinter. Night after night,

Patrick Ireland had lain on his bed, phone in one hand, a ball in the other,

tossing it up and snatching it out of the air, wishing his best friend, Laura,

would take the hint. He kept prodding her about her prospects. Any ideas?

Anybody ask yet? She tossed the questions back: Who you going to ask?

When? What are you waiting for?

Indecision was unfamiliar ground for Patrick. He competed in basketball

and baseball for Columbine and earned first place medals in waterskiing

while earning a 4.0 average. He kept his eye on the ball. When his team was

down five points in the final minutes of a basketball game, and he'd just

miss an easy layup or dribbled off his foot and felt like a loser, the answer

was simple: Brush it off! If you wanted to win, you focused on the next

play. With Laura, he couldn't focus on anything.

Patrick was modest but self-assured with regard to most things. This

mattered too much. He couldn't risk fourth grade again. Laura had been his

first love, his first girlfriend, in third grade. It was a torrid romance, but it

ended badly and she wouldn't speak to him the next year. It took them until

high school to become friends again. For a while, it was friendship, but then

his pulse started racing. Had he been right about her the first time? Surely

she felt it, too. Unless he was imagining it. No, she was flirting, totally.

Flirting enough?

Laura grew impatient. It wasn't just prom night at stake, it was weeks of

planning, dress shopping, accessorizing, endless conversations to risk being

excluded. The sad looks, the pity--a full season of awkwardness.

She got another offer. She stalled for time, then, finally, accepted. The

guy was way into her.

So Patrick asked Cora, just as friends. His whole group was going as

friends. No pressure, just a good time.

Prom night arrived. Most groups turned it into a twelve-hour affair:

photos, fine dining, the dance, the afterprom. Patrick's gang started at

Gabriel's, an old Victorian home in the country that had been converted into

an elegant steak and seafood house. They pulled up in a limo and ate like

kings. Then it was a long ride into Denver for the big event. The prom

committee chose the Denver Design Center, a local landmark known as

"that building with the weird yellow thing." The "thing" was a monumental

steel sculpture called The Articulated Wall, which looked like an eightyfive-foot DNA strand and towered over the shops and restaurants converted

from old warehouses.

The trade-off with a famous city location was space. You could barely

move on the dance floor. Patrick Ireland's second-most-memorable moment

was dancing to "Ice Ice Baby." He had lip-synced to it in a third-grade

talent show, so whenever they'd heard it for the next decade, he'd grabbed

his buddies and performed the same goofy dance. That was nothing

compared to holding Laura. He got one dance. A slow song. Heaven.


Cassie Bernall was not asked to prom. She was pretty but, in her estimation,

a loser. The church boys from the youth group barely noticed her. At school

she got attention, but strictly sexual. Friends were hard to come by. So she

and her friend Amanda dressed up anyway, did their hair, and got all

glamorous for a work banquet Amanda's mom had going at the Marriott.

Then they cruised to afterprom, where dates were optional, and partied till


6. His Future

Dylan's prom group arranged for a limo, too. Robyn Anderson drove out to

pick him up on Saturday afternoon. They shot pictures with his parents

before meeting up with the five other couples to head into the city. Robyn

wore midnight-blue satin with cap sleeves and matching opera-length

gloves. She'd curled her hair in long blond ringlets, swept forward to

bounce across her low-cut square neckline--a suburban variation on the

classic Pre-Raphaelite style.

Dylan was giddy and beaming getting ready, all cleaned up for once,

working to make everything look just right. He tugged his shirt cuffs down,

straightened his tuxedo jacket. He'd gone with a traditional black tuxedo,

bow tie slightly askew. A small splash of color lightened up his lapel: a

pink-tipped rosebud with a tiny ribbon the color of Robyn's dress. His hair

was slicked back into a short ponytail that kept giving him grief. He had

shaved. His dad followed him around with a camcorder, capturing every

move. Dylan looked at him through the lens: Dad, we're going to laugh

about this in twenty years.

They rode downtown in a big honking stretch with tinted windows and a

mirrored ceiling. Whoa! Dylan held Robyn's hand and complimented her on

her dress. The first stop was dinner at Bella Ristorante, a trendy spot in

Lower Downtown. It was a fun time: jokes and horseplay with table knives

and matches, pretending to light themselves on fire. Dylan devoured an

oversized salad, a big seafood entree, and dessert. He gushed about the

upcoming reunion for kids from the gifted program in elementary school. It

would be fun hooking up again with the childhood smarties. Dylan had

volunteered to use his Blackjack connection to get some pizzas.

They finished dinner early. Dylan stepped out for a cigarette. He asked

his buddy Nate Dykeman to join him. It was cold out, but nice anyway--a

little quiet time, away from all the commotion. Great food, great company,

first time in a limo for both of them. "Everything is going perfect, as

planned," Nate said later.

Nate was even taller than Dylan, six-four, and considerably more

attractive. He had classic features and dark, heavy eyebrows that

accentuated his piercing eyes. They talked more about reunions. Everyone

was scattering for college. They talked about Dylan heading down to

Arizona and Nate across the country to Florida. Nate wanted to work for

Microsoft. What would they accomplish before reunion time rolled around?

They tossed around the possibilities. "No hints whatsoever that anything

could possibly be wrong," Nate recalled later. "We were just having a great

time. It's our senior prom. We're enjoying it like we should."

The short ride to the Design Center was a blast: hard rock jamming from

the speakers, an adrenaline rush while they riffed on one another. They

made fun of pedestrians, flipped them off at random. Nobody could see in;

they could see out. What a riot.

Dylan was in a great mood. We've got to stay in touch, he insisted. This

group was too fun to let go.


Eric pressed his luck. He was crazy for a prom-night date, but he waited till

early evening to call Susan. He was confident. Girls liked him. He asked

her to come over for a movie. She swung by around seven. His parents had

just left, out to dinner to celebrate their anniversary. Eric wanted to show

Susan Event Horizon, a low-budget gorefest about a spaceship transported

back from hell. It was his all-time favorite. They watched it straight

through, then sat around his basement bedroom talking.

Eric's parents came home and went down to meet her. It was lots of

aimless chitchat, like Eric's dad telling her he got his hair cut at Great Clips.

They seemed friendly, Susan thought. They all got along well. After Eric's

parents left, he played her some of his favorite tunes. It was mostly banging

and screaming to her ear, but then he would mix in some New Age stuff

like Enya. He put his arm around her once but didn't go for a kiss. He did

lots of thoughtful things, like offering to warm up her car when she had to

get home. She stayed until eleven--half an hour after she should have. Eric

kissed her on the cheek and said good night.


Prom was the standard affair. They crowned a queen, they crowned a king,

Mr. D breathed a sigh of relief that they had come through it alive. Dylan

and Robyn had fun, but joy wasn't really the objective. Prom was more

about acting out some weird facsimile of adulthood: dress up like a tacky

wedding party, hold hands and behave like a couple even if you've never

dated, and observe the etiquette of Gilded Age debutantes thrust into

modern celebrity: limos, red carpets, and a constant stream of paparazzi,

played by parents, teachers, and hired photo hacks.

For enjoyment, someone invented afterprom. Peel off the cummerbund,

step out of the two-inch pumps, forget the stupid posing, and indulge in

actual fun. Like gambling. The Columbine gym was outfitted with row after

row of blackjack, poker, and craps tables. Parents in Vegas costumes served

as dealers. They had ball-toss contests, a jump castle, and a bungee cord

plunge. It stayed active till dawn. Afterprom had its own theme: New York,

New York. Some parents had built a life-sized maze you had to follow to

get into the school, and the entranceway was festooned with cardboard

mock-ups of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Some of

the boys barely saw their dates at afterprom. Some didn't have one. Eric

joined Dylan and his limo group. They spent hours in the casino losing fake

money. Patrick Ireland hung out nearby. They never met. Dylan kept talking

about college, about his future. He kept saying he could hardly wait.

7. Church on Fire

This is a church on fire. This is the heart of Evangelical country. This is

Trinity Christian Center, an ecstatic congregation crying out for Jesus in a

converted Kmart half a mile from Columbine. As the casino shut down in

the school gym, the faithful rose across the Front Range. They spilled out

into the aisles of Trinity Christian, heaving and rumbling like an old-time

tent revival. The frenzied throng thrust two hundred arms toward the

heavens, belting out the spirit their souls just couldn't contain. The choir

drove them higher. It ripped through the chorus of Hillsong's burning

anthem and the crowd surged.

This is a church on fire...

We have a burning desire...

No one had the fever like a sunburned high school girl, radiating from

the choir like the orchids splashed across her sundress. She threw her head

back, squeezed her eyes shut, and kept singing, her lips charging straight

through the instrumental jam.

Since pioneer days and the Second Great Awakening, Colorado had been

a hotbed on the itinerant ministry circuit. By the 1990s, Colorado Springs

was christened the Evangelical Vatican. The city of Denver seemed immune

to the fervor, but its western suburbs were roiling. Nowhere did the spirit

move more strongly than at Trinity Christian Center. They had a savior to

reach out to and The Enemy to repel.

Satan was at work in Jefferson County, any Bible-church pastor would

tell you so. Long before Eric and Dylan struck, tens of thousands of

Columbine Evangelicals prepared for the dark prince. The Enemy, they

called him. He was always on the prowl.

Columbine sits three miles east of the foothills. Closer to the peaks,

property values rise steadily, in tandem with decorum. In comparison to

Trinity Christian, upscale congregations like Foothills Bible Church mount

Broadway productions. Foothills Pastor Bill Oudemolen took stage like the

quintessential televangelist: blow-dried, swept-back helmet hair, crisp tie,

and tailored Armani suit in muted earth tones. But the stereotype dissolved

when he opened his mouth. He was sincere, sharp-witted, and intellectual.

He rebuked ministry-for-money preachers and their get-saved-quick


West Bowles Community Church lay between other megachurches

geographically, socioeconomically, and intellectually. Like Oudemolen,

Pastor George Kirsten was a biblical literalist. He was contemptuous of

peers obsessed with a loving Savior. His Christ had a vengeful side. Love

was an easy sell--that missed half the story. "That's offensive to me,"

Kirsten said. He preached a strict, black-and-white moral code. "People

want to paint the world in a lot of gray," he said. "I don't see that in the


Religion did not mean an hour a week on Sundays to this crowd. There

was Bible study, youth group, fellowship, and retreats. The "thought for the

day" started the morning; Scripture came before bed. West Bowles kids

roamed the halls of Columbine sporting WWJD? bracelets--What Would

Jesus Do?--and exchanging Christian rock CDs. Occasionally, they

witnessed to the unbelievers or argued Scripture with the mainline

Protestants. The Columbine Bible Study group met at the school once a

week; its major challenges were resisting temptation, adhering to a higher

standard, and acting as worthy servants of Christ. Its members kept a

vigilant eye out for The Enemy.

Pastors Kirsten and Oudemolen spoke of Satan frequently. Reverend

Oudemolen called him by name; Kirsten preferred The Enemy. Either way,

Satan was more than a symbol of evil--he was an actual, physical entity,

hungry for compliant souls.

He snatched the most unlikely targets. Who would have expected Cassie

Bernall to fall? She was the angelic blond junior who'd dressed up for a

function at the Marriott on Saturday instead of prom. She was scheduled to

speak at her church's youth group meeting on Tuesday. Cassie's house sat

right beside Columbine property, but it was only her second year at the

school. She'd transferred in from Christian Fellowship School. She had

begged her parents to make the move. The Lord had spoken to Cassie. He

wanted her to witness to the unbelievers at Columbine.


Monday morning was uneventful. Lots of bleary eyes from Saturday's allnighter, lots of chatter about who did what. All Mr. D's kids had made it

back. A handful peeked through his doorway with big grins. "Just wanted

you to see our bright, shining faces," they said.

Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier was a little on edge Monday.

He headed the FBI's domestic terrorism unit in Denver, and April 19 was a

dangerous day in the region. The worst disaster in FBI history had erupted

six years earlier and retaliation followed exactly two years after. On April

19, 1993, the Bureau ended a fifty-one-day standoff with the Branch

Davidian cult near Waco, Texas, by storming the compound. A massive fire

had erupted and most of the eighty inhabitants burned to death--adults and

children. Agent Fuselier was one of the nation's foremost hostage

negotiators. He spent six weeks trying to talk the Davidians out. Fuselier

had opposed the attack on the compound, but lost. Just before storming in,

the FBI gave Fuselier one final chance. He was the last person known to

speak to Davidian leader David Koresh. He watched the compound burn.

Speculation raged about the FBI's role in the blaze. The controversy

nearly ended Attorney General Janet Reno's career. Waco radicalized the

anti-government militia movement, made April 19 into a symbol of

perverse authority. Timothy McVeigh sought vengeance by bombing the

Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. His

explosion killed 168 people, the largest terrorist attack in American history

to that point.

8. Maximum Human Density

It's a safe bet that Eric and Dylan watched the carnage of Waco and

Oklahoma City on television, with the rest of the country. Those atrocities

were particularly prominent in this region. McVeigh was tried in federal

court in downtown Denver and sentenced to death while the boys attended

Columbine in the suburbs. The scenes of devastation were played over and

over. In his journal, Eric would brag about topping McVeigh. Oklahoma

City was a one-note performance: McVeigh set his timer and walked away;

he didn't even see his spectacle unfold. Eric dreamed much bigger than that.

Judgment Day, they called it. Columbine would erupt with an explosion,

too. Eric designed at least seven big bombs, working off The Anarchist

Cookbook he found on the Web. He chose the barbecue design: standard

propane tanks, the fat, round white ones, eighteen inches tall, a foot in

diameter, packing some twenty pounds of highly explosive gas. Bomb #1

employed aerosol cans for detonators, each wired up to an old-fashioned

alarm clock with round metal bells on top. Step one was planting them in a

park near Eric's house, three miles from the school. That bomb could kill

hundreds of people but was intended for only stones and trees. The attack

was to begin with a decoy: rock the neighborhood and divert police. Every

free minute raised the potential body count. The boys were going to double

or triple McVeigh's record. They estimated the damage variously as

"hundreds," "several hundred," and "at least four hundred"--oddly

conservative for the arsenal they were preparing.

Eric may have had another reason for the decoy plan. He was uncannily

perceptive about people, and Dylan had been wavering. If Dylan was

reticent, the decoy would help ease him in. It was a harmless explosive, no

one would be hurt by it, but once they drove off, Dylan would be


The main event was scripted in three acts, just like a movie. It would kick

off with a massive explosion in the commons. More than six hundred

students swarmed in at the start of "A" lunch, and two minutes after the bell

rang, most of them would be dead. Act I featured two bombs, using propane

tanks like the decoy. Each was strung with nails and BBs for shrapnel,

lashed to a full gasoline can and a smaller propane tank, and wired to

similar bell clocks. Each bomb fit snugly into a duffel bag, which Eric and

Dylan would lug in at the height of passing-period chaos. Again, Dylan was

eased into killing. Clicking over the alarm hinge was bloodless and

impersonal. It didn't feel like killing--no blood, no screams. Most of Dylan's

murders would be over before he faced them.

The fireball would wipe out most of the lunch crowd and set the school

ablaze. Eric drew detailed diagrams. He spaced the bombs out but located

them centrally, for maximum killing radius. They would sit beside two thick

columns supporting the second floor. Computer modeling and field tests

would later demonstrate a high probability that the bombs would have

collapsed some of the second floor. Eric apparently hoped to watch the

library and its inhabitants crash down upon the flaming lunchers.

As the time bombs ticked down, the killers would exit briskly and flare

out across the parking lot at a ninety-degree angle. Each boy was to head

for his own car, strategically parked about a hundred yards apart. The cars

provided mobile base camps, where they would gear up to unleash Act II.

Pre-positioning ensured optimal fire lanes. They had drilled the gear-ups

repeatedly and could execute them rapidly. The bombs would detonate at

11:17, and the densely packed wing would crumble. As the flames leapt up,

Eric and Dylan would train their semiautomatics on the exits and await


Act II: firing time. This was going to be fun. Dylan would sport an

Intratec TEC-DC9 (a 9mm semiautomatic handgun) and a shotgun. Eric had

a Hi-Point 9mm carbine rifle and a shotgun. They'd sawed the barrels off

the shotguns for concealment. Between them, they'd carry eighty portable

explosives--pipe bombs and carbon dioxide bombs that Eric called

"crickets"--plus a supply of Molotov cocktails and an assortment of freakish

knives, in case it came down to hand-to-hand combat. They'd suit up in

infantry-style web harnesses, allowing them to strap much of the ammo and

explosives to their bodies. Each had a backpack and a duffel bag to hump

more hardware into the attack zone. They would tape flint matchstriker

strips to their forearms for rapid-fire pipe-bomb attacks. Their long black

dusters would go on last--for concealment and for looking badass. (Later,

the dusters were widely referred to as trench coats.)

They planned to advance on the building as soon as the bombs blew.

They'd be set back far enough to see each other around the corner--and just

barely avoid the blast. They had devised their own hand signals to

communicate. Every detail was planned; battle positions were imperative.

The 250,000-square-foot school had twenty-five exits, so some survivors

would escape. The boys could remain in visual contact and still cover two

sides of the building, including two of the three main exits. Their firing

lines intersected on the most important point: the student entrance, adjacent

to the commons and just a dozen yards from the big bombs.

Positioning yourself at a right angle to the objective is standard U.S.

infantry practice, taught to every American foot soldier at the Infantry

School in Fort Benning, Georgia. Interlocking fire lanes, the military calls

it. The target is constantly under fire from two sides, yet the assault team's

weapons are never pointed at confederates. Even if a shooter turns sharply

to peg an escaping enemy, his squad mates are safe. From their initial

positions, Eric and Dylan could sweep their gun barrels across a ninetydegree firing radius without endangering each other. Even if one shooter

advanced more quickly, he would never violate his partner's fire lane. It is

both the safest and the most effective assault pattern of modern small-arms


This was the phase Eric and Dylan were savoring. It was also when they

expected to die. They had little hope of witnessing Act III. Forty-five

minutes after the initial blast, when the cops declared it was over,

paramedics started loading amputees into ambulances, and reporters

broadcast the horror to a riveted nation, Eric's Honda and Dylan's BMW

would rip right through the camera crews and the first responders. Each car

was to be loaded with two more propane devices and twenty gallons of

gasoline in an assortment of orange plastic jugs. Their positions had been

chosen to maximize both the firepower in Act II and the carnage in Act III.

The cars would be close to the building, near the main exits--ideal locations

for police command, emergency medical staging, and news vans. They

would be just far enough from the building and each other to wipe out most

of the junior and senior parking lots. Maximum body count: nearly 2,000

students, plus 150 faculty and staff, plus who knows how many police,

paramedics, and journalists.

Eric and Dylan had been considering a killing spree for at least a year

and a half. They had settled on the approximate time and location a year

out: April, in the commons. They finalized details as Judgment Day

approached: Monday, April 19. The date appeared firm. The boys referred

to it twice matter-of-factly in the recordings they made in the last ten days.

They did not explain the choice, though Eric discussed topping Oklahoma

City, so they may have been planning to echo that anniversary, as Tim

McVeigh had done with Waco.

The moment of attack was critical. Students liked to eat early, so "A"

lunch was the most popular. The maximum human density anywhere,

anytime in the high school occurred in the commons at 11:17. Eric knew the

exact minute because he had inventoried his targets. He'd counted just 60 to

80 kids scattered about the commons from 10:30 to 10:50. Between 10:56

and 10:58, "lunch ladies bring out shit," he wrote. Then lunch door 2

opened, and a "steady trickle of people" appeared. He recorded the exact

moment each door opened, and body counts in minute-by-minute

increments. At 11:10, the bell rang, fourth period ended, students piled into

the hallways. Moments later, they rushed the lunch lines, fifty more every

minute: 300, 350, 400, 450, 500-plus by 11:15. Eric and Dylan's various

handwritten timelines show the bombs scheduled to explode between 11:16

and 11:18. The final times are followed by little quips: "Have fun!" and


Eric and Dylan expected their attack to puzzle the public, so they left an

extraordinary cache of material to explain themselves. They kept schedules,

budgets, maps, drawings, and all sorts of logistical artifacts, along with

commentary in notebooks, journals, and Web sites. A series of videos were

specifically designed to explain their attack. They would come to be known

as the Basement Tapes, because the bulk were shot in Eric's basement. Even

more illuminating was Eric's twenty-page journal devoted to his thinking.

Both chronicles are revealing, but also maddeningly contradictory. They

were so disturbing that the sheriff's department would choose to hide them

from the public, concealing even the existence of the Basement Tapes for

months. Eric and Dylan's true intentions would remain a mystery for years.


The date was the first element of Eric's plan to fail---apparently because of

ammo. On Monday, he had nearly seven hundred rounds for the four guns.

He wanted more. He had just turned eighteen, so he could buy his own, but

that fact somehow escaped him. He was used to relying on others, and he

thought Mark Manes could help. Manes was a drug dealer who ran some

guns and ammo on the side. He had come through with the TEC-9 in

January, but he was dragging ass on the ammo. Thursday night, Eric began

hounding him to come up with the stuff. Four days later, Eric remained


They could have gone ahead without the extra ammo, but their firepower would have been impaired. Shotguns are not built for rapid-fire

assault. The TEC-9 took twenty-and thirty-round magazines. Dylan could

release one with the flick of a button and pop in a new mag with a single

sweep of the hand. Real gun aficionados hate the thing. It's too big and

bulky for a professional and way too unreliable--a poor man's Uzi. Dealers

complain of slapdash design, frequent misfeeds, and a lousy sighting

mechanism that is often misaligned and can't be adjusted. "Cheap

construction and marginal reliability," says a major Russian gun dealer's

Web site. But it was available.


Eric and Dylan had a mostly uneventful Monday. They got up before

sunrise to make bowling class by 6:00 A.M. They cut fourth hour for an

extended lunch at Blackjack, and attended their other classes as usual. That

evening, Manes suddenly came through with the ammo. He'd gotten it at

Kmart: two boxes, with fifty rounds apiece. Together, they cost twenty-five


Eric drove to Manes's house to pick up the ammo. He seemed eager to

get it. Manes asked if Eric was going shooting that night.

Maybe tomorrow, Eric said.

9. Dads

Dave Sanders had never talked about regret before. Not to Frank

DeAngelis. They talked every day, they had been close for twenty years, but

they had never gone there.

It came up unexpectedly, on Monday afternoon. Frank strolled out to the

baseball diamond to watch his boys take on archrival Chatfield. He had

coached the team before he went into administration, alongside his old

friend Dave Sanders. And there at the top of the bleachers was Dave

watching right now. He had a couple hours to kill until his girls arrived for

basketball practice. The season was over, but they were working

fundamentals for next year. Dave could have spent the time grading papers,

but it was hard to fight the lure of the field.

Mr. D said hi to the kids excited to see him there, then sat down next to

Dave. They talked for two hours. They talked about everything. Their entire

lives. Coaching, of course. The first time they met, when Frank arrived at

Columbine in 1979. He was one of the shortest teachers on the faculty and

the principal recruited him to coach basketball. "They needed a freshman

coach, and I was on a one-year contract," Frank said. "The principal said,

'Frank, if you do me this one favor, I owe you one.' And what am I gonna

say? 'I'll do whatever you want, sir.' So I coached basketball."

The conversation was lighthearted for a long time, Dave cutting up as

usual. Then he turned serious. "Do you miss coaching?" he asked.

"Not really." Frank's answer sort of surprised Dave. Coaching was his

life, Frank explained, but he had never really left it. He'd just expanded his


"You think so?" Dave wondered.

Oh, yeah, Frank said. You can't really teach a kid anything: you can only

show him the way and motivate him to learn it himself. Same thing applies

to shortstops turning the double play and students grasping the separation of

powers in the U.S. government. It's all the same job. Now he had to coach

teachers, too, to inspire their own kids to learn.

"What about you?" Frank asked. "Any regrets?"

"Yeah. Too much coaching."

They shared a good laugh.

Seriously, though, Dave said. His family had come second to coaching.

God. His family came second.

Frank suppressed another laugh. His own son, Brian, was nineteen. Frank

was confident he had been a good dad, but never enough of one. It had

rankled his wife since day one, and recently she had laid into him about it:

"When are you going to stop raising everybody else's kids and start raising

your own?"

That stung. It was a little hard to share, but this seemed like the moment,

and Dave seemed like the guy. Dave understood. It was bittersweet for both

of them. They had reached middle age blissfully. They wouldn't change a

moment for their own sake--but had they shortchanged their kids? Frank's

son was grown now, and Dave's daughters were, too. Too late. But they

were still young women, and Dave had five grandkids and was hoping for

more. Dave had not told the other coaches he was cutting back yet. He had

not announced his decision to take off the first summer in memory. He

confided it all to Frank now.

What an amazing guy, Frank thought. He thought about hugging Dave.

He did not.

The game was still going, but Dave got up. "My girls are waiting for

me," he said. "I have open gym."

Frank watched him walk slowly away.


Coach Sanders had something else on his mind. He had held his first team

meeting last Friday, and his new team captain, Liz Carlston, had failed to

show. He expected to see her tonight. It was going to be a tense

conversation, and it wasn't going to be just her.

Sanders sat all the girls down on the court. They talked a lot about

dedication. How was it going to look to the freshmen if the team leaders

mouthed the words, then failed to show up? He expected a one hundred

percent commitment. Every practice, every meeting, or you're out.

He told them to scrimmage. He let them keep at it the entire evening. He

sat on a folding chair watching, analyzing, preparing.

At the end of the night, Liz tried to summon the courage to talk to him.

She had just blanked on the meeting; she hadn't meant anything by it. She

felt guilt and fear and anger. He wouldn't actually cut her, would he? Why

hadn't he given her a chance to explain?

She stopped at the baseline to change her shoes. Coach Sanders was right

there. She should talk to him.

She walked out quietly. She didn't even say good-bye.


Linda Lou was asleep when Dave got home that night. He kissed her softly.

She woke up and smiled.

Dave was holding a wad of cash--a thick stash, seventy singles. He flung

them toward her and they fluttered down onto the comforter. She got

excited. She loved his little surprises, but she wasn't sure what this was

about. He went with it for a minute, got her hopes up, and then said she was

silly: it was for her mom. Linda's mom was turning seventy on April 20.

She liked to gamble. She would like that.

Dave was all laughs that might with Linda. She was shocked when she

learned later how tense his evening had been.

"That's how the man could change," she said. "Walk through our door

and he was done with basketball. Now he was thinking of my mom."

He went down to fix himself a Diet Coke and rum. He found a game.

Linda fell back asleep with a smile.


Morning was less pleasant. The alarm buzzed at 6:30. Linda and Dave were

both in a rush. Linda had to pick up balloons for her mom's birthday party,

and Dave had to drop Linda's poodle off for a haircut.

Dave had no time for breakfast. He snagged an energy bar and a banana

for the car. It was trash day-- his job, but he was going to be late. He asked

Linda if she would do it.

She was too stressed. "I really don't have time today."

"I'm really going to be late," he muttered.

They rushed out to separate cars and realized they had forgotten to kiss

good-bye. They always kissed good-bye.

Dave blew her a kiss from the driveway.

10. Judgment

On Tuesday morning, the boys rose early, as usual. It was dark but warm

already, set to soar into the eighties, with blue skies, perfect for their fires. It

was going to be a beautiful day.

Dylan was out of the house by 5:30. His parents were still in bed. He

called out "Bye," and shut the door behind himself.

They skipped bowling class and went straight to work. Dylan scrawled

the schedule into Eric's day planner under the heading "make TODAY

count." Eric illustrated it with a blazing gun barrel.

First stop was the grocery store, where they met up to acquire the last of

the propane tanks: two for the cafeteria, two for each car, and two for the

decoy. The big bombs were the heart of the attack. Eric had designed them

months before but had left acquisition to the final morning. The boys had

stashed most of the arsenal in Eric's bedroom closet, and he had faced a

couple of close calls with his parents already. Hiding a cluster of twentypound tanks in there was out of the question.

They returned to Eric's house at 7:00 and then split up: Eric filled the

propane tanks, Dylan got the gasoline. They allotted half an hour to

assemble the big bombs and set up the cars, and an hour for one last round

of gear-up, practice, and "chill." They got something to eat. Dylan

apparently had potato skins.


Several friends noticed peculiarities. Robyn Anderson was surprised to see

Dylan a no-show for calculus. He had sounded fine on the phone the

previous night. Then a friend told her Eric had been missing from third

hour. The boys cut an occasional class together, but never an entire

morning. Robyn hoped Dylan wasn't sick; she made a mental note to call

once she got home.

Their friend Brooks Brown had a stronger reaction. Eric had missed a test

in psychology class. What kind of stunt was that?


Chill time was over. It had gone on too long, perilously over schedule.

Shortly before 11:00 A.M., Eric and Dylan set off with the arsenal. Dylan wore

cargo pants, a black T-shirt printed with WRATH, and his Red Sox cap turned

backward, as usual. His cargo pockets were deep enough to conceal most of

the sawed-off shotgun before he pulled on the duster. Eric's T-shirt said

natural selection. They both wore black combat boots and shared a single

pair of black gloves--the right on Eric, the left on Dylan. They left two pipe

bombs behind at Eric's house, six at Dylan's. Eric laid a microcassette on

the kitchen counter with some final thoughts. They also left the Basement

Tapes, with a final good-bye recorded that morning.

They drove separate cars to a park near Eric's house, dumped the decoy

bomb in a field, and set the timers for 11:14. Combat operations were under


They hopped back in their cars and headed for the school. They had to

hustle now. The last few minutes were critical. They couldn't plant the big

bombs until "A" lunch began. Fourth period ended at 11:10. Once the bell

rang, they had seven minutes to carry the bombs in, navigate the turbulent

lunch crowd, stash the bombs by the designated pillars, get back to their

cars, gear up, take cover, and prepare to attack.

Eric pulled into the parking lot at 11:10, several minutes behind schedule.

A couple of girls spotted his car as they headed out for lunch. They honked

and waved. They liked him. Eric waved back and smiled. Dylan followed

him in. No waves.

Dylan drove to his normal spot in the senior lot and parked his BMW

directly in front of the cafeteria. When the attack began, this would afford

him a clear sweep of the southwest side of the building: the long, wide arc

of green-tinted windows that wrapped the commons on the first floor and

the library above.

Eric continued on to the small junior lot, about a hundred yards to

Dylan's right. Eric had the choice spot, directly facing the student entrance,

where the bulk of the survivors would presumably flee. He could also cover

the full southeast side of the building and interlock his fire with Dylan's to

his left.

Brooks Brown walked out for a cigarette and spotted Eric parking in the

wrong lot. Brooks charged up to confront him about the test; by the time he

got there, Eric had stepped out and was pulling out a big hulking duffel bag.

"What's the matter with you?" Brooks yelled. "We had a test in


Eric was calm but insistent. "It doesn't matter anymore," he said.

"Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home."

Brooks thought that was strange. But he shook his head and walked on,

away from the school.

Eric's friend Nate Dykeman also caught sight of him arriving, and also

found the circumstances strange.

Eric headed in with his duffel. By 11:12, they were scheduled to be back

at their cars, arming up. A surveillance tape time-stamped 11:14 indicates

they had still not entered the commons. They had less than three minutes--

the timers were set for 11:17. There was only a modest chance that they

could make it to safety in time. And they could hardly have hoped to be

locked and loaded when the bombs blew.

They could have reset the timers and sacrificed a few casualties. That

would have required coordination, as they had parked across the lot from

each other and it would be risky to expose the bombs inside the cafeteria.

They could have abandoned the plan, but the decoy bombs might already be


Shortly after 11:14, they entered the commons. They moved

inconspicuously enough to go unnoticed. Not one of the five hundred

witnesses noticed them or the big, bulky bags. One of the bags would be

found inches from two tables strewn with food.

They made it out, and armed quickly. It was just like the drill, except this

time each was alone--close enough for hand signals, too far to hear. They

strapped on their arsenals, covered them with the dusters. Time was tight

and they broke with their drill, leaving the shotguns in the duffel bags. Each

boy had a semiautomatic against his body, a shotgun in his bag, and a

backpack full of pipe bombs and crickets. This is probably the moment they

set the timers on their car bombs. It would just be a matter of seconds now.

Hundreds of kids dead. As far as they knew, they had instigated mass

murder already. The timers were winding down. Nothing to do but wait.

Surveillance cameras should have caught the killers placing the bombs.

They would have, if either the bombers or the custodian had been on time.

Every morning, the custodian followed the same routine: a few minutes

before "A" lunch, he pulled out the prelunch tape and set it aside for later

viewing. He popped an old, used tape into the machine, rewound it, and hit

Record. Rewinding took up to five minutes, meaning a brief pause in

taping. Kids could leave all the garbage they wanted during that window,

but hardly anyone was around to do so.

The custodian was running late on Tuesday. He hit the stop button at

11:14, and no bombs were visible; neither was Eric or Dylan. While waiting

out the rewind, the custodian got a phone call. He talked, and the tape sat a

little longer. He got the new tape in and hit Record at 11:22, leaving an

eight-minute gap. The first frame shows the bombs visible and students

near the windows beginning to react. Something peculiar outside has caught

their attention.


Columbine ran on a bell schedule, and most of its inhabitants followed a

strict routine. Several of them had broken it Tuesday morning. Patrick

Ireland, the junior afraid to ask Laura to the prom, liked variety. Some days

he spent "A" lunch in the library, others in the cafeteria. He had stayed up

late talking to Laura on the phone again, and still had to finish his stats

homework. So he headed to the library with four of his buddies as Eric and

Dylan positioned the duffel bags. Patrick sat down at a table just above one

of the bombs.

Cassie Bernall, the Evangelical junior who had transferred to Columbine

to enlighten nonbelievers, pulled up a chair near the window. It was unusual

to find her in the library at this hour. She was also behind on her homework,

trying to complete an English assignment on Macbeth. But she was happy

she had finished the presentation she would be making to her youth group

that night.

Mr. D was oddly absent from the cafeteria. His secretary had booked an

interview, delaying his rounds. He sat in his office at the opposite end of the

main corridor, waiting for a young teacher to arrive. Mr. D. was about to

offer him a permanent position.

Deputy Neil Gardner, the community resource officer, worked for the

sheriff's department but was assigned full-time to Columbine. He normally

ate with the kids, and "A" lunch was his optimal chance for bonding, a key

element of his job. He wore the same security uniform with the bright

yellow shirt every day, so he was easy to spot. Tuesday, Gardner took a

break from his normal routine. He didn't care for the teriyaki on the menu,

so he went for takeout from Subway with his campus boss-- an unarmed

civilian security guard. It was a beautiful day, lots of kids were outside, so

they decided to check out the smokers. They ate their sandwiches in

Gardner's squad car, in the faculty lot beside the smokers' pit on the

opposite side of the school.

Robyn Anderson sat in her car nearby. She had driven out of the senior

lot just about the time Eric and Dylan were hauling the bombs in, but had

missed them. She'd swung around the building to pick up two friends. She

got antsy--lunchtime was slipping away. Five minutes passed, maybe ten.

Finally, the girls appeared. Robyn snarled at them, and they drove off. On

the opposite end of the school, shots had already been fired.

A freshman named Danny Rohrbough went to the commons to meet up

with two buddies. After a few minutes, they decided to head out for a

smoke. If the bombs had worked, that choice might have saved him. He

might have gotten out just in time. They headed out a side exit at the worst

moment, directly alongside the senior parking lot.

The bombers spent a minute or two by their cars. They knew the

diversionary bomb should have already blown three miles to the south. In

fact, it had fizzled. A surveyor working in the area had moved it, and then

the pipe bombs and one of the spray cans had detonated, producing a loud

bang and a grass fire. But the propane tanks--the main explosive force--lay

undisturbed in the burning field. The decoy was Eric's only big bomb to

ignite at all, but one of his dumber ideas. Officials learned of it just as the

shooting started, four minutes before the first call from the school. The

chief effect was to alert authorities that something was amiss in the area.

Nothing of consequence was diverted.

Eric and Dylan had to proceed on faith.

As far as Eric and Dylan knew, cops were already speeding south. They

would see the commons disintegrate, though. Each car was positioned for a

perfect view. The cafeteria would explode in front of them; they would

watch their classmates be torn apart and incinerated, and their high school

burning to the ground.

11. Female Down

At 11:18, the school stood intact. Some kids had already made it through

the lunch lines and were strolling outside, settling onto the lawn for a little

picnic. No sign of disturbance. The timing devices were not precise. No

digital readouts with seconds counting down in red numerals; they were

old-fashioned clocks with a third little alarm hand positioned two-fifths of

the way between the 3 and the 4. But they should have blown by now.

Hundreds of targets streamed out the student entrance. They hopped into

their cars and zipped away. Time for Plan B. There was no Plan B. Eric had

staggering confidence in himself. He left no indication that he planned for

contingencies. Dylan left no indication that he planned much of anything.

They could just proceed to Act II: mow the departers down in a cross fire

and advance on the exits as scripted. They still could have topped McVeigh.

But they didn't. The bomb failure appears to have rattled one of the boys.

No one observed what happened next. Either boy might have panicked,

but Eric was unflappable, the reverse of his partner. The physical evidence

also points to Dylan. Eric apparently acted swiftly to retrieve his emotional

young partner.

We don't know whether they employed their hand signals, or how they

came together. We know that Eric was in the prime location yet abandoned

it to come to Dylan's. And Eric moved quickly. Within two minutes, Eric

had figured out that the bombs had failed, grabbed his packs, crossed the lot

to Dylan's car, rushed with him to the building, and climbed the external

stairs to the west exit. That's the first place they were observed, at 11:19.

Their new position set them on the highest point on campus, where they

could survey both lots and all the exits on that side of the building. But it

took them away from their primary target: the student entrance, still

disgorging students. They could no longer triangulate or advance

aggressively without separating.

At 11:19 they opened the duffel bags at the top of the stairs, pulled out

the shotguns, and strapped them to their bodies. They locked and loaded the

semiautomatics. One of them yelled, "Go! Go!" Somebody, almost certainly

Eric, opened fire.

Eric wheeled around and shot at anyone he could see. Dylan cheered him

on. He rarely fired. They hit pedestrians among the trees, picnickers to the

south, kids coming up the stairs to the east. They tossed pipe bombs down

the stairs, into the grass, and onto the roof. And they shared a whole lot of

hoots and howls and hearty laughs. What a freaking wild time.

Rachel Scott and her friend Richard Castaldo were the first down. They

had been eating their lunch in the grass. Eric shot Richard in the arms and

torso. He hit Rachel in the chest and head. Rachel died instantly. Richard

played dead. Eric fell for it.

Danny and his smoking buddies Lance Kirklin and Sean Graves were

headed up the dirt path toward the stairs. They saw the gunmen firing, but

assumed it was a paintball game or a senior prank. It looked like fun. They

rushed straight toward the shooters, to get closer to the action. Danny got

out ahead, making it halfway up the stairs. Eric pivoted and fired his

carbine rifle. A shot tore through Danny's left knee: in the front and out the

back. He stumbled and began to fall. Eric fired again and again. As Danny

collapsed, he took a second bullet to the chest, and a third to the abdomen.

The upper round went straight through him as well, causing severe trauma

to his heart. It stopped pumping immediately. The third shot lacerated his

liver and stomach, causing major organ damage and lodging inside.

Lance tried to catch Danny, but realized he had been hit, too, multiple

times, in the chest, leg, knee, and foot.

Danny's face hit the concrete sidewalk. Death was almost instantaneous.

Lance went down on the grass. He blacked out, but continued to breathe.

Sean burst out laughing. He was sure it was paintball. They were part of

the game now.

Sean felt a shot zip by his neck. It left a cool breeze in its wake. He felt a

couple of pricks, like an IV needle being pulled out. He did not realize he

had been shot. He looked around. Both his friends were down. Pain signals

reached Sean's brain. It felt like someone had kicked him in the back. He

ran back for the door they had come out. He nearly made it. But the pain

overcame him, his legs gave out, and he collapsed. He couldn't feel his legs

anymore. He could not understand what had happened. He seemed to have

been shot by a tranquilizer gun.

Eric turned again and spotted five kids under a clump of pines in the

grass. He fired, and the kids took off running. One fell. He played dead, too.

Another took a hit but kept on running. The last three got away clean.

The shooters kept moving. Lance regained consciousness. He felt

someone hovering above him. He reached up toward the guy, tugged on his

pant leg, and cried for help.

"Sure, I'll help," the gunman said.

The wait seemed like forever to Lance. He described the next event as a

sonic blast that twisted his face apart. He watched chunks of it fly away.

Breaths came rapidly: air in, blood out. He faded out again.

Dylan made his way down the hill, toward Sean. Several people in the

cafeteria saw him coming. Someone ran out, grabbed Sean, and started

dragging him in. An adult stopped him. She said it was dangerous to move

a seriously injured person. Sean ended up propped in the entrance, with the

door pressed against him. Someone tried to step over him on the way out,

planted a foot into Sean's back, and said, "Oh, sorry, dude."

A janitor came by and reassured Sean. He held Sean's hand, said he

would stay with him, but he had to help kids escape first. He advised Sean

to play dead. Sean did.

Dylan fell for it again, or pretended to. He stepped right over Sean's

crumpled body and walked inside.

A stampede was under way in there. The lunch crowd had panicked.

Most took cover under tables; some ran for the stairs. Coach Sanders heard

the commotion in the faculty lounge and ran toward the danger.

"I don't think he even thought about it," his daughter Angela said later.

"His instinct was to save his kids."

Dave burst into the commons and tried to take charge. Two custodians

followed him to assist. Sanders directed students to get down. He rethought

that pretty quickly and yelled, "Run!"

Sanders looked around. There were exits in three directions, but most of

them looked bad. There was one plausible option: across the commons and

up the wide concrete stairway to the second floor. No telling what was up

there, but anything was better than this. Sanders led the way. He ran across

the open room unprotected, waving his arms to get the kids' attention and

yelling for them to follow. The tables offered little true protection, but they

felt a lot safer. It was scary out in the open. The kids trusted Coach Sanders,


A wave of students swelled behind Sanders. Most of the 488 people in

the commons followed him toward the stairs. He bolted to the top and spun

around to direct traffic. To the left! To the left! He sent them all down the

corridor toward the east exit, away from the senior parking lot.

"The whole time he was just saving people," a student said. "He took me

and just pushed me into a room."

Some students stopped to warn others; some just ran. Someone ran into

the choir room and yelled, "There's a gun!"

Half the kids took cover; the other half fled. A few doors down, in

Science Room 3, students were immersed in a chemistry test. They heard

something like rocks being thrown against the windows, but the teacher

assumed it was a prank. Stay seated and concentrate on your test, he said.


Dave Sanders stayed behind until every kid had passed. The tail end of the

mob was just pushing its way to the stairs as Dylan stepped inside the


There were twenty-four steps. About a hundred kids were caught on the

staircase, racing for cover on the second floor. They were wedged between

each other and the steel railings. Nowhere to take cover. They were arrayed

at different heights for easy access. Crouching was not an option--anyone

attempting to stop would get trampled. The cafeteria was roughly one

hundred feet wide. Dylan was in easy firing range. One or two pipe bombs

or one burst from his TEC-9 would have halted the entire advance. Dylan

took a few steps in, lifted his weapon up to firing position.

This was the second time since setting the timers that Dylan separated

from Eric. For the second time, Dylan appeared to lose his nerve. He swept

his rifle in an arc across the room. He watched the students disappear up the

stairs. He did not fire. He had only engaged his weapon a few times. Dylan

looked around, then turned and stepped back over Sean in the doorway. The

heavy door whacked Sean hard again in its grip. Dylan rejoined Eric at the

top of the stairs.

It's not clear why Dylan made his cafeteria excursion. Many have

speculated that he came down to see what went wrong with the bombs. But

he never went near them. He made no attempt at detonation. It's more likely

that Eric sent him in to check for opportunities and rev up the body count.

Dylan did nothing on his own, but Eric amused himself heartily at the top

of the stairs, shooting, laughing, and hurling pipe bombs. He spotted a

junior named Anne Marie Hochhalter getting up from the curb to make a

run for it. Eric hit her with a 9mm round. She kept running, and he hit her

again. This time she went down. A friend picked her up, dragged her to the

building, and got her out of Eric's sight. Then he let go of her and ran. He

ducked behind a car in the senior lot, and a pipe bomb exploded where

Anne Marie had first collapsed.

"This is awesome!" one of the killers yelled.

By the time Dylan rejoined Eric, they had used up all the easy targets.

Everybody caught outside had run like crazy or hidden. One last pack was

still in the open. These students had fled across the senior lot, climbed over

the chain-link fence, and were racing across the soccer field near the base of

Rebel Hill. Eric had a go at them. They were too far. Not out of range, just

too hard to hit. Dylan fired at the distant targets, too, bringing his total shot

count up to five. It was 11:23. The killers had enjoyed four heady minutes.


Deputy Gardner was the first officer alerted. The custodian radioed Gardner

as soon as he started the new surveillance tape and caught sight of kids near

the windows. The custodian sounded scared. The first 911 call came

through to Jeffco at the same time. A girl was injured in the senior parking

lot. "I think she's paralyzed," the caller said. The dispatch hit the police

band at 11:23, just as Gardner drove around the building to the commons

and Dylan rejoined Eric at the top of the stairs. "Female down," the

dispatcher said.

Gardner saw smoke rising and kids running. He heard gunshots and

explosions and a flurry of dispatches on his radio. He couldn't quite tell

where the commotion was coming from.


Four minutes into the mayhem, much of the student body was oblivious.

Hundreds were running for their lives, but more sat quietly in class. Many

heard the commotion; few sensed any danger. Most found it annoying. The

chaos and the solitude went on side by side, often only yards apart. As Dave

Sanders ushered kids to the commons staircase, part-time art teacher Patti

Nielson paced above him on hall-monitor duty. Sanders herded the lunch

crowd up the stairwell toward her, but then down a parallel hallway. Nearly

five hundred kids charged the length of the building. Nielson never saw or

heard them. She heard the racket outside, though. Some kids ran up saying

they heard gunfire. Nielson was annoyed. It was a prank, obviously, or a

video shoot. It had gone on far too long. She looked down the corridor to

the west exit. Through the large glass panes in the doors she could see a boy

with his back to her. He had a gun. He was firing it into the senior lot. She

assumed it was a prop, a loud one, and totally inappropriate. Nielson

stormed down the hallway to tell him to knock it off. A junior named Brian

tagged along to watch.

They approached the exit just as the shooters ran out of targets. There

were two sets of doors there, separated by an air lock. Nielson and Brian

passed the first set and reached for the second handles. Eric spotted them.

He turned, raised the rifle to his shoulder, aimed at Nielson, and smiled.

Then he fired. The glass shattered, but the bullet missed. Nielson still

thought it was a BB gun. Then she saw the size of the hole.

"Dear God!" she screamed. "Dear God! Dear God!"

She turned to run. He fired again. Another miss, but glass and metal

shards and possibly a grazing bullet tore through the back of her shoulder. It

burned. Brian had turned, too. Nielson heard him grunt, saw him lurch

forward. His back arched, his arms flared, and he hit the floor hard. That

looked bad, but he got right up onto his hands and knees to scurry back

through the first doors. It was shrapnel, just like hers.

She got down, too, and they crawled the short distance back to the first

doors. They got one partially open and squeezed through. Once they had

that door behind them, they rose to their feet and ran.

Nielson was desperate for a phone. The library seemed like an obvious

destination. It was just around the corner, spanning most of the south

hallway, behind a glass wall. Nielson saw dozens of kids milling about

inside, plainly visible to the shooters she pictured on her heels. She never

looked back to see.

Nielson ran into the library to warn them. "There's a kid with a gun!" she


There were no adults. That surprised Nielson. Teacher Rich Long had

rushed in moments before, yelled at everyone to get out, and then fled to

warn others. Patti Nielson had the opposite instinct. She ordered them


Then Nielson grabbed the phone behind the counter and punched in 9-

911. She concentrated on details, like the extra 9 for an outside line. Don't

waste a second!

Nielson expected the shooter to arrive any moment now. But Eric was not

following. He had been distracted. Deputy Gardner had pulled into the lot

with lights flashing and siren blaring. Gardner had stepped out of his car,

still confused about what he was walking into.

Eric opened fire. He got off ten rounds, all misses. Dylan did nothing.

Gardner took cover behind his police car. Eric didn't even hit that. Then

his rifle jammed. Eric fought to clear the chamber. Dylan fled into the


Gardner saw his opening. He laid his pistol across the roof and squeezed

off four shots. Eric spun around like he'd been hit. Neutralized, Gardner

thought. What a relief.

Seconds later, Eric was firing again. It was a short burst; then he retreated


It was 11:24. The outside ordeal lasted five minutes. Eric did most of the

shooting. He fired his 9mm rifle forty-seven times in that period and did not

use his shotgun. Dylan got just three shots off with the TEC-9 handgun and

two with his shotgun.

They headed down the hallway toward the library.


Dave Sanders heard the shots when Eric fired on Patti Nielson. Coach

Sanders ran toward the gunfire. He passed the library entrance just

moments after Nielson ran in. He spotted the killers at the other end of the

hallway. He wheeled around and ran for the corner.

A boy peeked out of the choir room just in time to see him flee. Sanders

wasn't just running for it, he was trying to clear students out of the line of

fire. "Get down!" he yelled.

12. The Perimeter

The story took twenty-eight minutes to hit local television. The networks

quickly followed. Something awful was happening at a high school near

Denver. Coverage began with confused reports about a shooting in the

outlying suburbs: no confirmation on injuries, but multiple shots--as many

as nine--and possible explosions. Automatic weapons might be involved,

possibly even grenades. A fire had been reported. SWAT teams were


CNN was locked in on Kosovo. NATO had gone to war over the

genocide there. Night had just fallen in Belgrade, and American warplanes

were massing on the horizon, about to pulverize fresh targets across the

Serb capital. At 11:54 A.M. Denver time, CNN cut to Jeffco and stayed there

nonstop, all afternoon. The broadcast networks began interrupting the

soaps. Columbine quickly overshadowed the war. No one seemed to know

what had actually happened. Was it still happening? Apparently. As the

networks went live with the story, gunfire and explosions were erupting

somewhere inside that school. Outside, it was mayhem: choppers circled,

and police, firefighters, parents, and journalists had descended on the

campus. Nobody was going inside. Fresh waves of support troops were

arriving by the minute, but they just crowded around the building.

Occasionally, students would scurry out.

Local stations kept surveying the area hospitals. "There are no patients

yet," a journalist reported from one. "But they are expecting one victim with

an ankle wound."

Jeffco 911 operators were overwhelmed. Hundreds of students were still

inside the building. Many had cell phones and were calling with conflicting

reports. Thousands of parents from all around the area were dialing the

same center, demanding information. Many students gave up on 911 and

called the TV stations. Local anchors began interviewing them live on the

air, and the cable networks picked up their feeds.

Witnesses confirmed injuries. A girl said she watched "like three people"

get shot.

"Did it look like they were shooting at specific people?" a reporter asked.

"They were just shooting. They were--they didn't care who they shot at;

they were just shooting and then they threw a grenade or they threw

something that blew up."

There seemed to be no end of "witnesses," though most had seen chaos

but no one causing it. A senior described the first moments of awareness:

"OK, I was sitting in math class, and all of a sudden we look out and there's

people that are sprinting down the math hall and we open the door, we hear

a shot, a loud bang, and then we hear some guy go 'holy crap, there's a guy

with a gun!' So everybody starts freaking out, one of my friends goes up to

the door and says there's a guy standing there. We evacuate to the corner of

our classroom and my teacher just doesn't know what to do because she's so


There appeared to be several shooters--all boys, all white, all Columbine

students. Some were shooting in the parking lot, some in the cafeteria, some

upstairs while roaming the halls. Somebody was positioned on the roof.

Some of the assault team wore T-shirts; others advanced in long black

trench coats. One pair included one of each. Some had hats, and one or two

were hiding behind ski masks.

Some of this mix-up was standard crime-scene confusion. Contrary to

popular conception, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable,

especially when witnesses were under duress. Memories get jumbled and

witnesses imagine missing details without realizing they're doing it. But

much of this misunderstanding was due to specific factors. Eric discarded

his trench coat at the top of the stairs almost as soon as he began shooting.

Dylan kept his on until he got to the library. Each costume change created

another shooter. The school's location on a hill, with nearby entrances on

both floors, allowed Eric and Dylan to be seen upstairs and downstairs

almost simultaneously. The long-range weapons scattered gunfire over a

shooting radius hundreds of yards wide. Distant witnesses had no idea

where the shooters were; they only knew they were under attack. Some

witnesses listened carefully and correctly located the source of the

turbulence----but the bomb blasts often led them astray, particularly when

bombs landed on the roof. Several kids were sure something was coming

from up there. They spotted a frightened air-conditioner repairman and

instantly identified him as the rooftop gunman.


Word whipped through the Columbine community. Kids called home on

their cell phones the minute they got to safety--or someplace they hoped

would remain safe. About five hundred students were off campus, either for

lunch or sick or cutting class. Their first sign of a problem came when they

hit police barricades as they tried to return. Cops were everywhere. More

cops than they had ever seen.

Nate Dykeman was one of the kids heading back in. He was stunned by

the stories he heard. Nate had gone home for lunch, same as he did every

day. But on the way out, he had seen something peculiar: Eric walking into

the building from the wrong parking lot at the wrong time. He should have

been walking out. Eric and Dylan had both been missing that morning.

They were up to something, obviously. Odd that they hadn't included him,

or called, at least. Maybe not Eric, he wasn't the most thoughtful friend, but

Dylan was. Dylan would have called.

There had been some weird shit going on between those two lately. Pipe

bombs and guns. When Nate heard about the shooting, he got nervous.

When someone mentioned the trench coats, that sealed it.

This isn't happening, Nate thought. This can't be happening.

He ran into his girlfriend, who was stopped at an intersection. She was

also a good friend of Eric's. She followed Nate home. Then Nate did the

same thing nearly everyone was doing: he started dialing friends, checking

in to make sure they were all safe. He wanted to call Dylan's house, but that

was just way too scary. Soon. He would call soon. He checked on some

other friends first.


While Deputy Gardner was firing at Eric, he knew help was on the way.

"Female down" at a high school unleashed a frenzy of police radio traffic.

Jeffco issued a metro-wide mutual-aid request, prompting police officers,

firefighters, and paramedics from around the city to begin racing toward the

foothills. The police band got so congested so quickly that Gardner couldn't

alert dispatch that he'd arrived. After engaging Eric, Gardner got back in his

car and radioed for backup. This time he got through. Gardner followed

protocol and did not pursue Eric inside.

Deputy Paul Smoker was a motorcycle cop, writing a speeding ticket on

the edge of Clement Park when the first dispatch came in. He radioed that

he was responding and gunned his motorcycle into the grass. He tore

through soccer fields and baseball diamonds and arrived at the north side of

the building just moments after Gardner's gunplay. He parked behind an

equipment shed, where a bleeding boy had taken shelter. Another patrol car

pulled up right behind him, then another. They all wound around the corner

from Gardner, just out of sight. The boy told them he had been shot by

"Ned Harris." Nobody had any paper, so a deputy wrote the name on the

hood of his patrol car.

They ran forward to help another bleeding student lying in the grass. As

they approached, they passed into Deputy Gardner's sight line, around the

corner. It had been two minutes since Gardner's gun battle with Eric, and he

was out of his car with his pistol drawn. Smoker and Gardner spotted each

other as Eric reappeared inside the west exit doorway.

"There he is!" Gardner yelled. He opened fire again.

Eric ducked back behind the door frame. He poked his rifle through the

shattered pane and returned fire. A couple of students were on the move

again, and Eric tried to nail them, too. Smoker could see where Gardner

was firing, but the doorway was blocked from view. He maneuvered down

to where he could see Eric and got off three shots. Eric retreated. Smoker

heard gunfire inside. More students ran out of the building. He did not


Deputies continued arriving. They attended to the scared and wounded

and struggled to determine what they were up against. Witnesses came to

them. Kids saw their police cars at the top of the hill and came running.

Some were bleeding. All were desperate. They lined up behind the cars and

crouched near the officers for protection.

They provided lots of accurate information. Reports on the police radio

conflicted wildly, but any one group in one location tended to offer

remarkably consistent accounts. These kids described two gunmen in black

trench coats shooting Uzis or shotguns and throwing hand grenades. At

least one appeared to be high school age, and some victims knew them.

Kids kept arriving. The cars were feeble protection, and the crowd was

likely to draw attention. The deputies decided it was paramount to evacuate

them. They directed some of the boys to tear their shirts into strips and treat

one another's wounds while they devised an escape plan. They decided to

line several patrol cars up as a defensive wall and shuttle the students to

safer ground behind them.

Every cop had been trained for events like this. Protocol called for

containment. The deputies broke into watch teams. They could cover a

handful of the twenty-five exits and protect those students who were

already out. "Setting up a perimeter," they called it. They would repeat the

"perimeter" phrase endlessly that afternoon. Paramedics were establishing

triage areas away from the school, and the deputies worked on getting the

kids there. Cops would lay down suppressive fire to protect evacuations and

scare off opportunistic attacks. They had no idea whether the gunmen were

still present, or interested. The officers did not observe or engage the

gunmen for some time.

Newly arriving officers covered additional exits. Gunfire was audible to

the first officers and continued through the arrival of hundreds more.

Deafening explosions kept erupting inside the school. The exterior walls

along the cafeteria and the library rumbled from some of the blasts. Deputy

Smoker could see the green windows buckling. Half a dozen students ran

out the cafeteria doors after one shock wave. They made it to another

deputy, who was guarding the south exits.

"Are we going to die?" one of the girls asked him. No. She asked again.

No. She kept asking.

The deputy thought the shooters might flee the building, cross the field,

and hop a chain-link fence separating the school grounds from the first


"We didn't know who the bad guy was, but we soon realized the

sophistication of their weapons," Deputy Smoker said later. "These were big

bombs. Big guns. We didn't have a clue who 'they' were. But they were

hurting kids."

When the networks went live around noon, hundreds of uniformed

responders were present. Thirty-five law enforcement agencies were soon

represented. They had gathered an assortment of vehicles, including a

Loomis Fargo armored truck whose driver had been working in the area.

One student counted thirty-five police cars speeding past him on his onemile ride home from school: "Ambulances and police cars barging over

medians and motorcycle cops weaving through opposite traffic almost

killing themselves," he said.

Half a dozen cops arrived every minute. Nobody seemed to be in charge.

Some cops wanted to assault the building, but that was not the plan. Whose

plan was this? Where had it come from?

They reinforced the perimeter.

Eric had exchanged fire with two deputies, at 11:24 and 11:26 A.M.--lfive

and seven minutes into the attack. Law enforcement would not fire on the

killers again or advance on the building until shortly after noon.

13. "1 Bleeding to Death"

Ribbons of yellow police tape marked the perimeter. No one was getting

out of there; the issue became getting in. Onlookers, journalists, and parents

were appearing as fast as policemen. They presented little threat to the

deputies but significant danger to themselves. Misty Bernall was one of the

early arrivals. She did not know that her daughter was in the library, or what

that might portend. She only knew Cassie was missing, along with her

freshman son, Chris.

Misty's yard backed right up to the soccer field where Eric had fired on

students, but she had arrived by a much more circuitous route. Misty was a

working mom, so she was not present to hear Eric fire toward her house.

But her husband, Brad, was. He had come home sick, heard a couple of

pops, but thought nothing of them. Firecrackers, maybe some pranksters.

He lived beside a high school. He was used to commotion. He didn't even

put his shoes on to have a look.

Half an hour later, Misty sat down to lunch with a coworker and got a

disturbing call. It was probably nothing, but she called Brad to check. He

put on his shoes. Brad went out back and peered over the fence. Bedlam.

The schoolyard was swarming with cops.

Misty Bernall was a tall, attractive woman in her mid-forties with a loud

voice and a commanding presence. She had full features and the same curly

blond hair as Cassie, worn in a similar style, though shorter, just past her

shoulders. She could be mistaken for a much older sister. Brad was taller,

with dark hair, and handsome--a big guy with a soft voice and a humble

demeanor. They shared an intense faith in the Lord, and they began begging

Him to save their kids.

They could cover more ground apart. Misty headed for the high school.

Brad hung by the phone.

At the perimeter, officers struggled to hold back the parental onslaught.

TV anchors broadcast their entreaties: "As difficult as it may be, please stay

away." But fresh waves of moms and dads kept swarming over the hill.

Misty gave up. Two rendezvous points had been set up. Misty chose the

public library on the other side of Clement Park. She found very few

students. Where were they?

When they poured out of the high school, students had seen two main

options: a subdivision across Pierce Street, or the wide-open fields of

Clement Park. Hardly anyone chose the park. They crouched behind

houses, worked themselves under shrubbery, rolled under cars. Any

semblance of protection. Some pounded frantically on front doors, but most

of the houses were locked. Stay-at-home moms started waving strangers in

off the street. "Kids were piling into houses," one student said. "There must

have been a hundred fifty or two hundred kids piled into this house."

The second rendezvous point, Leawood Elementary, sat in the heart of

that neighborhood, so most of the survivors gravitated there. Parents were

sent to the auditorium, where kids were paraded across the stage. Moms

shrieked, hugs abounded, unclaimed kids sobbed quietly backstage.

Because the kids were hard to keep in one place, sign-in sheets were posted

on the walls, so parents could see evidence in their child's own hand.

There was no parade of survivors at the public library. Misty was

conflicted. Leaving for Leawood was risky: the roads had been closed, so

everything was by foot now. She could easily miss her kids in transit. A

local minister got up on a chair and shouted: "Please stay here!" The fax

would arrive any minute, he assured them. They would be much better off

waiting. The fax was a copy of the sign-in sheets from Leawood. Misty

waited impatiently for its arrival.

The mood stayed tense but restrained. Commotion erupted in little bursts.

"Paul's OK!" a woman screamed. She held up her cell phone. "He's at

Leawood!" Her husband rushed over. They hugged, they wept. Tears were

rare. It was too scary to cry in fear; only reunion allowed release. A clump

of students would appear now and then over the hill. If they weren't claimed

immediately, a pack of moms would descend to interrogate them. Always

the same question: "How did you get out?!"

They needed reassurance there was a way out.

"I didn't know what to do," a young girl said. "We heard guns and I was

standing there and the teacher was crying and pointing to the auditorium

and everybody was running and screaming and we heard an explosion--I

guess that was a bomb or something. I didn't see this but we were trying to

find out and I guess they shot again and everyone started running and I was

like, What is going on! They started shooting again and there was complete

panic. People were shoving, they were going into the elevators and people

would like push people off and we were all just running..."

Most of the stories sputtered out like that: disjointed flurries of re-created

mayhem. The words ran together until the witness ran out of breath. A

winsome freshman was different. She was still in her Columbine gym

uniform, and recounted her escape dispassionately. She had faced the

gunmen in the hall. She was pretty sure one had run right past her, shooting.

But there was so much smoke and confusion, she wasn't sure what was

happening or where or anything. Bullets ricocheted down the corridor.

Glass shattered, metal clattered, chunks of plaster crashed down on the


Moms gasped. Someone asked if she'd feared for her life. "Not really,"

she said. "Because the principal was with us." She said it matter-of-factly,

with earnest conviction. It was just the tone a younger girl might have used

to explain that she felt safe with her daddy.

The stories were harrowing, but they reassured the moms. Every escape

was different, but they ended the same: the kids escaped. The accumulation

was soothing.

Misty questioned every kid. "Cassie!" she shouted. "Chris!" She worked

her way across the crowd and back again. Nothing.


Command had fallen to the newly elected Jeffco sheriff, John Stone. He had

not yet faced a murder case in office. The metro cops were horrified to

discover that the county was in charge. Many were open with their disgust.

City and even suburban officers thought of sheriff's deputies as security

guards. These were the guys who shuttled defendants to court from the jail.

They stood guard while the real cops testified about the crimes they had

responded to and investigated.

The grousing increased when they learned who was heading the

command. John Stone looked the part of an Old West sheriff: a big, burly

guy with a large potbelly and a thick gray mustache, weathered skin, and

craggy eyes. He wore the uniform, the badge, and the pistol, but he was a

politician. He had been a county supervisor for twelve years. He'd run for

sheriff last November and had taken the oath in January. He'd appointed

John Dunaway as his undersheriff. Another bureaucrat.

The sheriff and his team defended the perimeter. Gun blasts came and

went. The SWAT teams seethed. When was somebody going to allow them

to advance?

Dunaway named Lieutenant David Walcher incident commander.

Operations would now be directed by a man who did police work for a

living, with oversight from Dunaway and Sheriff Stone. The three set up a

command post in a trailer stationed in Clement Park, half a mile north of the


Just after noon, a SWAT team made its first approach on the school. The

officers commandeered a fire truck for cover. One man drove the truck

slowly toward the building, while a dozen more moved alongside. Near the

entrance, they split in half: six and six. Lieutenant Terry Manwaring's team

held back to lay down suppressive fire and later work its way to another

entrance. At approximately 12:06, the other six charged inside. Additional

SWAT team members arrived moments later and followed them.

The team thought they were in striking distance of the cafeteria. They

were on the opposite end of the building. Lieutenant Manwaring had been

inside Columbine many times, but he was unaware it had been remodeled

and the cafeteria moved. He was perplexed.

The fire alarm had not been silenced. The men used hand signals. Every

cupboard or broom closet had to be treated as a hot zone. Many doors were

locked, so they blasted them open with rifle fire. Kids trapped in classrooms

heard gunfire steadily approaching. Death appeared imminent. Parents,

reporters, and even cops outside heard the shots and came to similar

conclusions. One room at a time, the team worked methodically toward the

killers. It would take three hours to reach their bodies.

On the west side, where the killers were active, a fire department team

staged a riskier operation. Half a dozen bodies remained on or near the lawn

outside the cafeteria. Several showed signs of life. Anne Marie, Lance, and

Sean had been bleeding for forty minutes. Deputies along the perimeter

moved in closer to provide cover while three paramedics and an EMT

rushed in.

Eric appeared in the second-floor library window and fired on them. Two

deputies shot back. Others laid down suppressive fire. The paramedics got

three students out. Danny was pronounced dead and left behind.

Eric disappeared.

Lieutenant Manwaring's half of the SWAT team had inched around

outside the building using the fire truck for cover. They arrived at the

opposite side half an hour later. They rescued Richard Castaldo from the

lawn around 12:35, an hour and a quarter after he was shot. They made

another approach to retrieve Rachel Scott. They brought her back as far as

the fire truck. Then they determined she was dead, and aborted. They laid

her there on the ground. Finally, they went for Danny Rohrbough, unaware

of the prior finding. They left him on the sidewalk.

At 1:15, a second SWAT team charged the building from the senior lot,

smashed a window in the teachers' lounge, and vaulted in. The officers

quickly entered the adjacent cafeteria but found it nearly deserted. Food

was left half-eaten on the tables. Books, backpacks, and assorted garbage

floated about the room, which had been flooded by the sprinkler system.

Water was three to four inches high and rising. A fire had blackened ceiling

tiles and melted down some chairs. They did not notice the duffel bags, held

down by the weight of the bombs. One bag had burned away. The propane

tank sat exposed, mostly above water, but it blended into the debris. Signs

of panic were everywhere, but no injuries, no bodies, no blood.

There were lots of healthy people. The team was shocked to discover

dozens of terrified students and staff. They were crouched in storage

closets, up above the ceiling tiles, or plainly visible under cafeteria tables.

One teacher had climbed into the ceiling and tried to crawl clear through the

ductwork out to safety to warn police, but had fallen through and required

medical care. Two men were shivering in the freezer, so cold they could

barely lift their arms.

The SWAT team searched them and shuttled them out the window they

came in. At first that was easy, but the farther they moved, the more officers

they had to leave behind to secure the route. They brought in more

manpower to assist.

Overhead, circling steadily, chopper blades beat out a steady thuchthuch-thuch thuch-thuch-thuch.

Robyn Anderson watched it all from the parking lot. She had headed to

Dairy Queen with her friends, zipped through the drive-thru, and circled

back to school. There were a whole lot of cops when they got back. Officers

were assembling the perimeter, but the entrance to the senior lot was still

open. Robyn pulled into her space. A cop strode up with his gun drawn.

Stay where you are, he warned. It was already too late to back out. Robyn

and her friends would wait in her car for two and a half hours. Robyn

ducked when she saw Eric appear in the library window. She couldn't tell it

was him; she was too far back. All she could make out was a guy in a white

T-shirt firing a rifle in her general direction.

Who would do something like this? Robyn asked her girlfriends. Who

would be this retarded?

Robyn looked over to her friends' spaces. Eric, Dylan, and Zack had

assigned spots, three in a row. Zack's car was there. Eric's and Dylan's were



Nate Dykeman was terrified of who might be responsible. He had called

most of his close friends but had held off on Eric and Dylan. He had been

hoping to hear from them. Hoping, but not really expecting. Dylan would

break his heart. They had been tight for years. Nate spent a lot of time at his

house, and Tom and Sue Klebold had looked after him. Nate had a lot of

trouble at home, and the Klebolds had been like a second mom and dad.

Dylan did not call. Around noon, Nate dialed his house. Tom Klebold

would be home--he worked from there. Hopefully Dylan was with him.

Tom picked up. No, Dylan was not there. He's in school, Tom said.

Actually, no, he isn't, Nate said. Dylan had not been in class. And Nate

didn't want to worry Tom, but there had been a shooting. There had been

descriptions. The gunmen were in trench coats. Nate knew several kids with

trench coats--he was trying to account for all of them. He hated breaking

the news, but he had to say it. He thought Dylan was involved.

Tom went up to Dylan's room, checked his closet for the coat. "Oh my

God," he said. "It's not here."

Tom was shocked, Nate said later. "I thought he was going to, like, drop

the phone. He just could not believe that this could possibly be happening,

and his son was involved."

"Please keep me informed," Tom told him. "Whatever you hear."

Tom got off the phone. He turned on the TV. It was everywhere.

He called Sue. She came home. Tom called their older son. He and Sue

had kicked Byron out for using drugs--they would not tolerate that

behavior--but this was too important.

Tom apparently withheld his fears about Dylan. Byron told coworkers he

was terrified his brother was trapped. He was also worried about younger

friends still in school. "I've got to see if everybody's OK," he said.

Lots of Byron's workmates were connected to the school. They all

headed home.

Tom Klebold called 911 to warn them his son might be involved. He also

called a lawyer.


The televised version of the disaster was running thirty minutes to an hour

behind the cops' view. Anchors dutifully repeated the perimeter concept.

The cops had "sealed off the perimeter." But what were all those troops

doing, exactly? There were hundreds out there; everyone seemed to be

milling about. Anchors started wondering aloud. Luckily, no one seemed to

be seriously injured.

Around 12:30, the story took its first grisly turn. Local TV reporters

gained access to the triage areas. It was awful. So much blood, it was hard

to identify the injuries. Lots of kids had been loaded into ambulances; area

hospitals were all on alert.

Half a dozen news choppers circled, but they withheld most of their

footage. For a few minutes, stations had broadcast live from the air, but the

sheriff's team had demanded they stop. Every room in Columbine was

equipped with a television. The gunmen might well be watching. Cameras

would home in on the very images most useful to the killers: SWAT

maneuvers and wounded kids awaiting rescue. TV stations also held back

news of fatalities. Their chopper crews had seen paramedics examine

Danny and leave him behind. The public remained unaware.

The stations also caught glimpses of a disturbing scene playing out in a

second-story classroom in another wing of the building, far from the library,

in Science Room 3. It was hard to make out exactly what was going on in

there, but there was a lot of activity, and one disturbing clue. Someone had

dragged a large white marker board to the window, with a message in huge

block letters. The first character looked a lot like a capital I but turned out

to be a numeral: "1 BLEEDING TO DEATH."

14. Hostage Standoff

Around one P.M., word filtered out to reporters that kids were trapped in the

building. The situation had escalated into a hostage standoff. Publicly, the

nature of the attack changed. No telling what the assailants might try.

Where were they? The captives seemed to be held in the commons, but

reports conflicted.

Word of the ambulance scenes and the hostage standoff traveled quickly

to Leawood and the public library. Parents grew tenser, but they worked

together, exchanging information and passing around cell phones. It was

tough to get a signal. Cell phones were not ubiquitous in 1999, yet everyone

in this affluent community seemed to have one. They pounded at them

furiously, grilling neighbors, updating relatives, leaving messages for their

children on every conceivable answering machine. Some would hit Redial

absentmindedly as they swapped information face-to-face, buzzing their

own homes, praying that the machine wouldn't pick up this time. Misty kept

calling Brad. Still no word on Chris or Cassie.

Then a fresh story zipped through the pack: twenty students--or thirty or

forty--were still inside the school. They were not hostages; they were

hiding, barricaded in the choir room with equipment piled high against the

door. The parents gasped. Was that good news or bad? Dozens more

students were in danger, but dozens more confirmed alive--if it was true. A

lot of wild rumors had already come and gone.

At least two to three hundred students were hiding in the school, in

classrooms and utility closets, under tables and desks. Some had rigged up

protection; others were right out in the open. Everyone was afraid to move.

A great number whispered cautiously into cell phones. Many clustered

around classroom TVs. They heard banging and crashing and the deafening

screech of the fire alarm. CNN carried a live call between a local anchor

and a student alone under a desk. What was he hearing? The same thing as

you, the student said. "I've got a little TV [and I'm] watching you guys right

now." For four hours rumors, confirmations, and embellishments bounced

in and out.

The cops were livid. Reporters had no idea hundreds of kids were trapped

inside and no concept of the echo chamber in full bloom. The cops knew.

The detective force was assembling teams to interview every survivor, and

they knew hundreds of their best witnesses were still inside, getting

compromised by the minute. But the cops had no means to stop it. This was

the first major hostage standoff of the cell phone age, and they had never

seen anything like it. At the moment, they were more concerned with

information passing to the shooters. Sometimes the kids' revelations scared

reporters. On live TV, a boy described sounds he took to be the gunmen: "I

hear stuff being thrown around," he said. "I am staying underneath this

desk. I don't know if they know I'm up here. I am just staying upstairs for

right now, and I just hope they don't know--"

The anchorwoman interrupted: "Don't tell us where you are!"

The boy described more commotion. "There's a little bunch of people

crying outside. I can hear them downstairs." Something crashed. "Whoa!"

The anchor gasped. "What was that?!"

"I don't know."

The anchors had enough. Her partner told him to hang up, keep quiet,

and try to reach 911. "Keep trying to call them, OK?"

The cops pleaded with the TV stations to stop. Please ask the hostages to

quit calling the media, they said. Tell them to turn off the televisions.

The stations aired the requests and continued broadcasting the calls. "If

you're watching, kids, turn the TV off," one anchor implored. "Or down, at



Much of the country was watching the standoff unfold. None of the earlier

school shootings had been televised; few American tragedies had. The

Columbine situation played out slowly, with the cameras rolling. Or at least

it appeared that way: the cameras offered the illusion we were witnessing

the event. But the cameras had arrived too late. Eric and Dylan had

retreated inside after five minutes. The cameras missed the outside murders

and could not follow Eric and Dylan inside. The fundamental experience

for most of America was almost witnessing mass murder. It was the panic

and frustration of not knowing, the mounting terror of horror withheld, just

out of view. We would learn the truth about Columbine, but we would not

learn it today.

We saw fragments. What the cameras showed us was misleading. An

army of police held at bay suggested an equivalent force inside. Hysterical

witnesses corroborated that image, describing wildly different assaults.

Killers seemed to be everywhere. Cell phone callers confirmed the killers

remained active. They provided unimpeachable evidence of gunfire from

inside the attack zone. The data was correct; the conclusions were wrong.

SWAT teams were on the move.

The narrative unfolding on television looked nothing like the killers' plan.

It looked only moderately like what was actually occurring. It would take

months for investigators to piece together what had gone on inside. Motive

would take longer to unravel. It would be years before the detective team

would explain why.

The public couldn't wait that long. The media was not about to. They


15. First Assumption

An investigative team had assembled before noon. Kate Battan (rhymes

with Latin) was named lead investigator. Battan already knew who her

primary suspects were. Most of the students were perplexed about who was

attacking them, but quite a few had recognized the gunmen. Two names had

been repeated over and over. Battan quickly compiled dossiers on Eric and

Dylan in the command post trailer in Clement Park. She dispatched teams

to secure their homes. Detectives arrived at the Harris place at 1:15, just as

the third SWAT team burst into the Columbine teachers' lounge. Eric's

parents had gotten word and were already home. The cops found them

uncooperative. They tried to refuse entrance. The cops insisted. Kathy

Harris got scared when they headed for the basement. "I don't want you

going down there!" she said. They said they were securing the residence

and removing everyone. Wayne said he doubted Eric was involved, but

would help if there was an active situation. Kathy's twin sister was with her.

Wayne and Kathy were concerned about the repercussions, she explained;

parents of the victims might retaliate.

The cops smelled gas; they had the utility company shut off power, then

resumed the search. In Eric's room they found a sawed-off shotgun barrel

on a bookshelf, unspent ammunition on the bed, fingertips cut off gloves on

the floor, and fireworks and bomb materials on the desk, the dresser, the

windowsill, and the wall, among other places. Elsewhere they discovered a

page from The Anarchist Cookbook, packaging for a new gas can, and

scattered glass shards on a slab in the backyard. An evidence specialist

arrived that night and spent four hours, shooting seven rolls of film. He left

at 1:00 A.M.

The Klebolds were much more forthcoming. A police report described

Tom as "very communicative." He gave a full account of Dylan's past and

laid out all his friendships. Dylan had been in good spirits, Tom said. Sue

described him as extremely happy. Tom was anti-gun and Dylan agreed

with him on that--they wouldn't find any guns or explosives in the house,

that was for sure, Tom said. The cops did find pipe bombs. Tom was

shocked. Dylan was fine, he insisted. He and Dylan were close. He would

have known it if anything was up.

The first FBI agent on the scene at Columbine was Supervisory Special

Agent Dwayne Fuselier. He had shaken the Cajun accent, on everything but

his name. FUSE-uh-lay, he said. Everyone got it wrong. He was a veteran

agent, a clinical psychologist, a terrorism expert, and one of the leading

hostage negotiators in the country. None of that led Dr. Fuselier to

Columbine High. His wife had called. Their son was in the school.

Fuselier got the call in the cafeteria of Denver's Rogers Federal Building,

a downtown high-rise thirty minutes away. He was sipping a bowl of bland

soup---lowsalt, for his hypertension. The bowl stayed on the table. When he

got to his Dodge Intrepid, Fuselier swiped his arm under the seat, groping

for the portable police light. He hadn't pulled it out in years.

Fuselier headed toward the foothills. He would offer his services as a

hostage negotiator, or anything else they might need. He wasn't sure how

his offer would be received.

Cops in crisis tend to be thrilled to have a trained negotiator but wary of

the Feds. Hardly anyone likes the FBI. Fuselier didn't blame them. Federal

agents generally have a high opinion of themselves. Few try to conceal it.

Fuselier didn't look like a Fed, or sound the part. He was a shrink turned

hostage negotiator turned detective, with an abridged version of the

complete works of Shakespeare in the back seat of his car. He didn't talk

past the local cops, roll his eyes, or humor them. There was no swagger in

his shoulders or his speech. He could be a little stoic. Hugging his sons felt

awkward but he would reach out to embrace survivors when they needed it.

Smiling came easy. His jokes were frequently at his own expense. He

genuinely liked local cops and appreciated what they had to offer. They

liked him.

A stint on the domestic terrorism task force for the region proved

fortuitous. It was a joint operation between local agencies and the FBI.

Fuselier led the unit, and a senior Jeffco detective worked on his team. The

detective was one of Fuselier's first calls. He was relieved to hear that

Dwayne was on his way and offered to introduce him to the commanders on


The detective brought Fuselier up to speed before he arrived at the

school. There were reports of six or eight gunmen in black masks and

military gear shooting everyone. He assumed it was a terrorist attack.

It took a certain voice to talk down a gunman. Agent Fuselier was always

gentle and reassuring. No matter how erratic the subject's behavior, Fuselier

always responded calmly. He exuded tranquillity, offered a way out. He

trained negotiators to read a subject quickly, to size up his primary

motivations. Was the gunman driven by anger, fear, or resentment? Was he

on a power trip? Was the assault meant to feed his ego, or was he caught up

in events beyond his control? Getting the gun down was primarily a matter

of listening. The first thing Fuselier taught negotiators was to classify the

situation as hostage or nonhostage. To laymen, humans at gunpoint equaled

hostages. Not so.

An FBI field manual citing Fuselier's research spelled out the crucial

distinction: hostages are a means to fulfill demands. "The primary goal is

not to harm the hostages," the manual said. "In fact, hostage takers realize

that only through keeping the hostages alive can they hope to achieve their

goals." They act rationally. Nonhostage gunmen do not. The humans mean

nothing to them. "[These] individuals act in an emotional, senseless, and

often-self-destructive way." They typically issue no demands. "What they

want is what they already have, the victim. The potential for homicide

followed by suicide in many of these cases is very high."

Jeffco officials had labeled Columbine a hostage standoff. Every media

outlet was reporting it that way. Dr. Fuselier considered the chances of that

remote. What he was driving toward was much worse.

To the FBI, the nonhostage distinction is critical. The Bureau

recommends radically different strategies in those cases--essentially, the

opposite approach. With hostages, negotiators remain highly visible, make

the gunmen work for everything, and firmly establish that the police are in

control. In nonhostage situations, they keep a low profile, "give a little

without getting in return" (for example, offering cigarettes to build rapport),

and avoid even a slight implication that anyone but the gunman is in

control. The goal with hostages is to gradually lower expectations; in

nonhostage crises, it's to lower emotions.

One of the first things Fuselier did when he arrived was organize a

negotiation team. He found local officers he had trained, and fellow FBI

negotiators responded as well. A neighboring county loaned them a section

of its mobile command post, already on scene. The 911 operators were

instructed to put through to the team all calls from kids inside the building.

Anything they could learn about the gunmen might be useful. They passed

on logistical information they gathered to the tactical teams. The team was

confident they could talk the gunmen down. All they needed was someone

to speak to.

Fuselier shuttled between the negotiation center and the Jeffco command

post, coordinating the federal response. When things calmed down

momentarily, Fuselier pitched in questioning students who had just escaped

the school. He walked over to the triage unit and flipped through the logs.

They had evaluated hundreds of kids. He scanned for kids he knew from the

neighborhood or the boys' soccer teams. Everyone he recognized said

"evaluated and released." He called their parents as soon as he got a break.

His son's name never came up. Agent Fuselier was grateful to have his

hands full. "I had work to do," he said later. "I compartmentalized. Focusing

on that kept me from wondering about Brian." Mimi checked in regularly,

so Dwayne didn't have to. She had gotten to Leawood, and she had seen a

lot of kids. No one had spotted Brian; no one had heard a word.


An attack of this magnitude suggested a large conspiracy. Everyone,

including detectives, assumed a substantial number were involved. The first

break in the presumed conspiracy seemed to come early. The killers' good

friend Chris Morris reported himself to 911. He had seen the news on TV

while he was home playing Nintendo with another friend. At first he was

worried about his girlfriend. And his Nintendo buddy's dad was a science

teacher in the building.

The two boys hopped in the car and raced around, trying to find Chris's

girlfriend. They kept running into police barricades and collecting scraps of

information along the way. When he heard about the trench coats, Chris got

scared. He knew Eric and Dylan had guns. He knew they had been messing

with pipe bombs. For this?

Chris called 911. He got disconnected. It took a few tries, but he told his

story and the dispatcher sent a patrol car by the house. The cops questioned

him briefly, then decided to drive him out to the main team in Clement

Park. There was a lot of confusion. Who was this kid? "Chris Harris?" a

detective asked. Pretty soon he was surrounded by detectives. Cameramen

noticed. TV crews came running.

Chris looked the part: squishy features, nerdy, and overwhelmed. He had

rosy cheeks, wire-rimmed glasses, and mussy light brown hair just past his

ears. The cops cuffed him fast and got him into the back of a patrol car.

By now, many of the killers' buddies suspected them. It was a scary time

to be Eric's or Dylan's friend.


From the outset, before they even had names or identities for the gunmen,

TV reporters depicted the boys as a single entity. "Were they loners?"

reporters kept asking witnesses. "Were they outcasts?" Always they. And

always the attributes fitting the school shooter profile--itself a myth. The

witnesses nearly always concurred. Few knew the killers, but they did not

volunteer that information, and they were not asked. Yeah, outcasts, I heard

they were.

Fuselier arrived at Columbine with one assumption: multiple gunmen

demanded multiple tactics. Fuselier couldn't afford to think of his

adversaries as a unit. Strategies likely to disarm one shooter could infuriate

the other. Mass murderers tended to work alone, but when they did pair up,

they rarely chose their mirror image. Fuselier knew he was much more

likely to find a pair of opposites holed up in that building. It was entirely

possible that there was no single why--and much more likely that he would

unravel one motive for Eric, another for Dylan.

Reporters quickly keyed on the darker force behind the attack: this

spooky Trench Coat Mafia. It grew more bizarre by the minute. In the first

two hours, witnesses on CNN described the TCM as Goths, gays, outcasts,

and a street gang. "A lot of the time they'll, like, wear makeup and paint

their nails and stuff," a Columbine senior said. "They're kind of--I don't

know, like Goth, sort of, like, and they're, like, associated with death and

violence a lot."

None of that would prove to be true. That student did not, in fact, know

the people he was describing. But the story grew.

16. The Boy in the Window

Danny Rohrbough had been second to die. As Eric was taking aim at him

on the sidewalk, Danny's stepsister was in the building, headed toward him.

Nicole Petrone had changed into her gym uniform while the bombs were

being laid. It was a beautiful day, and her class was going outside to play

softball. Just as Eric finished shooting at Deputy Gardner, the lead girls in

Nicole's class turned the corner toward them.

Mr. D arrived in the hallway at the same moment--at the opposite end

from the killers. He had just been alerted to the shooting, and had come

running to investigate. The girls had not been warned. Mr. D spotted Dylan

and Eric coming in the west doors, and the girls blundering into their path.

"They were laughing and giggling and getting ready to walk right into it,"

he said.

The killers fired. Bullets soared past the girls. The trophy case just

behind Mr. D shattered.

"I assumed I was a dead man," he said.

He ran straight into the gunfire, screaming at the girls to turn back. He

herded them down a side hallway that dead-ended at the gym. It was


Mr. D had the key, on a chain in his pocket, latched to dozens just like it.

He had no idea what it looked like. "I'm thinking, He's coming around the

corner and we're trapped," DeAngelis said. "If I don't get these doors open,

we are trapped." A movie image zipped through his mind: a Nazi

concentration camp, with a guard shooting escapees in the back. We're just

going to get mowed down as he comes around the corner, he thought. He

reached in and grabbed a random key. It fit.

He ushered the girls into the gym and scouted around for a hiding place.

They could hear bombs and gunfire and he could only imagine the hell

going on outside. He spotted an inconspicuous door on the far wall. There

was a storage room behind it, with cages piled with gym equipment. He

unlocked the door and led them in.

"You're going to be fine," he told them. "I'm not going to let anything

happen to you. But I need to get us out of here. I'm going to shut the door

behind me. You don't open that door for anyone!" Then he had an idea.

Why didn't they come up with a code word? Orange, someone suggested;

no, Rebels, another girl said; no... A few started quarreling about it. Mr. D.

couldn't believe it. He burst out laughing. Girls started giggling. That broke

the tension, for a moment.

He locked them in the storeroom, crossed the gym, creaked open the

outside door, and poked his head out. "I saw other kids coming out and

teachers," he said. "Then a Jeffco sheriff--his car came over that

embankment, flying, and I told some of the teachers, 'I have to go back in

there! There are kids in there.' So I told the police officer after he got out

and I explained. He said, 'You go in.'"

Mr. D brought Nicole's class back out to the same spot with the same

cop, but by now he'd realized there were hundreds more still inside.

"I'm going--" he began, but a deputy cut him off.

"No one's going back in."

So Mr. D led the class across a field, over a series of minor obstacles. He

stopped at a chain-link fence to boost them over. Other girls assisted from

the far side. "Let's go, girls," he said. "Over the fence."

When the last girl was over, they ran across the field until they felt safe.

Mr. D found the command post and drew diagrams of the hallways for the

SWAT teams. He also described what he had seen. He remembered a guy

with a baseball cap turned backward. "They kept saying these guys were in

trench coats," Mr. D recalled later, "and I kept saying, 'These guys were not

in trench coats! He had a baseball cap turned backwards.'"

Eventually, Mr. D headed to Leawood to be with the kids. He met his

wife there, his brother, and a close friend. Tears streamed down everyone's

cheeks, except Frank's. That was odd. Frank had always been the emotional

one. But the first symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was

already taking hold. He felt nothing.

"I was like a zombie," he said later.


John and Kathy Ireland knew Patrick had "A" lunch. But he always ate out.

John went looking for Patrick's car. He knew Patrick's spot. If the car was

gone, his boy was safe. A deputy stopped him at the perimeter. "Please!"

John begged. He promised not to walk as far as the school. "If I can just get

to the parking lot..." Pleading was useless. John knew the neighborhood, so

he tried another approach. That one was blocked, too. He headed back to


Kids kept pouring in there. Mostly the auditorium was filled with parents

seeking kids, but there were also kids without parents. John saw several in

tears. He chatted with them, and they perked up.

John and Kathy were happy to see kids find their parents. But every

reunion raised the odds their boy was in trouble. Somebody's kids were in

those ambulances. John and Kathy refused to indulge in negative thoughts.

"I couldn't go to the place that Pat would have been hurt," Kathy said later.

"I absolutely felt confident that he was going to be OK. At least I wasn't

going to speculate or waste energy on that. I just needed to find him."

John found lots of Patrick's friends, but nobody had seen him. Who was

he with? Why hadn't they called?

Patrick had gone to the library to finish his stats homework. Four friends

had joined him. None of them had called the Irelands because every one of

them had been shot.


Agent Dwayne Fuselier was also having no luck locating his son. Mimi had

given up on the public library and had run over to Leawood. There were

many more kids there, but none had seen Brian.

Dwayne had access to a growing army of law enforcement, but it didn't

do him a lick of good. Cops kept an ear out for word of Brian, but none

came. Fuselier also had the advantage of knowing a great number of kids

were alive and well in the building. He had spoken to many personally, and

continued picking their brains about the killers. He was one of the few

parents aware of the full danger. Two bodies had been lying outside the

cafeteria for hours. He didn't know they were Danny Rohrbough and Rachel

Scott, but he knew they had not been moving, and then he heard the

dispatch announcements indicating they were dead. Others described the 1

BLEEDING TO DEATH sign in Science Room 3.

Mimi monitored the stage at Leawood, where talk of death and murder

were verboten. She scoured the sign-in sheets and worked the crowd.

Dwayne checked in every fifteen minutes by cell, but did not mention the

murders. She did not inquire.


For ninety minutes of chaos, the gunmen seemed to be all over the school

simultaneously. Then it quieted down. The killers still appeared to be

roaming, firing at will, but the gunfire was sporadic now, and no one was

staggering out wounded. The injured had reached the hospitals. It had taken

an hour to get most of them out of the building, through the triage center,

and into ambulances. Between 1:00 and 2:30 P.M., the injury count fluctuated

between eight and eighteen, depending upon which station you were

watching. The numbers varied but kept rising. A sheriff's spokesman

announced that SWAT teams had spotted more students trapped in the

building, lying on the floor, apparently injured.

Suddenly, at 1:44 P.M., the cops finally nabbed someone. "We've got three

[students], with their hands up with two police cars around them," a reporter

told CNN. "Their hands are up." The cops detained them at gunpoint.

Word spread quickly to the library. "They surrendered!" a woman

screamed. "It's over!"

They celebrated there briefly. The truth trickled back slowly.


Just before 2:30, an officer riding along in a news chopper spotted

somebody moving inside the library. He was just inside the blown-out

windows, covered in blood and behaving curiously: sagging against the

frame, clearing away shards of glass. He was going to jump!

The officer radioed a SWAT team. They revved the Loomis armored

truck and raced toward the building.

"Hang on, kid!" one of them called. "We're coming to get you."

Patrick Ireland was confused. He heard someone yell, but couldn't see

anyone or figure out where the voices were coming from. He felt dizzy. His

vision was blurry and one big section was blank. He was unaware that

blood was streaming down into his eyes. The shouting inside his head was

more important: Get out! Get out!

But the muddled outside yelling had caught his attention. Why were they

talking so slowly? Everything was deep and mumbly, like his head was

underwater. Where was he? Not sure. Something had happened, something

horrible. Shot? Get out! Get out!

Hours earlier, Patrick Ireland had taken refuge under the table with his

friends. Makai and Dan were down there, and a girl he didn't know. Corey

and Austin had gone to investigate and ended up somewhere unknown.

Patrick put his head down and closed his eyes. The shooting was barely

under way in the library when he heard Makai moan. Patrick opened his

eyes. Makai's knee was bleeding. Patrick leaned over to administer

pressure. The top of his head poked over the edge of the tabletop. Dylan

saw him, and fired the shotgun again. Patrick went blank.

Patrick's skull had stopped several buckshot fragments. Other debris

lodged in his scalp as well--probably wood splinters torn from the tabletop

in the blast. One pellet got through. It burrowed six inches through spongy

brain matter, entering through the scalp just above his hairline on the left,

and lodging near the middle rear. Bits of his optical center were missing;

most of his language capacity was wiped out. He regained consciousness,

but words were hard to form and difficult to interpret as well. Pathways for

all sorts of functions had been severed. Perception was impeded, so he

couldn't tell when he was speaking gibberish or jumbling incoming sounds.

The left brain controls the right side of the body, and the pellet cut through

that connection. Patrick was paralyzed on the right side. He had been shot

in the right foot; it was broken and bleeding--he didn't even know. He felt

nothing on that side.

Patrick drifted in and out. He was semiconscious when the killers left the

room. All the kids were running for the back exit. Makai and Dan tried to

get his attention. He returned a blank stare.

"Come on, man," one of them said. "Let's go!"

It didn't register. They tried to drag him, but both had been shot in the

legs and Patrick was limp. They got nowhere. The killers could return any

moment. Eventually, they gave up and fled.

Sometime later, Patrick woke up on the floor again. Get out! He tried to

get out. Half his body refused. He couldn't stand; he couldn't even crawl

right. He reached with his left hand, gripped something, and dragged

himself forward. His useless side trailed behind. He made a little progress,

and his brain gave out.

He came to repeatedly and began again. No one knows how many times.

A bloody trail revealed his convoluted path. He started less than two table

lengths from the windows, but he headed off in the wrong direction. Then

he hit obstacles: bodies, table legs, and chairs. Some he pushed away, others

had to be maneuvered around. He kept heading for the light. If he could just

make it to the windows maybe someone would see him. If he had to, maybe

he would jump.

It took three hours to get there. He found an easy chair beside the

opening. It was sturdy enough not to tip, and might provide cover if the

killers returned. He wedged his back against the short wall and worked

himself upward, then grabbed hold of the chair for a final push. He propped

himself against the girder between two large panes and rested awhile to

recover his strength. Then he flipped around. He had one more task before

he took the plunge.

The problem was that Patrick couldn't jump. There was a waist-high

window ledge to get over. The best he could do was lean forward and

tumble over it headfirst onto the sidewalk. His gut would bear down on the

sill as he rolled over it. It was a jagged mess. The gun blasts had blown out

most of the glass, but left shards clinging around the frame. Patrick stood on

one leg, braced his shoulder against the girder, and picked away the chunks

with the same hand. He was meticulous. He didn't want to get hurt.

That's when he heard the murky voices.

"Stay there! We're gonna get you!"

The armored truck pulled up beneath the window. A squadron of SWAT

officers leapt out. Nearby teams provided cover from either side. One group

took aim from behind a fire truck; snipers sprawled on rooftops trained their

scopes from farther back. If this rescue mission was fired upon, they'd be


Patrick wasn't waiting. He thought he was. He remembers them calling

"OK, it's safe! Go ahead and jump. We'll catch you." The rescue team

recalls it differently, and the video shows them still scrambling into place.

Patrick collapsed forward. The ledge caught him at the waist, and he

folded in half, head dangling toward the ground. The SWAT team wasn't

ready, but Patrick was frantic and didn't understand. He wiggled forward,

but couldn't get much traction from the inside, because his feet were already

up off the floor.

A SWAT officer clambered up the side of the truck and threw his weapon

to the ground. Another followed close behind him. As the first man hit the

truck roof, Patrick kicked his good leg up toward the ceiling, and reached

down for the sidewalk with his arms. That nearly did it. One more thrust

and he would be free.

The officers lunged toward him and each man caught one of his hands.

Patrick kicked again, completely vertical, and his hips pulled away from the

frame. The officers clenched and his hands barely moved. The rest of his

body spun around like a gymnast gripping the high bar, until he whacked

into the side of the truck. The officers kept hold and eased him down onto

the hood. He tried to break away, still desperate to flee. They lowered him

down to other officers, but he kicked hard and his legs slammed against the


They pulled him upright, and he tried to climb into the front seat. The

SWAT team was confused. What was he trying to do? They assumed he

understood he was the patient. He did not. He had to get out of there. Here

was a truck; he was ready to go.

They got him to a triage site, and then straight into an ambulance. On the

drive to St. Anthony Central Hospital, paramedics cut off Patrick's bloody

clothes--everything but his undershorts. They removed his gold necklace

with the water-ski pendant. He had six dollars in his wallet. He was not

wearing shoes. They confirmed gunshot wounds to his left forehead and his

right foot, as well as a number of superficial wounds about his head. His

elbow was lacerated. As they worked, they tested Patrick's mental acuity

and tried to keep him conscious. Do you know where you are? Your name?

Your birthday? Patrick could answer those questions--slowly, laboriously.

The answers were easy, but he struggled to form them into words. Most of

his brain tissue was intact. Sections could function in isolation, but the

connecting circuitry was confused. Patrick's brain was less successful

forming new memories. He knew he had been shot, by a man in black with

a long gun. That was true. The masks he described on the killers' faces were

not. He insisted he had been shot at a hospital, in the emergency room.

Speech was a problem. Only one side of his mouth moved, and his brain

was inconsistent in retrieving information. Sometimes it got stuck. He gave

them all ten digits of his phone number, but his first name was nearly

impossible. Paaaaaaaaaaaaaah... Paaaaaaaaaah... He could not form that

second syllable. It sounded like a droning stream of nonsense and then the

second syllable spat out suddenly, clear and distinctive: rick. Great. Rick

Ireland. That caused considerable confusion later.


Just before Patrick's rescue, President Clinton addressed the nation. He

asked all Americans to pray for students and teachers in that school. As

CNN cut back from the White House, an anchor spotted Patrick: "Look,

there's a bloody student right there in the window!" she gasped.

It played out live on television. Patrick's eighth-grade sister Maggie

watched. He was so bloody, she didn't recognize him.

Viewers were stunned, but it didn't make much of an impression at the

rendezvous points. News of a kid falling out the window never reached

most parents, including John and Kathy. They might have gone on

searching for hours if Kathy hadn't asked a neighbor to run by the house to

check the answering machine. The neighbor found endless messages from

Kathy checking for Patrick, plus a recent one from St. Anthony's: We have

your son. Please call.

Kathy was conflicted: My son's alive! My son is hurt! "It was scary,"

Kathy said later. "But I was relieved to have something to deal with."

She felt much better once she got a nurse on the phone. It was a head

wound, but Patrick was awake and alert; he had provided his name and

phone number. Oh, good, it was just a graze, Kathy thought. "I just went

straight to the assumption that it was just the scalp," she said later. "If he

was able to talk, then it was just the scalp."

John felt grave danger, no relief. "I just figured anybody shot in the head,

it can't be good," he said.

John drove the couple to the hospital. He was a computer programmer,

who prided himself on his navigational skill. He was too upset to find the

hospital. He knew exactly how to get to St. Anthony's, he said. "And I'm

driving down Wadsworth and I can't remember where the hell it is!"

They sat side by side, presuming they shared the same basic assumptions.

It was seven years before they discovered that they arrived at St. Anthony's

in completely different mind-sets.

John was racked with guilt. "There should have been something I was

able to do to protect him," he said. John knew it was irrational, but years

later, it still haunted him.

Kathy focused on the present: How could she help Patrick now? But no

one even knew exactly what was wrong. Staff kept coming in to check on

them, filling them in on the surgery, what to expect in Patrick and

themselves. Dead brain cells do not regenerate, but the brain can sometimes

work around them, they were told. No one really understands how the brain

reroutes its neural pathways, so there's no procedure to assist it.

A projectile to the brain tends to cause two sets of damage. First, it rips

away tissue that can never be restored. One path might cause blindness,

another logical impairment. But the secondary impact can be just as bad or

worse. The brain is saturated with blood, so gunshots tend to unleash a

flood. As fluid builds, oxygen is depleted and the pool cuts off fresh

supplies. Brain tissue is choked off by the very cells designed to nourish it.

Patrick's doctors feared that as he'd lain on the library floor, his brain had

been drowning in its own blood.

Patrick Ireland had brain damage; that was a fact. His symptoms

indicated severe impairment. The only question was whether those

functions could return.

The surgery was scheduled to take about an hour, but lasted more than

three. It was after 7:00 P.M. when the surgeon came out to advise John and

Kathy of the results. He had cleared out buckshot fragments and debris

from the surface. One pellet had penetrated Patrick's skull. It was far too

perilous to dig out. That lead would be in him for life. It was hard to tell

how much damage the pellet had wreaked. Swelling was the main indicator.

It looked bad.


As one SWAT team rescued Patrick Ireland, another squad reached the choir

room. The rumor was true: sixty students were barricaded inside. A few

minutes later, sixty more were discovered in the science area. SWAT teams

led them through the hallways, down the stairs, and across the commons.

At 2:47, three and a half hours into the siege, the first of those kids burst

out the cafeteria doors. News choppers homed in on them instantly. The

anchors and the TV audience were perplexed. Where were these kids

coming from?

More followed, single file in quick succession, running down the hillside

as fast as they could with their hands on the backs of their heads, elbows

splayed. They kept coming and coming, dozens of them, tracing the same

winding path, first away from the school, then back toward a windowless

corner surrounded by squad cars and ambulances. They huddled there for

several minutes, sobbing, waiting, clinging to one another. Police officers

patted them down and then hugged them. Eventually, cops packed groups of

three to five kids into squad cars and shuttled them to the triage area a few

blocks south. The kids had to run right past two bodies on the way out, so at

some point, an officer moved Rachel farther away.

The SWAT team reached the 1 BLEEDING TO DEATH sign on the same sweep through

the science area that freed all those kids. The sign was still against the

window. The carpet in Science Room 3 was soaked in blood. The teacher

was alive, barely.

17. The Sheriff

The Columbine crisis was never a hostage standoff. Eric and Dylan had no

intentions of making demands. SWAT teams searched the building for over

three hours, but the killers were lying dead the entire time. They had

committed suicide in the library at 12:08, forty-nine minutes after beginning

the attack. The killing and the terror had been real. The standoff had not.

The SWAT teams discovered the truth around 3:15. They peered into the

library and saw bodies scattered around the floor. No sign of movement.

They cleared the entrance and prepared to enter. They took paramedic Troy

Laman in with them. The SWAT team warned Laman to be cautious. Touch

as little as possible, they said; anything could be booby-trapped. Be

especially suspicious of backpacks.

It was horrible. The room was a shambles; blood spattered the furniture,

and enormous pools soaked into the carpet. The tabletops were oddly

undisturbed: books open, calculus problems under way, a college

application half-completed. A lifeless boy still held a pencil. Another had

collapsed beside a PC, which was still running, undisturbed.

Laman was tasked with determining whether anyone was alive. It didn't

look like it. Most of the kids had been dead for nearly four hours, and it was

obvious by sight. "If I couldn't get a look at somebody, at their face, to see

if they were still alive, I tried to kind of touch them," Laman said. Twelve

were cold. One was not. Laman touched a girl, felt the warmth, and rolled

her over to get a look at her face. Her eyes were open, tears trickling out.

Lisa Kreutz was carried down the stairs and rushed to Denver Health

Medical Center. A gun blast had shattered her left shoulder. One hand and

both arms were also injured. She had lost a lot of blood. She survived.

Most of the bodies lay under tables. The victims had been attempting to

hide. Two bodies were different. They lay out in the open, weapons by their

sides. Suicides, clearly. The SWAT team had descriptions of Eric and

Dylan. These two looked like a match. It was over.

The team discovered four women hiding in back rooms attached to the

library. Patti Nielson, the art teacher from the 911 call, had crept into a

cupboard in the break room. She had squatted in the cupboard for three

more hours, knees aching, unaware the danger had passed. Three other

faculty hid farther back. An officer instructed one to put her hand on his

shoulder and follow him out, staring directly at his helmet, to minimize

exposure to the horror.

It had been over how long? No one knew. With the fire alarm blaring,

none of the staff had been close enough to hear.

Detectives would piece it together eventually--how long the attack had

lasted, and how long Eric and Dylan had killed. Those would turn out to be

very different answers. Something peculiar had transpired seventeen

minutes into the attack.


The investigation outpaced the SWAT teams. Detectives were combing the

park, the library, Leawood Elementary, and the surrounding community.

They interviewed hundreds of students and staff--everyone they could find.

When waves of fresh survivors outnumbered police officers, they conducted

thirty-to sixty-second triage interviews: Who are you? Where were you?

What did you see? Friends of the killers and witnesses to bloodshed were

identified quickly, and detectives were waved over for lengthier interviews.

Lead investigator Kate Battan performed some interviews personally; she

was briefed on the rest. Battan was intent on getting every detail right--and

avoiding costly errors that might come back to haunt them later. "Everyone

learned a lot from hearing about the O. J. Simpson case and JonBenet

Ramsey," she said later. "We didn't need another situation like those."

Her team also ran a simple search on Jeffco computer files and found

something stunning. The shooters were already in the system. Eric and

Dylan had been arrested junior year. They got caught breaking into a van to

steal electronic equipment. They had entered a twelve-month juvenile

Diversion program, performing community service and attending

counseling. They'd completed the program with glowing reviews exactly

ten weeks before the massacre.

More disturbing was a complaint filed thirteen months earlier by Randy

and Judy Brown, the parents of the shooters' friend Brooks. Eric had made

death threats toward Brooks. Ten pages of murderous rants printed from his

Web site had been compiled. Someone in Battan's department had known

about this kid.

Battan organized the information and composed a single-spaced six-page

search warrant for Eric's home and a duplicate for Dylan's. She dictated

them over the phone. The warrants were typed up in Golden, the county

seat, delivered to a judge, signed, driven out to the killers' homes, and

exercised within four hours of the first shots--before the SWAT team

reached the library and discovered the attack was over.

The warrants cited seven witnesses who'd identified Harris and/or

Klebold as the gunmen.


Agent Fuselier heard about the bodies on the police radio at 3:20. He had

just gotten word that his son Brian was OK. Mass murder meant a massive

investigation. "How can I help?" Fuselier asked the Jeffco commanders.

"Do you want federal agents?" Definitely, they said. Jeffco had a small

detective team--there was no way it could handle the task. An hour later,

eighteen evidence specialists began arriving. A dozen special agents would

follow, along with half a dozen support staff.

At 4:00 P.M., Jeffco went public about the fatalities. Chief spokesman Steve

Davis called a press conference in Clement Park, with Sheriff Stone by his

side. The pair had been briefing reporters all afternoon. Most of the press

had never heard of either man, but consensus about them emerged quickly.

Sheriff Stone was a straight shooter; he had a deep, gruff voice and classic

western mentality: no hedging, no bluster, no bullshit. What a contrast to

the blow-dried spokesman affixed to his side. Steve Davis began the

conference by reiterating warnings about rumors. Above all, he stressed

caution on two subjects: the number of fatalities and the status of the


Davis opened the floor to questions. The first was directed to him by

name. Sheriff Stone stepped forward, brushing Davis and his cautions aside.

He held custody of the microphone through most of the press conference.

The sheriff answered nearly every question directly, despite later evidence

that he had little or no information on many of them. He winged it. The

death count nearly doubled. "I've heard numbers as high as twenty-five," he

said. He pronounced the killers unequivocally dead. He fed the myth of a

third shooter. "Three--two dead [suspects] in the library," he said.

"Well, where is the third?"

"We're not sure if there is a third yet or not, or how many. The SWAT

operation is still going on in there."

Stone repeated the erroneous death count several times. It led newscasts

around the world. Newspaper headlines proclaimed it the next morning:


Stone said the three kids detained in the park appeared to be "associates

of these gentlemen or good friends." He was wrong; they had never met the

killers, and were soon cleared.

Stone made the first of an infamous string of accusations. "What are

these parents doing that are letting their kids have automatic weapons?" he


Reporters were surprised to hear the rumors about automatic weapons

confirmed. They rushed in with follow-ups. "I don't know anything about

the weapons," Stone admitted. "I assume there were probably automatic

weapons just because of the mass casualties."

A reporter asked about motive. "Craziness," Stone said. Wrong again.


By now dozens of kids had fled the school with their friends. School

officials herded them across Clement Park to meet school buses that would

drive past police barricades to Leawood. The buses parked directly beside

the site of the press conferences.

The kids trudged meekly toward the media throng. Many sobbed quietly.

Others helped distraught students along, holding their hands or slinging an

arm over their shoulders. Most of the kids stared at the ground. The crowd

of reporters parted. These were not the faces of interview subjects.

But the students were eager to speak. Teachers hurried the kids, chiding

them to keep quiet. They were having none of that. The bus windows

started coming down, heads popped out, and kids recounted their ordeals.

Kids piled off the buses.

The teachers tried to coax them back on. Not a chance. A tough-looking

senior described his terror in the choir room with a sense of bravado and

chivalry. But his voice cracked when a reporter asked how he felt.

"Horrible," he said. "There were two kids lying on the pavement. I just--I

started crying. I haven't cried for years, I just--I don't know what I'm going

to do."


Attention focused on the students. Endless reunions with their parents

played out on TV. A different group weathered the crisis in seclusion. More

than a hundred teachers worked at Columbine, along with dozens of support

staff. A hundred and fifty families feared for their husbands, wives, and

parents. There was no rendezvous point where they could gather. Most

drove home and waited by their phones. That's where Linda Lou Sanders

kept vigil.

She had celebrated her mom's seventieth birthday with the family; then

they'd headed up into the mountains for a pleasure drive. On the way,

Linda's brother-in-law called her sister, Melody, on her cell.

"Where does Dave teach?"


"You better head back down here."

Everyone gathered at Linda's house. Most of the news was good. Only

one adult was reported injured, and it was a science teacher, which ruled out

Dave. So why hadn't he called?

Those reports were nearly accurate. Only one adult had been hit, and

Dave was still bleeding at that moment. The sense that afternoon was that

gunfire had erupted all over the place. In fact, it had mostly been limited to

the library and the west steps outside. Teachers had not been studying for

tests or strolling outside to enjoy their lunch in the sunshine. If the bombs

had gone off as planned, it would have wiped out a quarter of the faculty in

the teachers' longue. But they had been spared by dumb luck. All but one.

Dave held on for hours in Science Room 3. Then the kids and teachers

were evacuated, and none knew whether he'd made it. It would be a few

days before the family would fully understand what had transpired in that

room. It would take years to resolve why he'd lain there for over three

hours, and who was to blame.

All Dave's family knew was that he had failed to call. He must be trapped

inside the building, they thought. That wasn't good. Linda hoped he wasn't a

hostage. She assumed he was hiding. He would be safe; he was not a risk


The family monitored the TV and took turns answering calls. The phone

rang incessantly, but it was never Dave. Linda called his business line

repeatedly. Nobody picked up.

Linda was an athletic woman in her late forties, but she had a fragile

psyche. Her smile was warm but tentative, as if she could shatter from a

harsh word or gesture. Dave had found great satisfaction in protecting her.

In his absence, her daughters and sister stepped in. Every call was fraught,

so her family made sure to screen. In midafternoon, she got the urge to

answer a call herself. "It was a woman," she said later. "And she said she

was from the Denver Post and my husband had been shot--Do I have a

comment? I screamed, I threw the phone. I have no idea what happened

from then on."


Robyn Anderson was scared. Her prom date was a mass murderer. She had

apparently armed him.

To her knowledge, only three people had known about the gun deal, and

the other two were dead. Had they told anyone? Were guns traceable? She

had not signed anything. Would the cops know? Should she keep her mouth


The cops did not know. Robyn had been debriefed in Clement Park and

had played it totally cool. She told the detective where she had been and

what she had seen. She told the truth, but not the whole truth. She didn't

know for sure who had been shooting, so she didn't mention that she knew

them. She certainly didn't mention the guns. Should she? The guilt began

eating her up.

Robyn talked to Zack Heckler on the phone that afternoon. She kept her

mouth shut about the weapons. He didn't. He was clueless about the guns,

thank God, but he knew the guys had been making pipe bombs. Bombs?

Really? That astounded Robyn. Yes, really, Zack said. And he wasn't

surprised at all. Zack didn't have quite the innocent picture of Dylan that

Robyn did. It sounded just like those guys to run down the halls laughing

while they killed people, he said.

Zack did not tell Robyn that he had helped Eric and Dylan make any pipe

bombs. She wondered. Did he? Was he mixed up in this? More than her?

Zack was scared, too. They all were--anybody close to the killers. Zack

wasn't volunteering information to the cops. He'd omitted mentioning the

pipe bombs during his debriefing.

Chris Morris went the opposite route. He'd called the cops in the first

hour, as soon as he suspected that his friends were involved. He was

handcuffed in Clement Park and spirited away on national television. He

kept talking at the police station. He described Eric's interest in Nazis, a

crack about jocks, and some scary recent suggestions: cutting power to the

school and setting PVC bombs at the exits with screws for shrapnel.

If Chris's story was legit, it suggested the killers had been leaking

information about their plans--a classic characteristic of young assailants. If

Eric and Dylan had leaked to Chris, chances were they had tipped off others

as well.

Chris's dad was called. He contacted a lawyer. At 7:43 P.M., the three sat

down with detectives for a formal interview. Chris and his father signed a

form waiving their rights. The cops found Chris highly cooperative. He

described the killers' obsessions with explosives and volunteered all sorts of

details. Dylan had brought a pipe bomb to work once, but Chris ordered

him to get it out of there. Chris knew the guys had gotten their hands on

guns. It had been an open secret around Blackjack several months ago that

Eric and Dylan were looking for hardware. They'd never told Chris directly,

but he had heard it from several people.

Chris had a hunch who had come through for them: a kid named Phil

Duran. Duran used to work at Blackjack, then moved to Chicago for a hightech job. Before he'd left, Duran told Chris he had gone shooting with Eric

and Dylan. Something about bowling pins and maybe an AK-47. Duran

never said he had bought the guns, but Chris figured it was him.

It sounded staggering, how much Chris had known. He swore he had not

taken it seriously. He agreed to turn over the clothes he was wearing and

allow detectives to search his room. Everyone agreed to rendezvous at his

house. Chris's mom met the cops at the front door, handed them his PC, and

showed them upstairs. Then his brother arrived with Chris's clothes in a

paper bag. He said Chris was afraid to come home. Mobs of media were

already staking out the street.

The cops found nothing of obvious value, but gathered up piles of

material. They left at 11:15.


Robyn needed company. She couldn't handle the stress alone. Her best

friend, Kelli, came over around 7:30 on Tuesday evening. They went to

Robyn's room. Kelli knew the boys well, too, especially Dylan. She had

been part of the prom group. There was something Kelli didn't know,

Robyn told her. Remember that favor she had done Eric and Dylan last

November? Kelli remembered. It had been a big secret. Robyn had told

Kelli repeatedly about this big favor she had done the guys, but she never

would divulge what it was. Now she had to tell someone. It had been a gun

show. The Tanner Gun Show in Denver. Eric and Dylan had called her on a

Sunday, if she remembered right. They had checked the show out on

Saturday, seen these sweet-looking shotguns. But they'd gotten carded; they

were both underage then. They needed an eighteen-year-old with them.

Robyn was eighteen. She really liked Dylan. So she went.

It was their money. Robyn made sure not to sign any papers. But she was

the one who bought the three guns. The boys each got a shotgun. One had

some kind of pump thing on it. Eric went for a rifle, too--a semi-automatic

that looked like a giant paintball gun. Robyn felt so guilty, Kelli said later.

How could she have imagined this?

Robyn didn't tell Kelli everything. She came clean with the main secret,

but held back on a detail. She told Kelli she didn't know it was Eric and

Dylan killing people until she heard it announced on TV that night. Kelli

didn't buy it. Robyn had never received a B in high school--she could have

put that mystery together. When she heard about the trench coats, she had to

have known.


The Klebolds spent the afternoon and evening on their porch. Waiting. They

were no longer allowed inside. At 8:10 P.M., a deputy arrived with

instructions. Their home was now a crime scene. They had to go. Tom and

Sue Klebold told friends they felt hit by a hurricane. Hurricanes don't hit the

Rockies. They'd never seen it coming.

"We ran for our lives," Sue said later. "We didn't know what had

happened. We couldn't grieve for our child."

Officers escorted Tom in to gather clothes for the next couple of days.

Then Sue went in to take care of the pets. She fetched two cats, two birds,

and their food bowls and litter boxes. At 9:00 P.M., they drove away.

They talked to a lawyer that night. He related a sobering thought. "Dylan

isn't here anymore for people to hate," he said. "So people are going to hate


18. Last Bus

The buses kept arriving at Leawood Elementary, delivering discouragement

as well as joy. It was great if your kid got off, but the odds kept dropping as

the remaining parents dwindled. "I was getting envious of parents who were

finding their kids and screaming out their names," Doreen Tomlin recalled.

She found it harder and harder to get up. Her husband kept the faith, but

hers played out. Buses arrived, and she stayed in her seat, silently chastising

herself. "I thought, Why aren't you getting up and looking? All these other

parents are pinned to the stage, and you're just sitting here."

Brian Rohrbough had given up even earlier. By 2:00 P.M., while Leawood

was packed with hopeful parents, Brian had accepted Danny's fate. "I knew

he was gone," he said. "I assume it was God telling me, preparing me. I

hoped I was wrong. We waited for busloads of kids, but I knew he wasn't

going to be on it. I told Sue, 'You know he's gone.'"

But his ex-wife was hopeful. In the public library, Misty Bernall was,

too. Her son, Chris, had turned up, but Cassie was still missing. She is alive!

Misty told herself fiercely. Nothing could dampen Misty's resolve, or her


"Her mom came up to me every two minutes and asked if I'd seen

Cassie," a friend of her daughter said. "I told her, 'I'm sure there are a lot of

people unaccounted for.'" Not what Misty wanted to hear.

Prayer helped. "Please, God, just give me my baby back," she prayed.

"Please, God, where is she?"

Misty gave up on the public library. She made her way through Clement

Park and discovered the buses being loaded. She scurried from one to the

next. A friend of Cassie's reached out to grab her hand.

"Have you seen Cass?" Misty cried.


Misty returned to the library. Brad and Chris met her there. Then

everyone was sent to Leawood. That was a huge relief for the parents

waiting there: more families, better odds.

The buses kept coming, every ten to twenty minutes for a while. Then

arrivals slowed. Around four o'clock, they stopped. One more bus was

promised. Parents looked around. Whose kids would it be?

The wait went on endlessly. At five o'clock, it still wasn't there. Siblings

wandered out to watch for it, hoping to run inside with the news. Doreen

Tomlin had not gotten up in a long time, but she was still praying her boy

would be on it. "We were clinging to that hope," she said.

At dinnertime, President Clinton held a press conference in the West

Wing to discuss the attack. "Hillary and I are profoundly shocked and

saddened by the tragedy today in Littleton," he said. He passed on the hope

of a Jeffco official, who had just told him: "Perhaps now America would

wake up to the dimensions of this challenge, if it could happen in a place

like Littleton."

Clinton sent a federal crisis response team and urged reporters to resist

jumping to conclusions. "What I would like to do is take a couple of days

because we don't know what the facts are here," he said. "And keeping in

mind, the community is an open wound right now."

At Leawood, even the resilient families were faltering. Nothing had

changed: no buses, no word, for hours on end. District attorney Dave

Thomas tried to comfort the families. He knew which ones would need it.

He had thirteen names in his breast pocket. Ten students had been identified

in the library, and two more outside, based on their clothing and

appearance. One teacher lay in Science Room 3. All deceased. It was a

solid list, but not definitive. Thomas kept it to himself. He told the parents

not to worry.

At eight o'clock, they were moved to another room. Sheriff Stone

introduced the coroner. She handed out forms asking for descriptions of

their kids' clothing and other physical details. That's when John Tomlin

realized the truth. The coroner asked them to retrieve their kids' dental

records. That went over unevenly. Many took it gravely; others perked up.

They had a task, finally, and hope for resolution.

A woman leapt up. "Where is that other bus!" she demanded.

There was no bus. "There was never another bus," Doreen Tomlin said

later. "It was like a false hope they gave you." Many parents felt betrayed.

Brian Rohrbough later accused the school officials of lying; Misty Bernall

also felt deceived. "Not intentionally, perhaps, but deceived nonetheless,"

she wrote. "And so bitterly that it almost choked me."

Sheriff Stone told them that most of the dead kids had been in the library.

"John always went to the library," Doreen said. "I felt like I was going to

pass out. I felt sick."

She felt sadness but not surprise. Doreen was an Evangelical Christian,

and believed the Lord had been preparing her for the news all afternoon.

Most of the Evangelicals reacted differently than the other parents. The

press had been cleared from the area, but Lynn Duff was assisting the

families as a Red Cross volunteer. A liberal Jew from San Francisco, she

was taken aback by what she saw.

"The way that those families reacted was markedly different," she said.

"It was like a hundred and eighty degrees from where everybody else was.

They were singing; they were praying; they were comforting the other

parents, especially the parents of Isaiah Shoels [the only African American

killed]. They were thinking a lot about the other parents, the other families,

and responding a lot to other people's needs. They were definitely in pain,

and you could see the pain in their eyes, but they were very confident of

where their kids were. They were at peace with it. It was like they were a

living example of their faith."

But not all the Evangelicals reacted the same way. Misty Bernall was

defiant. She was sure Cassie was alive.


Mr. D stayed with the families. He was doing his best to console them, and

waiting for word on a close friend. He had known Dave Sanders for twenty

years. They had coached three sports together, shared hundreds of beers,

and Frank had attended Dave's wedding. Frank had been hearing rumors

about Dave all afternoon.

Sometime after the coroner's announcements, a teacher and a friend of

both men, Rich Long, showed up at Leawood. He saw Frank and rushed up

to hug him. "All I can remember was seeing blood on his pants and his

shirt," Frank said later. "And I said, 'Rich, tell me. Is it true? Is Dave dead?'

And he couldn't give me an answer."

Frank assured Rich he was strong enough to take the news. "Tell me!" he

pleaded. "I need to know."

Rich couldn't help him. He was struggling with the same question.


Agent Fuselier had talked gunmen down and seen a few open fire right in

front of him. He had struggled for weeks to release eighty-two people at

Waco, then watched the gas tanks erupt and the buildings burn down. He'd

known they were all dying inside Waco. Watching had been unbearable.

This was worse.

Fuselier went home and gave Brian a hug. It had been a long time

between hugs, and it was hard to let go. Then he sat down to watch the

news reports with Mimi. He held her hand and choked back tears. "How

could you go home and get dental records?" he asked. "Then what? You

know your kid is lying there dead. How do you go to sleep?"

19. Vacuuming

Dave Sanders was one of the few teachers unaccounted for. He was still in

Science Room 3. The SWAT team had reached him still alive, but hopeless.

Several minutes later, before he was evacuated, Dave Sanders bled to death.

His family was not notified. Late in the afternoon, they got word he was

injured and taken to Swedish Medical Center.

"I don't know who drove me," Linda Lou said. "I don't know how I got

there. I don't remember the ride, I don't remember walking in there. I

remember when we got there. They took us in a room. There was food,

there was coffee, there were the sisters--the nuns." It was like a greeting

committee, awaiting their arrival but, curiously, waiting for Dave, too.

Linda found the head nurse reassuring. "She said, 'As soon as he gets here,

you get to see him.' And he never got there. He never got there."

Eventually, they gave up and went to Leawood. They waited there awhile

and then headed back home. Relief agencies dispatched victim's advocates.

Several showed up at the house--a helpful but ominous sign. The phones

rang constantly--five separate cells, laid out on the coffee table--but never

with the call they wanted.

Linda retreated to her room. Every time someone used the bathroom

downstairs, the exhaust fan clicked on, and Linda jumped up, believing it

was the garage door opening.

"Finally, about ten-thirty, Mom and I got sick of waiting," Angie said.

"We knew there had been a couple teachers with him, teachers who've

known him for--since before I was born. And so we called them to find out

what happened. And they informed us." Dave had been the teacher bleeding

to death.

But had he bled out? Dave was alive when the SWAT team evacuated all

the civilians. After that, no one seemed to know. Only the cops had seen it

end, and they weren't ready to say.

"We still didn't know whether he was taken out of the school or not,"

Angie said. "But at least we knew a little more about what happened


Linda tried to sleep. That was useless. She curled up with a pair of Dave's



Linda spent the evening trying to blank out her mind. Odd thoughts slipped

through. "All those people in my living room," she thought, "and I didn't

have time to vacuum."

It was a common response. Survivors focused on mundane tasks--tiny

victories they could still accomplish. Many were horrified by their thoughts.

Marjorie Lindholm had spent much of the afternoon with Dave Sanders.

He kept getting whiter. Explosions kept erupting. When the SWAT team

finally freed her, Marjorie ran past two bodies on the way out. She worried

about how she had dressed. Her parents would find her in a tank top that

suddenly felt sleazy. She borrowed a friend's shirt to cover herself up. A cop

drove her to safety in Clement Park, and a paramedic stepped up to examine

her. God, he was hot, she thought. "I felt ashamed," she wrote later. "I was

thinking how this paramedic looked and people died."

A sophomore reproached herself for her survival instincts. She saw the

killers and she took off running. Another girl was right by her side. The

other girl went down. "Blood was everywhere," the sophomore said. "It was

just terrible." She kept running. Later that day, she confessed her story to a

Rocky Mountain News reporter. "Why didn't I stop to help that girl?" she

asked. Her voice grew very soft. "I'm so mad," she said. "I was so selfish."


Brad and Misty Bernall got home around ten P.M. Brad climbed on top of the

garden shed with a pair of binoculars to peer across the field. The library

windows were blown out, and he could see men milling about inside. They

were in blue jackets with big yellow letters: ATF. They had their heads

down, but Brad couldn't quite make out what they were up to. "I guess they

were stepping over bodies, looking for explosives," he said.

They were searching for live explosives and live gunmen. SWAT teams

searched every broom closet. If third, fourth, or fifth shooters were still

hiding out, they would be flushed out by morning.

Brad came back into the house. At 10:30, an explosion shook the

neighborhood. Brad and Misty ran upstairs. They looked out Cassie's

window, but nothing moved. Whatever it was, it had passed. Cassie's bed

was empty. Misty feared she was still in the school. Had she been injured

by the blast?

It was the bomb squad's one major mistake. They were moving bombs

out of the area for controlled explosions. As they loaded one into a trailer,

the strike-anywhere match Eric used for a detonator brushed the trailer wall

and it blew. Bomb technicians fell backward as trained, and the blast shot

straight up. No one was hurt, but it threw a big scare into the team.

Everyone was exhausted. This was getting dangerous. They called it a

night. Commanders instructed them to return at 6:30 A.M.

Brad and Misty kept watching. "I knew Cassie was in there somewhere,"

Brad said. "It was terrible to know that she was on the other side of the

fence, and there was nothing we could do."



20. Vacant

There is a photograph. A blond girl lets out a wail. Her head is thrown

back, caught in her own hands: palms against her temples, fingers

burrowing into her scalp. Her mouth is wide open, eyes squeezed shut. She

became the image of Columbine. Throughout Clement Park Tuesday

afternoon, and in the photos that captured the experience, the pattern

repeated: boy or girl, adult or child, nearly everyone was clenching

something--a hand, her knees, his head, each other.

Before those pictures hit the newsstands, the survivors had changed. Kids

drifted into Clement Park on Wednesday morning unclenched. Their eyes

were dry, their faces slack. Their expressions had gone vacant.

Most of the parents were crying, but almost none of their kids were. They

were so quiet it was unsettling. Hundreds of teenagers and not a whiff of

nervous energy. Here and there a girl would sob and a boy would rush over

to hug her--boys practically fought over who would provide the hugs--but

those were brief exceptions.

They were aware of the blankness. Acutely. They didn't understand it, but

they saw it and discussed it candidly. A vast number said they felt they were

watching a movie.

The lack of bodies contributed to the problem--they were still inside the

perimeter. None of the names had been released. The school was effectively

gone. Nobody but police could get near it. It wasn't even visible from the

line of police tape where everyone gathered.

Students had a pretty good idea of who had been killed. All the murders

had been witnessed, and word spread quickly. But so many stories had

turned out to be wrong. Doubt persisted. Everyone seemed to have at least a

few people unaccounted for. "How can we cry when we don't know who we

are crying for?" one girl asked. And yet she had cried. She had cried most

of the night, she said. By morning, she had run out of tears.


No one from the sheriff's department called Brian Rohrbough. No officer

appeared on the doorstep to inform him that his son had been killed. The

phone woke Brian Wednesday. It was a friend calling to warn him, before

he picked up the Rocky Mountain News. There was a picture.

Brian flipped past the huge HEARTBREAK HEADLINE, the dozens of stories and

diagrams and pictures of clenched survivors, none of whom were his boy.

He stopped at page 13. It was an overhead shot from a news chopper, but

the photo filled half the page, so the subjects were large and unmistakable.

Half a dozen students huddled behind a car in the parking lot with a

policeman squeezed in beside them, squatting behind the wheel for cover,

his rifle mounted across the trunk, eyes to the gun sight, finger on the

trigger. A boy lay unprotected on the sidewalk nearby. He was out in the

open, collapsed on his side, one knee curled up toward his chest, both arms

splayed. "Motionless," the caption read. An enormous pool of blood, nearly

the size of his body, stained the concrete a foot away and trickled down the

crevice between two sidewalk squares. The victim was unidentified, his

face blurry and almost completely obscured by the angle. But Brian

Rohrbough knew. He never turned to page 14.

Brian was a tall man with the heavy build of a laborer. He had a long,

puffy face with receding silver hair that accentuated his clenched brow:

deep grooves stacked up across his forehead, over a pair of vertical gashes

above the bridge of his nose. Danny looked remarkably similar, though he

had yet to grow into all his features or develop the worry lines.

Danny was all Brian had. He and Sue had divorced when their son was

four. Sue had remarried, but Brian had not. He had his custom audio

business. It was successful, and he loved it, but the best part was that Danny

did, too. He had been toddling around the workshop since he could walk.

By seven, he was building wiring harnesses and running speaker wire. In

junior high he started working for real weekdays after school. Brian and

Sue had a friendly divorce and lived only a few blocks apart, but Danny

could never get enough time with his father.

The shop was such a cool hangout for a high school boy: a big, greasy

garage filled with power tools and hundred-thousand-dollar vintage cars up

on blocks. Danny helped fit them with opera-caliber sound systems worth

more than his wealthier friends' cars. Depending on the project, the place

might reek of burnt rubber or prickly epoxy fumes. When Brian manned the

buzz saw, the sweet smell of fresh-cut cherrywood wafted into the street.

Danny was a natural. He loved cars and he loved sound. He was great

with the PC and had an ear for pitch. He liked to mess around with

computer programs and was promising to take the business in a new

direction. And he knew how to behave. Brian catered to some of the oldest

and richest families in Colorado. Danny had grown up in their houses. He

knew the drill. He was a charmer, and Brian reveled in showing him off.

A few months ago, Danny had come to a decision: college was not for

him. He would go straight into the business from Columbine, make a career

of it. Brian was ecstatic. In three years, he would make his son a partner. In

four weeks, Danny was going to spend his first summer working at the shop


Wednesday morning, as soon as he saw the picture, Brian got in his car.

He drove to Columbine. He stormed up to the perimeter and demanded his

boy's body. The cops there said no.

Not only were they not turning Danny over, they had not brought him

inside. Danny was still out there, lying on the sidewalk; he had weathered

the elements all night. Too many bombs, the authorities said--the body

could be booby-trapped.

Brian knew he wasn't getting a straight answer. Bomb squads had been

clearing the school since Tuesday afternoon; Brian's son just wasn't a

priority. Brian couldn't believe they were treating a victim's body so


Then it began to snow.

Danny lay out on that sidewalk for twenty-eight hours.


Misty Bernall started Wednesday at three A.M. She had slept a little, drifting in

and out. Nightmares would jolt her awake: Cassie trapped in the building,

huddled in the dark in some closet or lying on the cold tile floor. Her

daughter needed her. She's over the fence a hundred yards away, Misty

thought, and they won't let us get to her.

She gave up and took a shower. Brad did, too. They dressed and crossed

the backyard to the perimeter.

A cop was standing guard. Brad told him Cassie was in there. He

implored the cop give it to them straight. "We just want to know if there is

anyone still alive in there."

The cop paused. "No," he said finally. "No one left alive."

They thanked him. "We appreciate your honesty," Misty said.

But Misty wasn't giving up. The cop could be wrong. Or Cassie might be

lying in a hospital, unidentified. Misty kept trying the perimeter all

morning. She was rebuffed each time.

Then the parents were alerted to return to Leawood. Brad and Misty

headed right over. They waited for hours.

District attorney Dave Thomas arrived around 1:30. He still had the list

of the deceased. It had not changed; nor had it been confirmed. The coroner

required another twenty-four hours. So he decided to risk it. He informed

the families one by one. "I don't know how to tell you this," he told Bob


"You don't have to," Curnow said. "It's written on your face."

Misty took it hard, but she did not take it definitively. The DA said

Cassie was dead, but he also said it was unofficial.

Hope gradually dissolved into anger. If Cassie were dead, Misty wanted

her body out of that library and attended to.


Linda Sanders's family awaited the news at her home. By Wednesday

afternoon, the house was packed with friends and relatives. Everyone knew

what was coming. News crews set up a row of cameras to capture the

moment of agony. "Be ready," a victim's advocate told Melody. "Be

prepared to support your sister."

A patrol car pulled up just before three P.M. The deputy rang the bell, and

Melody let him in. Linda was still not ready to hear it. "We have tentatively

identified your husband as a victim at Columbine," he said.

Linda screamed. Then she threw up.


Frank DeAngelis didn't know if he was safe yet. He woke up at his brother's

house on Wednesday, because he had been advised against staying at his

own home. His car was sealed off inside the perimeter, so an assistant

principal was on his way to pick Frank up before dawn. He was headed for

meetings, to figure out what to do. What on earth were they going to do?

And what could he say? They were coming to hear him at ten A.M. Kids,

parents, teachers--anyone aching--had been told to gather at Light of the

World, a large Catholic church, one of the few venues large enough. They

would look to him for answers. He had none.

Frank had lain awake much of the night grappling with it. "God, give me

some guidance," he'd prayed.

Morning came, and he was no closer. He was consumed with guilt. "My

job is to provide an environment that's safe," he said later. "I let so many

people down."

Light of the World seats eight hundred and fifty and every pew was

packed, with hundreds more students and parents standing against the walls.

A parade of local officials took the podium in turn, trying to console the

kids, who were inconsolable. The students applauded each speaker politely.

Nobody was getting through.

Mr. D would settle for polite applause. He was hoping he wouldn't get

lynched. Did he deserve to be? He had no speech prepared, no notes--he

just planned to tell them what he felt.

His name was announced, he rose to approach the microphone, and the

crowd leapt up from the pews. They were shouting, cheering, whistling,

applauding--kids who hadn't registered a smile or a frown for hours were

beating their palms together or pumping their fists, fighting back tears or

letting them stream down their chins.

Mr. D. buckled at the waist. He clutched his stomach and staggered

around, turning his back to the audience, sobbing uncontrollably. His torso

was parallel to the floor, shaking so hard it was visible from the last row. He

stood there for a full minute while the crowd refused to subside. He couldn't

face them; he couldn't right himself. "It was so strange," he said later. "I just

couldn't control it; my body just went into convulsions. The reason I turned

my back is I was feeling guilt. I was feeling shameful. And when they

started clapping and standing, knowing I had their approval and support,

that's when I broke down."

He made it to the podium and began with an apology: "I am so sorry for

what happened and for what you are feeling." He reassured them and

promised to stand by them--"I will be there for you, whenever you need it"-

-but refused to sugarcoat what they were in for. "I'd like to take a wand and

wipe away what you are feeling, but I can't do that. I'd like to tell you those

scars will heal, but they will not," he said.

His students were grateful for the candor. So many kids in Clement Park

that morning would describe how tired they already were of hearing so

many people tell them everything would be all right. They knew the truth;

they just wanted to hear it.

Mr. D. ended his speech by telling them he loved them. Each and every

one of them. They needed to hear that, too.


Kids were having trouble with their parents, especially their moms. "It's

kind of hard for me to sit at home," a boy said. "Like when my mom comes

home, I try to stay out of the house." Lots of other boys nodded; more and

more told the same story. Their mothers were so scared, and the fear hadn't

abated when they'd found their kids; now they just wanted to hug them.

Hug him/her forever--that was the refrain Tuesday. Wednesday, it was My

mom doesn't understand. Emotionally, their mothers were wildly out of

synch. At first, the kids needed the hugs badly; now they needed them to



Most of the student body wandered the park, desperate to unload their

stories. They needed adults to hear them, and their parents would not do.

They found their audience: the press. Students were wary at first, but let

their guards down quickly. Reporters seemed so understanding. Clement

Park felt like an enormous confessional Wednesday. The kids would regret


In the midst of it, a shriek pierced the media camp. Mourners froze,

unsure of what to do. More screams: different voices, same direction.

Hundreds ran toward them: students, journalists, everyone within hearing

range. They found a dozen girls gathered around a single car that remained

among the satellite trucks in a small lot on the edge of the park. It was

Rachel Scott's car--the first girl shot dead. Rachel didn't have an assigned

spot, so she had parked half a mile from the school on Tuesday. No one had

come to claim the car. Now it was covered front to back with flowers and

candles. Messages to Rachel in heaven had been soaped across the

windows. Her girlfriends held hands in a semicircle around the back of the

car, sobbing uncontrollably. One girl began to sing. Others followed.


The Harrises and Klebolds both hired attorneys. They had good reason: the

presumption of guilt quickly landed on their shoulders. Investigators didn't

expect to charge them, but the public did. National polls taken shortly after

the attack would identify all sorts of culprits contributing to the tragedy:

violent movies, video games, Goth culture, lax gun laws, bullies, and Satan.

Eric did not make the list. Dylan didn't either. They were just kids.

Something or someone must have led them astray. Wayne and Kathy and

Tom and Sue were the chief suspects. They dwarfed all other causes,

blamed by 85 percent of the population in a Gallup poll. They had the

additional advantage of being alive, to be pursued.

Their attorneys warned them to keep quiet. Neither family spoke to the

press. Both released statements on Wednesday. "We cannot begin to convey

our overwhelming sense of sorrow for everyone affected by this tragedy,"

the Klebolds said. "Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt apologies go out to

the victims, their families, friends and the entire community. Like the rest of

the country, we are struggling to understand why this happened, and ask

that you please respect our privacy during this painful grieving period."

The Harrises were more brief: "We want to express our heartfelt

sympathy to the families of all the victims and to all the community for this

senseless tragedy," they wrote. "Please say prayers for everyone touched by

these terrible events."

Dylan's brother stayed home from work for several days. Byron was

nearly three years older than Dylan, but because of Dylan's early

enrollment, just two years out of school. He was doing gofer work at an

auto dealership: washing cars, shoveling snow, moving inventory around

the lot. "It was an entry-level job, but man, he's good," a spokesman for the

store told the Rocky Mountain News.

His employers understood the need for time away. "It's shocking for

everyone," the spokesman said. "We're a family here and we look out for

each other. Our hearts go out to Byron. This kid's great."


Supervisory Special Agent Fuselier's concern Wednesday morning was the

conspiracy. Everyone assumed the Columbine massacre was a conspiracy,

including the cops. It was just too big, too bold, and too complex for a

couple of kids to have imagined, much less pulled off. This looked like the

work of eight or ten people. Every attack of this magnitude spawns

conspiracy theories, but this time they appeared sound. The legacy of those

theories, and Jeffco's response to them, would haunt the Columbine

recovery in peculiar ways.

Wednesday morning, Fuselier entered the ghastly crime scene. The

hallways were scattered with shell casings, spent pipe bombs, and

unexploded ordnance. Bullet holes and broken glass were everywhere. The

library was soaked in blood; most of the bodies lay under tables. Fuselier

had seen carnage, but still, it was awful. The sight that really stunned him

was outside, on the sidewalk and the lawn. Danny Rohrbough and Rachel

Scott were still out there. No one had even covered them. Years later, he

shuddered at the memory.

Fuselier arrived at Columbine as an FBI agent, but he would play a more

significant role as a clinical psychologist. Altogether, he had spent three

decades in the field; he'd started in private practice, then worked for the air

force. A hostage-negotiation course in Okinawa changed his life. He could

read people. He could talk them down. In 1981, Fuselier joined the FBI. He

took a $5,000-a-year pay cut for a detective job, just to get a shot at the

Bureau's Special Operations and Research Unit (SOARU)--the leading

center of hostage-negotiation study in the world.

Agent Fuselier worked his way up through standard casework and

discovered he liked detective work, too. He got the assignment at SOARU,

finally, and began a new career defusing gun battles. He would handle some

of the nation's worst hostage crises, including the 1987 Atlanta prison siege

and the Montana Freemen standoff. He was the FBI's last hope at Waco,

and the final person to talk to David Koresh before the tanks rolled in.

Fuselier spent most of his time at SOARU studying prior incidents and

analyzing success rates. His team developed the fundamental tactics for

hostage standoffs employed today. Fuselier became known for steadiness

under pressure, but his heart was weakening, his temples were graying, and

eventually he sought a quieter life. He moved his family to Colorado in

1991, and they settled into a tranquil neighborhood in Littleton.

Fuselier would play the leading role in understanding the Columbine

killers, but it was luck that drove him to the case. If his son Brian had not

been attending that high school, Fuselier would not have even been

assigned to the investigation. In fact, it's unlikely that the FBI would have

played a major role. But because Fuselier arrived on the scene, established a

rapport with the commanders, and offered federal support, FBI agents

would play a major role on the team. Fuselier was one of the senior

supervisory agents in the region and already had a relationship with local

commanders, so he was placed in command of the FBI team. Before April

20, Fuselier headed up the domestic terrorism unit for the FBI in the region.

For the next year, he delegated most of that responsibility. This was more


Columbine was the crime of the century in Colorado, and the state

assembled the largest team in its history to solve it. Nearly a hundred

detectives gathered in Jeffco. More than a dozen agencies loaned out their

best minds. The FBI contributed more than a dozen special agents, a

remarkable number for a local investigation. Agent Fuselier, one of the

senior psychologists in the entire Bureau, headed up the FBI team.

Everyone else reported to Jeffco's Kate Battan, a brilliant detective, whose

work unraveling complex white-collar crimes would serve her well. She

reported to Division Chief John Kiekbusch, a rising star who had just been

promoted to senior command. Kiekbusch and Fuselier each played an active

daily role and consulted regularly about the overall progress of the case.

The team identified eleven likely conspirators. Brooks Brown had the

most suspicious story, and Chris Morris had admitted to hearing about

bombs. Two others matched the descriptions for third and fourth shooters.

Those four perched atop the list, with Dylan's prom date, Robyn Anderson,

close behind.

Bringing them to justice would require a Herculean effort. Detectives

planned to question every student and teacher at Columbine and every

friend, relative, and associate of the killers, past or present. They had five

thousand interviews ahead of them in the next six months. They would snap

thousands of photographs and compile more than 30,000 pages of evidence.

The level of detail was exacting: every shell casing, bullet fragment, and

shotgun pellet was inventoried--55 pages and 998 evidence ID numbers to

distinguish every shard.

The Jeffco command team hastily reserved a spot for Fuselier in the

Columbine band room. The killers had made a mess of the place without

setting foot inside it. Abandoned books, backpacks, sheet music, drum kits,

and instruments were strewn among the shrapnel. The door was missing--

blown away by the SWAT team searching for gunmen.

Much of the school looked considerably worse. Pipe bombs and Molotov

cocktails had burned through stretches of carpeting and set off the sprinkler

system. The cafeteria was flooded, the library unspeakable. Veteran cops

had staggered out in tears. "There were SWAT team people who were in

Vietnam who were weeping over what they saw," District Attorney Dave

Thomas said.

The detective team was moving in. Every scrap of wreckage was

evidence. They had 250,000 square feet of crime scene--just on the inside.

Footprints, fingerprints, stray hairs, or gun residue could be anywhere.

Crucial DNA evidence might be floating through the cafeteria. And live

explosives might still be present, too.

Detectives had stripped down Eric and Dylan's bedrooms, left the

furniture, and hauled out much of the rest. The Klebold house yielded little-

-some yearbooks and a small stack of writings--but Dylan had wiped his

hard drive clean. Eric's house provided a mother lode: journals, more

computer rants, an audiotape, videotapes, budgets and diagrams and

timelines... Eric had documented everything. He'd wanted us to know.


Adding to the sense of urgency--and conspiracy--was a cryptic message

suggesting more possible violence to come. "We went scrambling for days

trying to track that down," Fuselier said. They searched the school for

explosives again. They raised the pressure on the probable conspirators.

The detectives conducted five hundred interviews in the first seventytwo

hours. It was a great boost, but it got chaotic. Battan was worried about

witnesses, who were growing more compromised by the hour from what

they read and saw on TV. Investigators prioritized: students who had seen

the shooters came first.

Other detectives headed to the suspects' childhood hometowns.

21. First Memories

It didn't start with a murder plot. Before he devised his massacre, Eric

settled into a life of petty crime. Earlier still, even before adolescence, he

was exhibiting telltale signs of a particular breed of killer. The symptoms

were stark in retrospect, but subtle at the time--invisible to the untrained


Eric wrote about his childhood frequently and fondly. His earliest

memories were lost to him. Fireworks, he remembered. He sat down one

day to record his first memory in a notebook and discovered he couldn't do

it. "Hard to visualize," he wrote. "My mind tends to blend memories

together. I do remember the 4th of July when I was 12." Explosions,

thunderclaps, the whole sky on fire. "I remember running outside with a lot

of other kids," he wrote. "It felt like an invasion."

Eric savored the idea--heroic opportunities to obliterate alien hordes. His

dreams were riddled with gunfire and explosions. Eric relished the

anticipation of the detonator engaging. He was always dazzled by fire. He

could whiff the acrid fallout from the fireworks again just contemplating the

memory. Later the night of the fireworks display, when he was twelve, Eric

walked around and burned stuff.

Fire was beauty. The tiny eruption of a cardboard match igniting. A fuse

sputtering down could drive Eric delirious with anticipation. Scaring the

shit out of stupidass dickwads--it didn't get much better than that.

In the beginning, explosions scared Eric even as they exhilarated him. He

ran for cover when the fireworks started in his "earliest memory" account.

"I hid in a closet," he wrote. "I hid from everyone when I wanted to be



Eric was a military brat. His father moved the family across five states in

fifteen years. Wayne and Kathy gave birth to Eric David Harris in Wichita,

Kansas, on April 9, 1981, eighteen years and eleven days before Eric

attempted to blow up his high school. Wichita was the biggest town Eric

would live in until junior high. He started school in Beavercreek, Ohio, and

did stints in rural air force towns like Oscoda, Michigan, and Plattsburgh,

New York. Eric enrolled in and was pulled out of five different schools

along the way, often those on the fringes of military bases where friends

came and went as fast as he did.

Wayne and Kathy worked hard to smooth over the disruptions. Kathy

chose to be a stay-at-home mom to focus on her boys. She also performed

her duties as an officer's wife. Kathy was attractive, but rather plain. She

wore her wavy brown hair in a simple style: swept back behind her ears and

curling in toward her shoulders in back.

Wayne had a solid build, a receding hairline, and very fair skin. He

coached baseball and served as scoutmaster. In the evenings, he would

shoot baskets on the driveway with Eric and his older brother, Kevin.

"I just remember they wanted the children to have a normal, off-base

relationship in a normal community," said a minister who lived nearby.

"They were just great neighbors--friendly, outgoing, caring."

Major Harris did not tolerate misbehavior in his home. Punishment was

swift and harsh, but all inside the family. Wayne reacted to outside threats

in classic military fashion: circle the wagons and protect the unit. He didn't

like snap decisions. He preferred to consider punishment carefully, while

the boys reflected on their deeds. After a day or two, Wayne would render

his decision, and it would be final. It was typically grounding or loss of

privileges--whatever they held dear. As Eric grew older, he would

periodically have to relinquish his computer--that stung. Wayne considered

a conflict concluded once he'd discussed it with Eric and they'd agreed on

the facts and the punishment. Then Eric had to accept responsibility for his

actions and complete his punishment.

Detectives discovered gross contradictions to Eric's insta-profile already

cemented in the media. In Plattsburgh, friends described a sports enthusiast

hanging out with minorities. Two of Eric's best friends turned out to be

Asian and African American. The Asian boy was a jock to boot. Eric played

soccer and Little League. He followed the Rockies even before the family

moved to Colorado, frequently sporting their baseball cap. By junior high

he had grown obsessed with computers, and eventually with popular video


In his childhood photos Eric looks wholesome, clean-cut, and confident--

much more poised than Dylan. Both were painfully shy, though. Eric "was

the shyest out of everybody," said a Little League teammate from

Plattsburgh. He didn't talk much, and other kids described him as timid but


At the plate, one of his core personality traits was already on display.

"We had to kind of egg him on to swing, to hit the pitch sometimes," his

coach said. "It wasn't that he was afraid of the ball, just that he didn't want

to miss. He didn't want to fail."

Eric continued to dream. Major Harris inspired military fantasies, but

Eric usually saw himself as a Marine. "Guns! Boy, I loved playing guns," he

wrote later. The rustic towns he grew up in provided fields and forests and

streams where he could play soldier. When Eric was eight, the family

moved to Oscoda, Michigan, where the scenic Au Sable River meets Lake

Huron in the rugged northern region of the state. Wayne and Kathy bought a

house in town so the boys could grow up with civilians. Oscoda was

dominated by the air force base; population 1,061 and dropping. Work for

adults was sparse, but it offered a world of adventure for little boys.

The Harris house sat near the edge of Huron National Forest. It seemed

vast, empty, and ancient to Eric's young eyes. The air was thick with the

scent of musty white pines. This was early lumberjack territory. The state

proclaimed it Paul Bunyan's home, and the Lumberman's Monument had

been erected in bronze nearby. Eric, Kevin, and their friend Sonia would

spend afternoons hunting down enemy troops and withstanding alien

invasions. They built a little tree fort out of sticks and branches to use for a

base camp.

"Fire!" Eric screamed in one of their enactments. The three young heroes

rattled off machine-gun fire with their toy guns. Sonia was always fearless--

she would charge straight into the imaginary rifle fire. Kevin yelled for air

support; Eric tossed a stick grenade into the trees. The three defenders took

cover and felt the earth shudder from the convulsion. Eric hurled another

grenade, and another and another, taking wave after wave of enemy troops

down. Eric was always the protagonist when he reminisced about those

days in high school. Always the good guy, too.

When he was eleven, id Software released the video game Doom, and

Eric found the perfect virtual playground to explore his fantasies. His

adversaries had faces, bodies, and identities now. They made sounds and

fought back. Eric could measure his skills and keep score. He could beat

nearly everyone he knew. On the Internet, he could triumph over thousands

of strangers he had never met. He almost always won, until later, when he

met Dylan. They were an even match.

In 1993, Wayne retired. The family moved again, this time to Colorado,

and settled down for good in Jeffco. Eric entered seventh grade, and Kevin

started at Columbine. Wayne eventually took a job with a defense

contractor that created electronic flight simulators. Kathy began part-time

work at a catering company.

Three years later the Harrises upgraded to a $180,000 home in a nicer

neighborhood just north of the beautiful Chatfield Reservoir and two miles

south of Columbine High School. Kevin played tight end and was the

kicker for the Rebels before heading off to the University of Colorado. The

color gradually drained out of Major Harris's thinning hair. He grew a thick

white mustache, put on a few pounds, but maintained his military bearing.


Eric loved a good explosion, but treasured his own tranquillity. Fishing trips

with his dad were the best. He captured the serenity in a vivid essay called

"Just a Day." The night before, he had to go to bed early, which would

normally provoke "a barrage of arguments and pouting," but on these

occasions he didn't mind. He'd wake up to black skies and rich ground

coffee vapors wafting up to his room. Eric didn't like to drink the stuff, but

he couldn't get enough of the smell. "My brother would already be up," he

continued, "trying to impress our father by forcing down the coffee he

hadn't grown to like yet. I always remember my brother trying to impress

everyone, and myself thinking what a waste of time that would be."

Eric would scamper out to the garage to get his tackle together and help

load the cooler into the back of their'73 Ram pickup. Then they headed into

the hills. "The mountains were always peaceful, a certain halcyon

hibernating within the tall peaks & the armies of pine trees. It seemed back

then that when the world changed, these mountains would never move," he

wrote. They would drive out to a mountain lake in the wilderness, almost

deserted, except for "a few repulsive suburbanite a$$holes. They always

seemed to ruin the serenity of the lake."

Eric loved the water. Just standing back on the bank and gazing at it: the

waves dancing around the surface in peculiar patterns, getting caught

suddenly by a burst of current, forming unexpected shapes and vanishing

again--what a glorious escape. When his eye caught something interesting,

Eric would cast into it, presuming the fish might have been attracted to it,


Then it was over. Back to shithead society, populated by automatons too

dense to comprehend what was out there. "No regrets, though," he

concluded. "Nature shared the secret serenity with someone who was

actually observant enough to notice. Sucks for everyone else."

22. Rush to Closure

Healing begins, the Denver Post announced Thursday morning. The

headline spanned the full width of page 1 thirty-six hours after the attack.

Ministers, psychiatrists, and grief counselors cringed. It was an insanely

premature assessment The paper was trying to be helpful, but its rush to

closure did not go over well in Jeffco. With every passing week, more of

the community would grumble that it was time to move on. The survivors

had other ideas.

The bodies were finally returned to the victims' families on Thursday.

Most of the parents were desperate to learn how their child had died. There

were plenty of witnesses, but a few were tempted to inflate their accounts,

and the more dramatic versions of their stories tended to travel.

A heroic version of Danny Rohrbough's death quickly gained currency

and was widely reported in the media. "[He] held the school door open to

let others escape and laid down his life for his friends," the Rocky Mountain

News reported.

"You know, he might have lived," the Rohrboughs' pastor would tell

fifteen hundred mourners at Danny's funeral. "He chose to stay there and

hold the door for others so that they might go out before him and make their

way to safety. They made it and Danny didn't."

The story was later disproved. Danny's father, Brian, said he never

believed it. "I know that Dan and his friends wouldn't have been standing

there if they had thought they were in danger," he said. Brian was irritated

by the urge to juice the story to make Danny's death more tragic or

meaningful. It was tragic enough, he said.


A hundred students in Clement Park crushed together in a throbbing teen

prayer mosh. They stood on their toes, reached toward the heavens, and

pressed their arms together in a mass human steeple. The mood was

rapturous, the faces serene. They sang sweet hymns, swayed as one body,

and cried out to Jesus to pull them through. They named The Enemy. "We

feel the presence of Satan operating in our midst!" a young girl declared.

The school set up a second official gathering for students on Thursday

afternoon. The megachurches were among the only structures in the area

big enough to accommodate a crowd that large, so the gathering was held at

West Bowles Community Church. This session was to be informal, just a

designated place for students who wanted to find each other in one place.

Mr. D wasn't planning to speak, until a counselor interrupted his meeting

with faculty down the hall. "Frank, they need you," he said. "You need to go

out there."

Frank walked the hallway to the nave of the church, contemplating what

to say. And again he faced the dilemma of how to act at the microphone.

Several of his friends, and staff, too, had warned him not to cry again.

"God, you're going to be in the national media," they said. "You can't show

that, it's a sign of weakness." He had gotten away with it once, but the

media would crucify him if they discovered he was buckling.

The trauma specialists disagreed. These kids had been raised in a western

mentality, they argued: real men fend for themselves; tears are for

weaklings; therapy is a joke. "Frank, you are the key," one counselor

advised him. "You're an emotional person, you need to show those

emotions. If you try to hold your emotions inside, you're going to set the

image for other people." The boys, in particular, would be watching him,

DeAngelis felt. They were already dangerously bottled up. "Frank, they

need to know it's all right to show emotion," the counselor said. "Give them

that permission."

The students were awaiting his appearance, and when he walked in, they

started chanting the school's rallying cry, which he'd last heard at the

assembly before the prom: "We are COL-um-BINE! We are COL-umBINE!" Each time they yelled it more loudly, confidently, and aggressively.

Mr. D hadn't realized until he heard them that he had been longing to draw

strength from them, too. He'd thought he was there just to provide it. "I

couldn't fake it," he said later. "I walked on that stage and I saw those kids

cheering and the tears started coming down."

This time he decided to address the tears. "Guys, trust me, now is not the

time to show your manliness," he told them. "Emotion is emotion, and

keeping it inside doesn't mean you're strong."

That was the last time Mr. D worried about crying in public.


The big question facing the school was how to finish out the year. These

kids needed to get back together fast. But the cops weren't going to open the

building for months. The administration decided to restart classes a week

later at nearby Chatfield High School, Columbine's traditional rival.

Columbine would take over the school in the mornings, and Chatfield

would resume use in the afternoons. Classes would be shortened for both

groups until the end of the school year.

The long-term solution was trickier. Some people suggested that the

building be demolished; some parents insisted that their kids would never

set foot in that murder scene again. But others pointed out that the

psychological blow of losing their high school entirely would be much

worse. The Rocky Mountain News led its Thursday edition with a letter

from the publisher stating, "If students, teachers and parents feel there is no

way they can return to the classrooms of Columbine, the Denver Rocky will

lead the charge to raise the funds to build a new school and urge legislators

to help. If they decide that they do not want to be driven from their school,

we will support the community in rebuilding the campus."


Reverend Bill Oudemolen began preparing two funerals. John Tomlin and

Lauren Townsend had been faithful members of the Foothills Bible Church.

The pastor walked through Clement Park and sniffed the air. Satan. The

pastor could smell him wafting through the park. It was an acrid odor--had

it been a little stronger, it might have singed his nose hairs. The Enemy had

swept in with this madness on Tuesday, but the real battle was only now

under way.

"I smell the presence of Satan," Reverend Oudemolen thundered from the

pulpit Sunday morning. "What we saw Tuesday came from Satan's home

office. Satan had a plan. Satan wants us to live in fear in Littleton. He wants

us to see black trench coats or people in Goth attire and makeup and here's

what he wants us to feel: Look how powerful and scary Satan is!"

He'd watched an ABC special examining the fallout in West Paducah,

Kentucky, thirteen months after its school shooting. West Paducah was still

riven with hostility, Oudemolen told his congregation. "I know what Satan

wants Littleton to look like in thirteen months," he said. "He wants us to be

angry. Satan wants us to stay right here, with uncontrollable grief. He wants

evil to be repaid by evil. He wants hatred to be repaid by hatred. Satan has

plans for Littleton."

Cassie Bernall's pastor, George Kirsten, charged the same culprit. This

was so much more than two boys with guns or even bombs, in their eyes.

This was spiritual warfare. The Enemy had taken the battlefield in broad

daylight in Jeffco, and Reverend George Kirsten was eager to see Christ

reappear to smite him. When Kirsten addressed his congregation at West

Bowles Community Church, he likened Cassie to the martyrs calling out to

God at the onset of the Apocalypse in the book of Revelation: "How long?

How long will it be until my blood is avenged?" he cried.

It's a pivotal scene Reverend Kirsten was invoking. Immediately after the

appearance of the four horsemen, the fifth seal is broken and all the

Christian martyrs since the beginning of time appear under the altar,

pleading for enemy blood to be spilled in return. Shortly thereafter, all true

believers are raptured and the Apocalypse commences.

Reverend Kirsten happened to be teaching Revelation--one chapter a

week--to his Bible study group at West Bowles. He believed, as they did,

that the great signs of the Apocalypse were already under way and the

moment might be at hand.


Reverend Don Marxhausen disagreed with all the riffs on Satan. He saw

two boys with hate in their hearts and assault weapons in their hands. He

saw a society that needed to figure out how and why--fast. Blaming Satan

was just letting them off easy, he felt, and copping out on our responsibility

to investigate. The "end of days" fantasy was even more infuriating.

Marxhausen had managed to reach the kids at the Light of the World

assembly. He led the large Lutheran congregation near Columbine, and for

years he'd headed up a council of mainline Protestant clergy--mainline

being the common term for the large, moderate denominations such as

Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists outside the Southern

Baptist Convention. Marxhausen was only forty-five, but widely regarded

on as the old wise man of the western suburbs. Mainliners were

outnumbered by the Evangelicals, and probably even the Catholics, in

Jeffco, but they maintained a strong presence, and Marxhausen's thousandseat church was packed solid every Sunday.

Most of the mainliners and the Catholics were averse to pinning the

Columbine tragedy on Satan, but they were determined not to fight about it.

Local ministers agreed very quickly that they needed to pull together and

put factional bickering aside.

Barb Lotze faced her first test barely twenty-four hours after the

massacre. She arranged a huge prayer service for Wednesday evening at

Light of the World Catholic Church, where she served as youth pastor.

Students from all faiths had been invited, and every pew was packed. She

wanted to make them all feel welcome.

Midway through the service, an excited youth minister from an

Evangelical church approached Lotze about performing an "altar call"--the

practice where new or renewed believers are summoned forward to be born

again. It was a decidedly un-Catholic ritual, and it seemed like an

inappropriate time, but Lotze was determined to establish some sort of

reciprocity with the Evangelical churches.

She reluctantly agreed.

The young pastor rushed to the microphone and proclaimed the power of

Jesus. Who was ready to accept Jesus Christ as their own personal savior?

he cried.

No one moved. He was astonished.

"Nobody?" he asked.

He sat down, and the audience moved on. "They just want to be hugged,"

Lotze said. "They want to be loved, told that we're going to get through this



The kids kept pouring into the churches. What began Tuesday night as a

means to escape from their parents and find each other quickly became a

habit. Night after night they returned to the churches in vast numbers--kids

who had not seen an altar in years. For some it was a conscious choice to

look to God in desperation, but most said it was just a place to go.

The churches organized informal services at night. In the daytime, they

just opened their doors and gave the kids the run of the place. A handful

saw a recruiting opportunity. Anyone who drove to Clement Park and

stayed a few hours would find several flyers stacked under their wiper

blades: "WE'RE HERE TO LISTEN AND ASSIST YOU," "If you need: prayer, counseling, meals

prepared...," "FREE!! HOT CHOCOLATE COFFEE COOKIES, COME BE WARM AT CALVARY CHAPEL." Boxes of pocketsized Bibles were trucked to the park and distributed to passersby.

Scientologists handed out Way to Happiness booklets to mourners filing

past Rachel Scott's car--still abandoned in the parking lot where she'd left it.


Eventually, investigators would escort dozens of witnesses back through the

school to help re-create the attack. Mr. D was the first. A few days after the

massacre, detectives walked him down the main hallway. Dr. Fuselier was

with them. They passed the remnants of the trophy case and DeAngelis

described it exploding behind him. They proceeded down the corridor and

he indicated where he'd intercepted the girls' gym class.

He re-created everything: the shouts, the screams, the acrid smell of the

smoke. None of that fazed Frank DeAngelis. He was cried out by this time,

as stoic as the boys he was hoping to open up.

They turned the corner, and Frank saw bloody smears on the carpet. He

knew Dave Sanders had gone down there. He had not anticipated the stains.

"You could see the knuckle prints," he said. "He actually was on all fours

and there were his knuckle prints--he was struggling. It tore me up."

A trail of blood traced Dave's path around the corner and down the hall.

Detectives led Frank DeAngelis to Science Room 3. Nothing had been


"They took me into where Dave died," Frank recalled. "And there were

sweatshirts there full of blood. That got to me." In the science room, Frank

broke down again. He turned to Fuselier. "I was glad he was here,"

DeAngelis said later. "Most FBI guys wouldn't have done anything.

Dwayne gave me a hug."


Aside from witnesses, the best hope for cracking the case seemed to lie in

the physical evidence: the guns, first and foremost. Dylan was a minor; Eric

had just turned eighteen. They had probably gotten help securing the

weapons. Whoever turned up at the front end of those acquisitions would

likely be co-conspirator number one.

Investigators worked parallel tracks hunting them down. ATF agents took

the technical angle: they came up with a solid lifespan on the

semiautomatics. Eric's carbine rifle was less than a year old; it had been

sold originally in Selma, Alabama, and had made its way to a gun shop in

Longmont, Colorado, less than an hour from Denver. They traced Dylan's

TEC-9 through four different owners between 1997 and 1998, but then the

records disappeared. The third owner said he'd sold it at the Tanner Gun

Show but had not been required to keep sales records at that time. The

shotguns were a bigger problem. They were three decades old, before serial

numbers were required. They were impossible to trace.

The bomb squad disassembled and studied the big bombs. The

centerpiece of Eric's performance was a complete mess. "They didn't

understand explosive reactions," the deputy fire marshal said. "They didn't

understand electrical circuitry."

Officials refused to be more specific, arguing that they didn't want to give

copycatters any hints. The deputy marshal summarized the primary mistake

as "defective fusing."

Detectives were having more luck working the suspects. Chris Morris

had implicated Phil Duran the first day. If they could believe Morris, that

could explain several guns, possibly all four. Duran was playing innocent,

but they knew they could crack him. And then they heard from Robyn


Unloading her secret to Kelli on Tuesday night had not appeased Robyn's

conscience. Wednesday morning, she called Zack again. This time, she told

him. And she told him another small lie--that he was the only one who

knew. Then she told her mom.


Robyn's mom brought her down to the school. Jeffco had setup its

Columbine Task Force inside the crime scene, headquartered in the band

room. Detectives interviewed Robyn, with her mom by her side. Two

detectives traded off questioning--one from the DA's office, one from a

nearby suburb's police force. They videotaped the session. And they were

harsh. The first time they asked about the guns, Robyn "visibly recoiled,"

according to the detective's synopsis of the videotape. And she looked to

her mom for support. Did she buy the guns? they asked. No, she did not.

She went to the show with them, but they bought the weapons. Why did they

want them? Dylan lived out in the country, so she assumed they wanted to

hunt. No, they never talked about hunting people, not even as a joke.

Detectives asked her about the prom, the Trench Coat Mafia, the killers'

personalities, and then returned to the guns. It was a private dealer, she said.

The boys paid cash. They didn't try to bargain, they just paid the asking

price--somewhere around $250 to $300 apiece. No one signed anything,

and she never showed an ID. The shotguns had very long barrels, but the

dealer said they could cut them down.

The detectives began to press her harder: Dylan and Eric didn't really

seem like hunters, did they? Dylan lived in the mountains, there were deer

all over the place. And her dad owned a gun--he never used it, but he had

one. Lots of people have gun collections. Eric and Dylan were into that kind

of stuff--why wouldn't they want one? She'd actually asked the boys if they

were going to do something stupid with the guns, she said. They'd assured

her they would never hurt anyone.

Did Eric and Dylan tell you to keep the guns secret? the detectives asked.

Yes. And that didn't raise your suspicions? They were underage. It was

illegal. They had to hide it from their parents. And where did they hide

them? She didn't know about Eric. Dylan dropped him off first, and Eric put

his guns in the trunk of his Honda. She assumed he stashed them in the

house later. Dylan tried to hide his in his bottom dresser drawer, but it was

too big. He stuck it in the closet, but he told her later that he cut the barrel

down and made it fit in the drawer.

And that didn't arouse her suspicions? No, because the gun dealer had

already suggested it.

Robyn said she never saw the guns again. The detectives moved on. They

asked about a wide range of subjects; eventually, they got to the explosives.

Had she seen any, had she helped make any, had any of Eric and Dylan's

friends assisted them? No, no, and... maybe Zack Heckler. Zack? Why

Zack? Zack had told her he knew more of what was going on. She told them

about the call with Zack, about his admission that he knew about the pipe


How strange, the detectives said--Eric and Dylan went bowling with her

every week, Dylan called her every other night, they confided in her about

the guns, and yet they never said a word about the pipe bombs. They must

not have wanted me to know. Come on! the detectives said. You're lying!

Over and over, they mocked her about the disparity--the boys told Zack

about the pipe bombs, but they never told her? No, no, never. That's what

they were like. When they wanted you to know something, you knew. When

they wanted you in the dark, you stayed there. They could get very secluded

about it, very isolated.

They kept on her. The guns were an isolated incident, she said. And Zack-

-he didn't know much either. He knew they were making bombs, but he had

no idea what they were up to.

The interrogation went on for four hours. Robyn held her ground.


Bomb squads had been through the school several times and found nearly a

hundred bombs of varying sizes and composition--most exploded, some

not. Most were pipe bombs or crickets, but one in the cafeteria stood out: a

big white propane tank, standing upright, nearly two feet tall. It was wedged

against a one-gallon gasoline can. The most ominous part was the alarm

clock. There were remnants of an orange duffel bag, too, mostly burned

away. The car bombs were also discovered, with more faulty wiring. The

diversionary bomb in the field was disturbing for another reason. It had

blown shortly after being moved, suggesting booby traps. Trip wires could

be anywhere.

The FBI provided a group of crime scene specialists to assist in the

massive effort of documenting the evidence. At 8:15 on Thursday morning,

the team slogged through the cafeteria debris. Hundreds of backpacks,

lunch trays, and half-eaten meals had been abandoned, many of them

knocked over, singed by fire, or scattered by explosions, and everything had

been soaked by the sprinkler system, which had run for hours. Muted

pagers buried inside the backpacks beeped methodically, alerting the kids to

phone home.

As they walked, an agent spotted a blue duffel bag ten feet from the

burned-out orange bag with the big bomb. It was bulging and sized to fit the

same contraption. They walked over. One of the agents pressed down

slowly on the top. Hard. Probably another tank. They called help over: a

couple of deputies and an FBI bomb technician. One of the officers was

Mike Guerra, the same man who had investigated Eric Harris a year earlier.

He sliced open the bag. They could see the end of a propane tank and an

alarm clock that matched the other. There were still active bombs in here.

How many more? They closed off the area immediately.

Had the propane bombs detonated, they would have incinerated most or

all of the inhabitants of the commons. They would have killed five hundred

people in the first few seconds. Four times the toll in Oklahoma City. More

than the ten worst domestic terrorist attacks in U.S. history combined.

For investigators, the big bombs changed everything: the scale, the

method, and the motive of the attack. Above all, it had been indiscriminate.

Everyone was supposed to die. Columbine was fundamentally different

from the other school shootings. It had not really been intended as a

shooting at all. Primarily, it had been a bombing that failed.

That same day, officials announced the discovery of the big bombs, and

their destructive power. It instigated a new media shock wave. But,

curiously, journalists failed to grasp the implications. Detectives let go of

the targeting theory immediately. It had been sketchy to begin with, and

now it was completely disproved. The media never shook it off. They saw

what happened at Columbine as a shooting and the killers as outcasts

targeting jocks. They filtered every new development through that lens.

23. Gifted Boy

Dylan Bennet Klebold was born brilliant. He started school a year early,

and by third grade was enrolled in the CHIPS program: Challenging High

Intellectual Potential Students. Even among the brains, Dylan stood out as a

math prodigy. The early start didn't impede him intellectually, but strained

his shyness further.

The idealistic Klebolds named their two boys after Dylan Thomas and

Lord Byron. Tom and Sue met at Ohio State University, studying art, Tom

in sculpture. They moved to Wisconsin and earned more practical master's:

Tom in geophysics, Sue in education, as a reading specialist. Tom took an

oil job and moved the family to Jeffco, before the Denver metroplex

stretched out to reach them.

Dylan was born there, five months after Eric, September 11, 1981. Both

grew up as small-town boys. Dylan earned merit badges in the Cub Scouts

and won a Pinewood Derby contest. Sports were always big. He was a

driven competitor, hated to lose. When he pitched in Little League he liked

to whiff hitters so badly they tossed their bats. He would idolize major

leaguers until the day he died.

The Klebold house was orderly and intellectual. Sue Klebold was a

stickler for cleanliness, but Dylan enjoyed getting dirty. A neighbor--the

woman who would struggle so hard to stop Eric before the massacre--fed

Dylan's early Huck Finn appetite. Judy Brown was the neighborhood mom,

serving up treats, hosting sleepovers, and rounding up the boys for little

adventures. Dylan met her son Brooks in the gifted program. Brooks had a

long, egg-shaped face, like Dylan's, narrowing at the jaw. But where

Dylan's eyes were animated, Brooks's drooped, leaving a perpetual weary,

worried expression. Both boys grew faster than their classmates--Brooks

would eventually reach six-five. They would hang out all afternoon at the

Browns' house, munching Oreos on the sofa, asking Judy politely for

another. Dylan was painfully shy with strangers, but he would run right up,

plop down in her lap, and snuggle in there. He couldn't be more adorable,

until you tripped his fragile ego. It didn't take much.

Judy first saw him blow when he was eight or nine. They had driven

down to a creek bed for a typical adventure. Sue Klebold had come along--

horrified by all the mud, but bearing it to bond with her boy. Officially, it

was a crawdad hunt, but they were always on the lookout for frogs or

tadpoles or anything that might slither by. Sue fretted about bacteria,

hectoring the boys to behave and keep clean.

They'd brought a big bucket to haul the crawdads home, but came back

up the hillside with nothing to show. Then one of the boys slogged out of

the creek with a leech attached to his leg. The kids all went delirious. They

plopped the leech into the frog jar--a mayonnaise bottle with holes punched

in the lid--and watched it incessantly. They had a picnic lunch and then ran

back for more fun in the creek. The water was only a foot deep, but too

murky for them to see the bottom. Dylan's tennis shoes squished down into

the glop. All the boys were slipping around, but Dylan took a nastier slide.

He wheeled his arms wildly to catch himself, lost the battle, and smacked

down on his butt. His shorts were soaked instantly; dank black water

splashed his clean T-shirt. Brooks and his brother, Aaron, howled; Dylan

went ballistic.

"Stop!" he screamed. "Stop laughing at me! Stop!


The laughing ended abruptly. Brooks and Aaron were a little alarmed.

They had never seen a kid freak out like that. Judy rushed over to comfort

Dylan, but he was inconsolable. Everybody was silent now, but Dylan kept

screaming for them to stop.

Sue grabbed him by the wrist and whisked him away. It took her several

minutes to calm him down.

Sue Klebold had come to expect the outbursts. Over time, Judy did, too.

"I would see Dylan get frustrated with himself and go crazy," she said.

He would be docile for days or months, then the pain would boil over and

some minor transgression would humiliate him. Judy figured he would

grow out of it, but he never did.

Detectives assembled portraits of the killers that felt maddeningly similar

and vanilla: youngest sons of comfortable, two-parent, two-child, quiet

small-town families. The Klebolds had more money; the Harrises were

more mobile. Each boy grew up in the shadow of a single older sibling: a

bigger, taller, stronger brother. Eric and Dylan would eventually share the

same hobbies, classes, job, friends, clothing choices, and clubs. But they

had remarkably different interior lives. Dylan always saw himself as

inferior. The anger and the loathing traveled inward. "He was taking it out

on himself," Judy Brown said.


Dylan's mother was Jewish. Sue Klebold had been born Sue Yassenoff, part

of a prominent Jewish family in Columbus. Her paternal grandfather, Leo

Yassenoff, was a philanthropist and a bit of a local tycoon. The city's Leo

Yassenoff Jewish Community Center was established by the foundation he

funded. Classmates said Dylan never shared Eric's fascination with Hitler,

Nazis, or Germany, and some suggested it bothered him. Tom was

Lutheran, and the family practiced some of each religion. They celebrated

Easter and Passover, with a traditional Seder. Most of the year they

remained quietly spiritual, without much organized religion.

In the mid-1990s, they took a stab at a traditional church. They joined the

parish of St. Philip Lutheran Church; the boys went to services along with

their parents. Their pastor, Reverend Don Marxhausen, described them as

"hardworking, very intelligent, sixties kind of people. They don't believe in

violence or guns or racism and certainly aren't anti-Semitic." They liked

Marxhausen, but formal church service just wasn't a good fit for them. They

attended for a brief time and then dropped away.

Sue spent her career in higher education. She began as a tutor, then a lab

assistant, and finally worked with disabled students. In 1997, she left a local

community college for a position with the Colorado Community College

System. She coordinated a program there to help vocational/rehab students

get jobs and training.

Tom did reasonably well in the oil business, but better at renovating and

renting out apartments. He was great with repairs and remodeling. A hobby

became a business. Tom and Sue formed Fountain Real Estate Management

to buy and administer the properties. Tom continued consulting to

independent oil companies part-time.

The Klebolds were rising financially, but worried about spoiling their

kids. Ethics were central in their household, and the boys needed to learn

restraint. Tom and Sue settled on appropriate figures to spend on the boys

and stuck to them. One Christmas, Dylan wanted an expensive baseball

card that would have consumed his entire gift budget. Sue was torn. One

tiny present in addition to the card for her boy? Maybe she could spend a

little extra. Nope. Austerity was a gift, too, and Dylan got what he'd asked

for and no more.

In 1990, as metro Denver encroached into Jeffco, the Klebolds retreated

beyond the hogback, the first strip of foothills hundreds of feet high, which

from the air looked like the bumps along a hog's back. The hogback

functions like Denver's coastline--it feels like civilization ends there. Roads

are scarce; homes are distant and highly exclusive. Shops and commerce

and activity are almost nonexistent. The family moved into a run-down

glass and-cedar house on Deer Creek Mesa, inside a panoramic rock

formation, a smaller version of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a few miles

away. Tom gradually brought the house back into stunning shape. Dylan

officially lived in the backcountry now--part-time country boy, riding over

to the populated side every morning for school in suburbia.

In seventh grade, Dylan faced a frightening transition. He had been

sheltered among the brainiacs in CHIPS. Ken Caryl Middle School was five

times as big and it didn't have a gifted program. Tom described Dylan

lurching from "cradle to reality."

24. Hour of Need

Reverend Marxhausen led a congregation of several thousand at St. Philip

Lutheran Church. Quite a few attended Columbine. He spent much of the

"hostage crisis" at Leawood, searching for students, calming parents. His

parish appeared to be spared.

He organized a vigil that first evening, at St. Philip. He distributed

communion, a task he found utterly soothing. The gently whispered

interplay calmed him like a mantra: The body of Christ... Amen... The body

of Christ... Amen.... It was a steady cadence: his softly commanding

baritone punctuated by a brief, nearly inaudible response. A fluttering

variety of tenors and sopranos colored his symphony, but the rhythm

remained the same. As the communion line dwindled, a woman softly broke

the spell. "The body of Christ..." he said.


What? It startled him at first, but this happened occasionally: a

parishioner lost herself in prayer on the slow march up the aisle, and the

pastor's voice startled her out of it.

Reverend Marxhausen tried again: "The body of Christ..."


This time he recognized the word--from the TV; he had forgotten his

brief association with the family.

He looked up. The woman continued: "Don't forget them in their hour of


She accepted the host and moved on.

That night, Marxhausen checked the parish rolls. Tom and Sue Klebold

and their two boys, Dylan and Byron, had registered five years ago. They

had not stayed long, but that did not diminish his responsibility. If they had

failed to find a spiritual home, they remained under his care.

He found a family close to Tom and Sue and sent word that he was


They called a few days later. "I need your help," Tom said. That was

obvious; his voice was shaking. He needed a funeral for his boy. How

embarrassing to ask after a five-year absence, but Tom was out of options.

He also had a requirement. "It has to be confidential," he said.

Of course, Marxhausen said--to both counts. He talked to Tom and then

Sue, asked how they were doing. "They used the word 'devastated,'" he

recalled later. "I didn't want to ask them any more."

Tom and Sue received the body on Thursday. The service was conducted

on Saturday. It was done quietly, with just fifteen people, including friends,

family, and clergy. Marxhausen brought another minister and both their

wives. Dylan lay in an open casket, his face restored, no sign of the gaping

head wound. He looked peaceful. His face was surrounded by a circle of

Beanie Babies and other stuffed toys.

When Marxhausen arrived, Tom was in denial, Sue was falling apart. She

crumpled into the pastor's arms. Marxhausen engulfed her. Her frail body

quaked; she sobbed there for perhaps a minute and a half--"which is a long

time," he said.

Tom just couldn't see his little boy as that killer. "This was not my son" is

how Marxhausen paraphrased his statements the next day. "What you see in

the papers was not my son."

The other mourners arrived, and the awkwardness only increased. A

liturgy wasn't going to help them. Marxhausen felt a terrible need to scrap

his service and let them speak. "Do you mind if we just talk for a while?" he

suggested. "And then we'll worship."

He shut the door and asked who wanted to begin.

"There was this one couple, they just poured out their hearts," he

recalled. "Their son used to play with Dylan when the boys were little.

They loved Dylan."

Where did the guns come from? Tom asked. They had never had more

than a BB gun. Where did the violence come from? What was this Nazi


And the anti-Semitism? Sue said. She's Jewish, Dylan was half Jewish,

what kind of sense did this make?

They were such good parents, a friend said. Dylan was a great kid. "He

was like our son!"

They went around and around--fewer than a dozen of them, but for fortyfive minutes they spilled out anguish and confusion, and love for the

awkward kid who'd had occasional outbursts.

Dylan's brother, Byron, mostly listened. He sat quietly between Tom and

Sue and finally spoke up near the end. "I want to thank you all for being

here today, for my parents and myself," he said. "I love my brother."

Then Marxhausen read from Scripture and offered some muted

encouragement. "True enough, there will be those who do not know grace

and will want to give only judgment," he said. But help would come in time

and in surprising ways. "I have no idea how you are going to heal. But God

still wants to reach out to you and will always reach out to you in some


He read the Old Testament story of Absalom, beloved son of King David.

Absalom skillfully ingratiated himself to his father, the court, and all the

kingdom but secretly plotted to seize the throne. Eventually, he thrust Israel

into civil war. He appeared poised to vanquish his father, but David's

generals prevailed. The king was informed first of the triumph, then of his

son's death. "David's grief made the victory like a defeat, and the people

stole silently into the city," Marxhausen read from 2 Samuel. David wept

and cried out, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I

had died for thee, O Absalom, my son."


The Klebolds were afraid to bury Dylan. His grave would be defaced. It

would become an anti-shrine. They cremated his body and kept the ashes in

the house.

Marxhausen assumed the media would get wind of the service. He asked

one of the Klebold attorneys how to handle the inquiries. The attorney said,

"Just tell them what you've seen here tonight."

So he did. He told the New York Times, which featured the account on the

front page. Tom and Sue were racked by grief, guilt, and utter confusion, he

said: "They lost their son, but their son was also a killer." He told the story

lovingly. He described Tom and Sue as "the loneliest people on the planet."

Don Marxhausen made some of his parish exceptionally proud. That was

their pastor--a man who could find compassion in his heart for anyone. A

man capable of consoling the couple who had unwittingly produced a

monster. That's why they had packed the pews to hear him every Sunday.

Some of his parish, and much of the community, was appalled. Lonely?

The Klebolds were lonely? Several of the victims were still awaiting burial.

Survivors still faced surgery. It would be months before some would walk

again, or talk again, or discover they never would. Some people had trouble

rousing sympathy for the Klebolds. Their loneliness was not an especially

popular concern.


Wayne and Kathy Harris presumably held some ceremony for Eric. But

they have never once spoken to the press. Word never leaked.

25. Threesome

No one remembers for sure how Eric and Dylan met. Eric arrived at Ken

Caryl Middle School in seventh grade. Dylan was already attending. The

two boys met there at some point but didn't connect right away.

They both continued on to Columbine High. Brooks Brown reentered the

school district there. His friendship with Dylan had fallen off after his

parents moved him into private schools years earlier. But he returned to

public school his freshman year and met Eric on the bus. Pretty soon all

three were tight.

They played video games for hours. Sometimes they played in person,

but they also stayed up late competing online. They went to Columbine

Rebel football games together freshman year. Eric was practically a

celebrity because his brother was a starter on the varsity team.

Eric, Brooks, and Dylan were three aspiring intellectuals. They took an

interest in classical philosophers and Renaissance literature. All three boys

were shy at that point, but Eric began breaking through his shell. It started

with occasional rumblings. Just two months into high school, he asked a

classmate to Homecoming. She remembered him as nervous and quiet,

largely forgettable, until he faked his suicide a few days after the dance.

"He had his friend take me over to his house," she said later. "When I

went there, he was lying with his head on a rock, and there was fake blood

around him, and he was acting like he was dead." It wasn't an original stunt-

-probably ripped off from the 1970s classic movie Harold and Maude. But

it weirded her out. She refused to date him again.


First semester freshman year, Eric turned in an "I Am" poem. His

selfportrait informed the reader five times in eighteen lines how nice he

was. "I am a nice guy who hates when people open their pop can just a

little," the poem began. Eric ended each stanza with that same line. He

described himself flying above all the rest of us, bragged about his straight

A's, and demonstrated his emotional depth: "I cry when I see or hear a dog


He kept much of the work he produced in high school. Apparently, he

was proud of it. "I dream that I am the last person on earth," he wrote in "I


Eric was always a dreamer, but he liked them ugly: bleak and morose, yet

boring as hell. He saw beauty in the void. Eric dreamed of a world where

nothing ever happened. A world where the rest of us had been removed.

Eric shared his dreams in Internet chat rooms. He described them vividly

to online chicks. In one, he was suspended inside a small dank room, like

the interior hull of a ship. Futuristic yet decaying old computer screens

lined the walls, covered with dust and mold and vines. The moon provided

the only light, trickling dimly in through the portals, shadows creeping all

around. A vast sea rose and fell monotonously. Nothing happened. Eric was


He rarely encountered humans in his creations--just the occasional

combatant to extinguish or a disembodied voice to drop an ironic bon mot.

Dreamland Eric had snuffed us out. He invented a world of precise textures,

vivid hues, and absolutely no payoff for himself. When he did linger on the

destination, it was to revel in the banality of the gloom. He described one of

his dreamworlds to a girl in a chat room.

"wow kind of gloomy," she responded.

"yeah. but its still nice. no people at all. kind of like, everyone is dead

and has been for centuries."

Happiness for Eric was eliminating the likes of us.

The girl said she could go for it, but only with some people. Eric said

he'd only want a couple, and that led him to the burning question he loved

to pose online:

With only a few people left, would she repopulate or choose extinction?

Probably extinction, she said.

Good answer. That's what he was going for. That was the point of the

entire conversation: "mmm," he said. "i just wish I could actually DO this

instead of just DREAM about it."

Extinction fantasies cropped up regularly and would obsess Eric in his

final years. But in his online chats, there was never a sense of him intending

to do the deed. He had bold dreams for the world, but more modest ideas

about himself. And he was pretty convinced that we would all take care of

destroying the planet without his help anyway.


Zack Heckler had one class with Dylan freshman year--that was all it took.

Finally, somebody understood him. Brooks and Eric were fun to hang with,

but they never really got Dylan. Not the way Kibbie did. Zack did not care

for that nickname, but it stuck. He was an insatiable snacker, so the kids had

branded him "Kibble." Great. Nicknames could be a bitch--almost

impossible to shake a wussy one. So Zack was smart about it. He quit

fighting the tag and adapted it. Kibble, KiBBz, Lord Kibbz--the last one

wasn't bad at all.

Zack and Dylan's teacher gave them a lot of free study time. Eric would

wander from the adjoining room. At first he came around to chat with

Dylan, but pretty soon all three were cutting up. They played Doom,

bowled, did sleepovers, went to ball games and drag races at Bandimere

Speedway. They made fun of dumb kids and ignorant adults. Computer

illiterates were the worst, especially when some fool put them in front of a

class. The boys watched a ton of movies: lots of action and horror and

science fantasy. They cruised the mall to pick up chicks. Eric did the

talking. Zack and Dylan hung back and followed his lead.

Dylan joined the theater group. He was too shy for the stage, but he

worked lights and sound. Eric had no interest in that. They got close with

Nate Dykeman and Chris Morris, too. Mostly they hung at Dylan's. "His

parents were so nice to me," Nate said. "Either they'd get doughnuts for me

or they'd be making crepes or omelets." Dylan also looked after his

houseguests, worried about whether they were having a good time.

At Eric's, it was totally strict when the major got home, but until then

Eric had free rein down in the basement, where he'd set up his bedroom.

They had girls over, and showed off how they nailed garden crickets with

the BB gun.

Friendships came and went, but the bond between Zack and Dylan grew

stronger. They were snarky, clever, and seething with teenage anger, but

way too timid to show it.

Dylan and Zack needed Eric. Someone had to do the talking. Eric needed

an audience; he also craved excitement. He was cool and detached, tough to

rattle. Nothing seemed to faze him. Dylan was an unlit fuse. Eric led the

parade. Perfect fit.

They were a threesome now.


Eric kept improving his Doom skills. When he got bored with the images id

Software provided, Eric invented his own, sketching a menagerie of heroes

and villains on his notepads. He hacked into the software and created new

characters, unique obstacles, higher levels, and increasingly elaborate

adventures. He created muscle-bound mutants with aviator-sunglass eyes,

and hulk-sized demons with ox horns, claws, and fangs. Many of his

warriors were decked out in medieval armor and submachine guns; one was

blessed with flamethrowers for forearms. Victims were frequently on fire or

freshly decapitated; sometimes they held their own head in their hands.

Eric's creations were unparalleled, in his view. "In this day and age it can be

hard to find a skill that can be completely dominated and mastered," he

wrote in one assignment. "But I believe that I will always be the best at

Doom creativity."

Eric enjoyed the act of creation. "I often try to create new things," he

wrote in a freshman English paper titled "Similarities Between Zeus and I."

He hailed both of them as great leaders, finding no fault in their pettiness or

malice but identifying common inclinations. "Zeus and I also get angry

easily and punish people in unusual ways," he wrote.

26. Help Is on the Way

Dave Sanders's daughters were angry. Before they got confirmation that

their dad was dead, they heard disturbing stories about his final hours.

"My concern is that my dad was left there," Angie Sanders told an

Australian newspaper. "[He] was still alive and not helped."

The impression her family was getting was that twelve victims had been

goners once the bullets left the chambers, but Dave Sanders had held on for

well over three hours. From what Angie understood, her father could have

been saved.

Dave's daughters began looking into the reports but kept their mouths

shut around their mother. They had to keep the TV off when she was awake.

They snatched newspapers off the doorstep and magazines out of the

mailbox. They had to protect Linda. She was already a wreck.

Dave Sanders was just a few feet from safety when the first shot hit him.

He saw the killers, spun around, and ran for the corner, trying to save a few

more students on the way there. One bullet got him in the back. It tore

through his rib cage and exited through his chest. The other bullet entered

through the side of his neck and came out his mouth, lacerating his tongue

and shattering several teeth. The neck wound opened up one of his carotid

arteries, the major blood routes to the brain. The shot to his back clipped his

subclavian vein, a major vessel back to the heart. There was a lot of blood.

Everyone had been guessing which way was the safest to run. Rich Long,

who was head of the technology department and a good friend of Dave's,

had chosen an opposite route. He first heard the shooting from the library,

told students to get out, and directed a group down the main stairway right

into the cafeteria, unaware that hundreds had just fled from that location.

Toward the bottom of the stairs, they saw bullets flying outside the

windows and reversed course. At the top of the stairs, they turned left, away

from the library and into the science wing, which also included the music

rooms. They arrived just in time to see Dave get shot.

Dave crashed into the lockers, then collapsed on the carpet. Rich and

most of the students dove for the floor. Now Dave was really desperate.

"He was on his elbows trying to direct kids," one senior said.

Eric and Dylan were both firing. They were lobbing pipe bombs down

the length of the hall.

"Dave, you've got to get up!" Rich yelled. "We've got to get out of here."

Dave pulled himself up, staggered a few feet around the corner. Rich

hurried over. As soon as he was out of the line of fire, he ducked his

shoulder under Dave's arm. Another teacher got Dave from the other side,

and they dragged him to the science wing, just a dozen feet away.

"Rich, they shot me in the teeth," Dave said.

They moved past the first and second classrooms, then entered Science

Room 3.

"The door opened, and Mr. Sanders [comes] in and starts coughing up

blood," sophomore Marjorie Lindholm said. "It looked like part of his jaw

was missing. He just poured blood."

The room was full of students. Their teacher had gone out to the hallway

to investigate. When he came back, he told them to forget the test and

ordered everybody up against the wall. The classroom door had a glass

pane. To shooters who might be stalking through the halls, the room would

appear empty if everyone huddled along the interior perimeter.

That's when Dave stumbled in with two teachers assisting. He collapsed

again, face-first, in the front of the room. "He left a couple of teeth where

he landed," a freshman girl said.

They got Dave into a chair. "Rich, I'm not doing so well," he said.

"You'll be OK. I'm going to go phone for help."

Several teachers had arrived, so Rich ran back out into the melee,

searching for a phone. He learned that somebody was already calling for

help. He went back.

"I need to go get you some help," Rich said. He went back into the

smoky corridor and tried another lab. But the killers were getting closer,

apparently right outside the lab's door this time. Rich finally took cover.

Dave had several adults with him, and plenty of calls had been made about

the shooting. Rich had no doubt that help was on the way.

Kent Friesen, another teacher with Dave, went for immediate assistance.

He ran into a nearby lab, where more students were huddled. "Who knows

first aid?" he asked.

Aaron Hancey, a junior and an Eagle Scout, stepped up.

"Come with me," Friesen said. Then all hell seemed to break loose out in

the hallway.

"I could feel it through the walls," Aaron said. "With each [blast], I could

feel the walls move." He was scared to go out there. But Friesen checked

for shooters, bolted down the corridor, and Aaron followed.

Aaron ran through a rapid inspection of Dave's condition: breathing

steady, airway clear, skin warm, shoulder broken, gaping wounds, heavy

blood loss. Aaron stripped off his own white Adidas T-shirt to stanch the

flow. Other boys volunteered their shirts. He tore several into bandage strips

and improvised a few tourniquets. He bundled others together into a pillow.

"I've got to go, I've got to go," Dave said. He tried to stand, but failed.

Teachers attended to the students. They flipped over tables to barricade

the door. They opened a partition in back to an adjoining science lab, and

several kids rushed to the center, farthest from the doors. The gunfire and

explosions continued. A fire erupted in a nearby room and a teacher

grabbed a fire extinguisher to put it out. Screams filtered down the hall

from the library. It was nothing like screams Marjorie Lindholm had heard

before--screams like "when people are being tortured," she said.

"It was like they were carrying out executions," another boy in the room

said. "You would hear a shot. Then there would be quiet. Then another shot.

Bam. Bam. Bam."

The screaming and gunfire both stopped. Silence, then more explosions.

On and off and on again. The fire alarm began blaring. It was an earsplitting

pitch designed to force people out of the building through sheer pain. The

teachers and students could barely hear anything over the alarm's shriek, but

could just make out the steady flap of helicopters outside.

Someone turned on the giant TV suspended from the ceiling. They kept

the volume off but the subtitles on. It was their school, from the outside.

Much of the class was transfixed at first, but their attention waned quickly.

Nobody seemed to know anything.

Aaron called his father, who used another line to call 911, so that

paramedics could ask questions and relay instructions. Several other

students and teachers called the cops. The science room group remained

linked to authorities via multiple channels throughout the afternoon.

Sophomore Kevin Starkey, also an Eagle Scout, assisted Aaron. "You're

doing all right," the boys whispered to Dave. "They're coming. Just hold on.

You can do it." They took turns applying pressure, digging their palms into

his wounds.

"I need help," Dave said. "'I've got to get out of here."

"Help is on the way," Aaron assured him.

Aaron believed it was. Law enforcement was first alerted to Dave's

predicament around 11:45. Dispatchers began responding that help was "on

the way" and would arrive "in about ten minutes." The assurances were

repeated for more than three hours, along with orders that no one leave the

room under any circumstances. The 911 operator instructed the group to

open the door briefly: they were to tie a red shirt around the doorknob in the

hallway. The SWAT team would look for it to identify the room. There was

a lot of dissent about that directive in Science Room 3. Wouldn't a red flag

also attract the killers? And who was going to step out into that hallway?

They decided to obey. Someone volunteered to tie the shirt to the doorknob.

Around noon, teacher Doug Johnson wrote 1 BLEEDING TO DEATH on the whiteboard

and moved it to the window, just to be sure.

Occasionally the TV coverage grabbed attention in the room. At one

point, Marjorie Lindholm thought she spotted a huge mass of blood seeping

out a door pictured on-screen. She was mistaken. Fear had taken control.

Each time Aaron and Kevin switched positions, they felt Dave's skin

grow a little colder. He was losing color, taking on a bluish cast. Where are

the paramedics? they wondered. When will the ten minutes be up? Dave's

breathing began to slow. He drifted in and out. Aaron and Kevin rolled him

gently on the tile floor to keep him conscious and to keep his airway clear.

He couldn't remain on his back for very long or he would choke on his own


They pulled out wool safety blankets from a first-aid closet and wrapped

him up to keep him warm. They asked him about coaching, teaching,

anything to keep him engaged and stave off shock. They slipped his wallet

out and began showing him pictures.

"Is this your wife?"


"What's your wife's name?"


He had lots of pictures, and they used them all. They talked about his

daughters and his grandchildren. "These people love you," the boys said.

"This is why you need to live."

Aaron and Kevin grew desperate. The treatment had exceeded scouting

instruction. "You're trained to deal with broken arms, broken limbs, cuts

and scrapes--stuff you get on a camping trip," Aaron said. "You never train

for gunshot wounds."

Eventually, Aaron and Kevin lost the struggle to keep Dave conscious.

"I'm not going to make it," Dave said. "Tell my girls I love them."


It was relatively calm for a while. The alarm kept blaring, the choppers kept

thumping, and gunfire or explosions would periodically rumble through the

hallways, somewhere off in the distance. Nothing had sounded particularly

close for a while; nothing seemed imminent. Dave's chest rose and fell,

blood oozed out, but the boys could not rouse him. Aaron and Kevin kept


Some of the kids gave up on police. Around 2:00 P.M., they informed the

911 operator they were going to hurl a chair through the window and get

Dave out themselves. She insisted they abandon the plan, which she warned

them might draw the attention of the killers.

At 2:38, the TV suddenly caught the room's attention again. Patrick

Ireland was tumbling out the library window. "Oh my God!" some of the

kids yelled. They'd hidden quietly for hours, but this was too much. Coach

Sanders was not an isolated case. A kid was just as bloody just down the

hall. They had assumed it was bad out there; now they had proof. Some

kids closed their eyes, pictured loved ones, and silently said good-bye.

Just a few minutes later, the danger suddenly drew close again: screams

erupted from the next room. Then everything went silent for a minute. All

at once, the door burst open and men in black rushed in. The killers were

dressed in black. The invaders toted submachine guns. They waved them at

the students, shouting fiercely, trying to outscream the fire alarm. "I thought

they were the gunmen," Marjorie Lindholm wrote later. "I thought that now

I was going to die."

Some of the men turned and pointed to the huge block letters on their

backs: SWAT.

"Be quiet!" an officer yelled. "Put your hands on your heads and follow

us out."

"Someone's got to stay with Mr. Sanders," someone said.

"I will," Aaron volunteered.

"No!" an officer said. "Everyone out."

Then how about hauling Dave out with them, Kevin suggested. There

were folded tables--they could improvise one as a stretcher.


It seemed heartless, but the SWAT team was trained to make practical

choices. Hundreds of students were trapped. The gunmen could reappear

any moment. The team had to assume a battlefield mentality and evacuate

the maximum number in the minimum time. They could send a medic back

for the injured later.

The SWAT team led students single file down the stairs to the commons.

They waded through three inches of water that had rained down from the

sprinklers. Backpacks and pizza slices floated by. Don't touch them, the

officers warned. Don't touch anything. A SWAT member held the door. He

stopped each student, held them for two seconds, then tapped them on the

shoulder and told them to run. That was a standard infantry maneuver. A

single pipe bomb could take out an entire pack of children; a well-aimed

machine-gun burst could do the same. Safer to space them.

Outside, the kids ran past two dead bodies: Danny Rohrbough and

Rachel Scott. Marjorie Lindholm remembered "a weird look on their faces,

and a weird color to their skin." The girl just ahead of her stopped suddenly

when she saw the bodies, and Marjorie caught up. A SWAT officer

screamed at them to keep moving. Marjorie saw their guns trained right on

her. She gave the girl a push, and they both took off.

Two SWAT officers stayed with Dave, and another called for help. It fell

to a Denver SWAT member outside the building to recruit a paramedic. He

spotted Troy Laman, an EMT who had driven out from the city and was

manning a triage station. "Troy, I need you to go in," the SWAT officer said.

"Let's go."

Laman followed the officer through the flooded commons, up the

stairway, past the rubble, and into Science Room 3. By that time, Dave had

stopped breathing. According to emergency triage protocol, that qualified

him as dead. "I knew there was nothing I could do for this guy," said

Laman, who had no equipment. "But because I was stuck in a room with

him by myself for fifteen minutes, I wanted to help him."

The SWAT officer eventually cleared Laman to keep moving. "There's

nothing you can do," he said.

So Laman went on to the library. He was one of the first medics to go in.


Dave Sanders's story got out fast. Both local papers, the Rocky Mountain

News and the Denver Post, described his ordeal on Wednesday. On

Thursday the Rocky, as it's often called, ran a piece called POLICE DISPUTE CHARGES THEY

WERE TOO SLOW. "A lot of people are angry," one student said. But the bulk of the

story focused on the police response.

"We had 1,800 kids rushing from the school," said Jeffco sheriff's

spokesman Steve Davis. "The officers had no idea which were victims and

which were potential suspects."

The Rocky offered this summary of the SWAT response based on the

department's claims: "Within twenty minutes of the first panicked call for

help, a makeshift six-man SWAT team rushed into the sprawling school,

and within an hour, dozens of heavily armed officers in body armor

launched a methodical, room-by-room search of the building."

The department would eventually admit that it took more than twice that

long, 47 minutes, for the first five-man team to enter. The other half of that

team attended to wounded students on the lawn, but never proceeded in. A

second team entered after nearly two hours. Until the killers' bodies were

found, that was it.


The situation grew hotter on Friday when a veteran suburban cop laid down

thirteen roses in Clement Park and then described the SWAT response as


"It pissed me off," he told reporters. "I'd have someone in there. We are

trained to do that. We are trained to go in there."

The officer's statement was widely reported. He became an instant

symbol. And his department foolishly extended the story by placing him on

nondisciplinary leave and ordering a "fitness for duty" evaluation. They

backpedaled a few days later.

Members of the SWAT teams began responding in the press. "It was just

a nightmare," said a sergeant. "What parents need to understand is we

wanted teams in there as quickly as we could. We were going into the

situation blind. We had multiple explosions going off. We thought there

could have been a band of terrorists in there."

Officers were nearly as confused as TV viewers. Outside, they could hear

the blasts. But once they entered, they couldn't even hear one another. The

fire alarm drowned out everything. Communication was limited to hand

signals. "Had we heard gunfire and screaming, we would have gone right to

that," a SWAT officer explained.

The barrage of noise and strobe lights beat down their psyches like

psychological warfare. Officers could not locate anyone with the alarm

code to shut it down. They found an assistant principal, but she was so

frazzled she couldn't remember the digits. In desperation, officers tried to

beat the alarm speakers off the walls. One tried to disable the control panel

by smashing the glass cover with his rifle butt. The alarms and sprinklers

continued until 4:04 P.M. The strobe light that flashed with the alarm

continued for weeks.

Those were legitimate obstacles, the Sanders family acknowledged. But

more than three hours after he was shot? Linda's sister Melody was

designated family spokesperson. "Some of his daughters are angry," she

told the New York Times a few days later. "They feel like, had they gone in

and gotten Dave out sooner, he would have lived."

Melody said the Sanders family didn't hold the SWAT members

responsible. But the system was a disaster. "It was utter chaos," Melody


The family expressed gratitude for the efforts that had been made. As a

gesture of goodwill, they invited the full SWAT teams to Dave's funeral. All

the officers attended.

27. Black

Eric was evolving inside. Sophomore year, the changes began to show. For

his first fifteen years, Eric had concentrated on assimilation. Dylan had

sought the same goal, with less success. Despite the upheavals of moving,

Eric always made friends. Social status was important. "They were just like

everybody else," a classmate said later. Eric's neighbor described him as

nice, polite, preppy, and a dork. High school was full of dorks. Eric could

live with that--for a while.

Sophomore year, he tried an edgier look: combat boots, all-black outfits,

and grunge. He started shopping at a trendy shop called Hot Topic and the

army surplus store. He liked the look. He liked the feeling. Their buddy

Chris Morris began sporting a beret. That was a little much, Eric thought.

He wanted to look different, not retarded. Eric was breaking out of his shell.

He grew boisterous, moody, and aggressive. Sometimes he was playful,

speaking in funny voices and flirting with girls. He had a lot of ideas and he

began expressing them with confidence. Dylan never did.

Most of the girls who knew Eric described him as cute. He was aware of

the consensus but didn't quite accept it. He responded candidly to one of

those chain e-mail questionnaires asking for likes, dislikes, and personal

attributes. Under "Looks," he wrote, "5' 10'' 140. skinny but handsome,

some say." The one thing he would like to change about himself was his

weight. Such a freaking runt. He'd always hated his appearance--now at

least he had a look.

Eric took some flack for the new getup--older kids and bigger guys

razzed him sometimes, but nothing exceptional. And he was talking back

now and provoking confrontations. He'd shaken off his silence along with

the preppy uniform.

Dylan remained quiet right up until the end. He wasn't much for

mouthing off, except in rare sudden bursts that freaked everyone out a little.

He followed Eric's fashion lead but a less intense version, so he took a lot

less ribbing. Eric could have silenced the taunts anytime by conforming

again, but by this point, he got a kick out of standing out.

"The impression I always got from them was they kind of wanted to be

outcasts," another classmate said. "It wasn't that they were labeled that way.

It's what they chose to be."

"Outcast" was a matter of perception. Kids who slapped that label on Eric

and Dylan meant the boys rejected the preppy model, but so did hundreds

of other kids at the school. Eric and Dylan had very active social calendars,

and far more friends than the average adolescent. They fit in with a whole

thriving subculture. Their friends respected one another and ridiculed the

conformity of the vanilla wafers looking down on them. They had no desire

to emulate the jocks. Could there be a faster route to boredom?

For Dylan, different was difficult. For Eric, different was good.


For Halloween that year, Eric Dutro, a junior, wanted to go as Dracula. He

needed a cool coat, something dramatic--he had a flair for theatrics--so his

parents picked up a long black duster at Sam's Club. The kids referred to

this as a trench coat.

The costume didn't work out, but the trench coat was cool. Eric Dutro

hung on to it; he started wearing it to school. It made quite an impression.

The trench coat turned a whole lot of heads, and Dutro loved turning heads.

He had a hard time at school. Kids at Columbine picked on him. Kids

would ridicule him relentlessly, calling him a freak and a faggot. Eventually

he fought back the only way he knew how: by upping the ante. If they were

going to call him freak, he was going to give them one hell of a freak show.

The trench coat made a nice little addition to his freakdrobe.

Not surprisingly, Dutro hung with a bunch of kids who liked turning

heads, too. After a while, several of them were sporting trench coats. They

would dress all in black and wear the long coats even in the summer.

Somewhere along the line, someone referred to them as the Trench Coat

Mafia, TCM for short. It stuck.

Eric Dutro, Chris Morris, and a handful of other boys were pretty much

the core of the TCM, but a dozen more were often associated with the TCM

as well, whether they sported trench coats or not.

Eric and Dylan were not among them. Each of them knew some of the

TCM kids, and Eric, especially, would become buddies with Chris. That

was as close as they came.

Eventually, after the TCM heyday was over, Eric got himself a trench

coat. Dylan followed. They wore them to the massacre, for both fashion and

functional considerations. The choice would cause tremendous confusion.

28. Media Crime

The Trench Coat Mafia was mythologized because it was colorful,

memorable, and fit the existing myth of the school shooter as outcast loner.

All the Columbine myths worked that way. And they all sprang to life

incredibly fast--most of the notorious myths took root before the killers'

bodies were found.

We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench

Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down

jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened. No

Goths, no outcasts, nobody snapping. No targets, no feud, and no Trench

Coat Mafia. Most of those elements existed at Columbine--which is what

gave them such currency. They just had nothing to do with the murders. The

lesser myths are equally unsupported: no connection to Marilyn Manson,

Hitler's birthday, minorities, or Christians.

Few people knowledgeable about the case believe those myths anymore.

Not reporters, investigators, families of the victims, or their legal teams.

And yet most of the public takes them for granted. Why?

Media defenders blame the chaos: two thousand witnesses, wildly

conflicting reports--who could get all those facts straight? But facts were

not the problem. Nor did time sort them out. The first print story arrived in

an extra edition of the Rocky Mountain News. It went to press at three

o'clock on Tuesday afternoon, before the bodies in the library were found.

The Rocky's nine-hundred-word summary of the massacre was an

extraordinary piece of journalism: gripping, empathetic, and astonishingly

accurate. It nailed the details and the big picture: two ruthless killers

picking off students indiscriminately. It was the first story published that

spring to get the essence of the attack right--and one of the last.

It is an axiom of journalism that disaster stories begin in confusion and

grow clearer over time. Facts rush in, the fog lifts, an accurate picture

solidifies. The public accepts this. But the final portrait is often furthest

from the truth.

One hour into the Columbine horror, news stations were informing the

public that two or more gunmen were behind it. Two hours in, the Trench

Coat Mafia were to blame. The TCM were portrayed as a cult of

homosexual Goths in makeup, orchestrating a bizarre death pact for the

year 2000.

Ludicrous or not, the TCM myth was the most defensible of the big

media blunders. The killers did wear trench coats. A small group had

named themselves after the garment a year earlier. A few kids put the two

together, and it's hard to blame them. It seemed like a tidy fit. But the

crucial detail unreported Tuesday afternoon was that most kids in Clement

Park were not citing the TCM. Few were even naming Eric and Dylan. In a

school of two thousand, most of the student body didn't even know the

boys. Nor had many seen gunfire directly. Initially, most students told

reporters they had no idea who attacked them.

That changed fast. Most of the two thousand got themselves to a

television or kept a constant cell phone vigil with viewers. It took only a

few TV mentions for the trench coat connection to take hold. It sounded so

obvious. Of course! Trench coats, Trench Coat Mafia!

TV journalists were actually careful. They used attribution and

disclaimers like "believed to be" or "described as." Some wondered out

loud about the killers' identities and then described the TCM, leaving

viewers to draw the link. Repetition was the problem. Only a handful of

students mentioned the TCM during the first five hours of CNN coverage--

virtually all fed from local news stations. But reporters homed in on the

idea. They were responsible about how they addressed the rumors, but blind

to the impact of how often.

Kids "knew" the TCM was involved because witnesses and news anchors

had said so on TV. They confirmed it with friends watching similar reports.

Word spread fast--conversation was the only teen activity in south Jeffco

Tuesday afternoon. Pretty soon, most of the students had multiple

independent confirmations. They believed they knew the TCM was behind

the attack as a fact. From 1:00 to 8:00 P.M., the number of students in Clement

Park citing the group went from almost none to nearly all. They weren't

making it up, they were repeating it back.

The second problem was a failure to question. In those first five hours,

not a single person on the CNN feeds asked a student how they knew the

killers were part of the Trench Coat Mafia.

Print reporters, talk show hosts, and the rest of the media chain repeated

those mistakes. "All over town, the ominous new phrase 'Trench Coat

Mafia' was on everyone's lips," USA Today reported Wednesday morning.

That was a fact. But who was telling whom? The writers assumed kids were

informing the media. It was the other way around.


Most of the myths were in place by nightfall. By then, it was a given that

the killers had been targeting jocks. The target myth was the most insidious,

because it went straight to motive. The public believes Columbine was an

act of retribution: a desperate reprisal for unspeakable jock-abuse. Like the

other myths, it began with a kernel of truth.

In the first few hours, a shattered junior named Bree Pasquale became the

marquee witness of the tragedy. She had escaped unharmed but splattered in

blood. Bree described the library horror in convincing detail. Radio and

television stations replayed her testimony relentlessly: "They were shooting

anyone of color, wearing a white hat, or playing a sport," she said. "And

they didn't care who it was and it was all at close range. Everyone around

me got shot. And I begged him for ten minutes not to shoot me."

The problem with Bree Pasquale's account is the contradiction between

facts and conclusion. That's typical of witnesses under extreme duress. If

the killers were shooting "everyone," didn't that include jocks, minorities,

and hat wearers? Four times in that brief statement, she described random

killing. Yet reporters glommed on to the anomaly in her statement.

Bullying and racism? Those were known threats. Explaining it away was


By evening, the target theory was dominating most broadcasts; nearly all

the major papers featured it. The Rocky and the Washington Post refused to

embrace the targeting theory all week, but they were lonely dissenters.

Initially, most witnesses refuted the emerging consensus. Nearly all

described the killing as random. All the papers and the wire services

produced a total of just four witnesses advancing the target theory

Wednesday morning--each one contradicting his or her own description.

Most of the papers advanced the theory with just one student who had

actually seen it--some had zero. Reuters attributed the theory to "many

witnesses" and USA Today to "students."

"Student" equaled "witness." Witness to everything that happened that

day, and anything about the killers. It was a curious leap. Reporters would

not make that mistake at a car wreck. Did you see it? If not, they move on.

But journalists felt like foreigners stepping into teen culture. They knew

kids can hide anything from adults--but not from each other. That was the

mentality: Something shocking happened here; we're baffled, but kids know.

So all two thousand were deputized as insiders. If students said targeting,

that was surely it.

Police detectives rejected the universal-witness concept. And they relied

on traumatized witnesses for observations, not conclusions. They never saw

targeting as plausible. They were baffled by the media consensus.


Journalists were not relying exclusively on "students." The entire industry

was depending on the Denver Post. The paper sent fifty-four reporters,

eight photographers, and five artists into the field. They had the most

resources and the best contacts. Day one, they were hours ahead of the

national pack; the first week they were a day ahead on most developments.

The Rocky Mountain News had a presence as well, but they had a smaller

staff, and the national press trusted the Post. It did not single-handedly

create any of the myths, but as the Post bought into one after another after

another, each mistaken conclusion felt safe. The pack followed.


The Jeffco Parks and Recreation District began hauling truckloads of hay

bales into Clement Park. It was a mess. Thousands of people gathered at the

northeast corner of the park on Wednesday, and tens of thousands appeared

on Thursday and Friday. The snow had begun fluttering down Wednesday,

and the foot traffic tore the field to shreds. By Thursday it was an enormous

mud pit. Nobody seemed to care much, but county workers scattered thick

layers of hay in winding paths all along the makeshift memorials.

They didn't know it yet, they had no idea there was a name for it, but

many of the survivors had entered the early stages of post-traumatic stress

disorder. Many had not. It wasn't a matter of how close they had been to

witnessing or experiencing the violence. Length and severity of exposure

increased their odds of mental health trouble down the road, but long-term

responses were highly varied, depending on each individual. Some kids

who had been in the library during the shootings would turn out fine, while

others who had been off to Wendy's would be traumatized for years.

Dr. Frank Ochberg, a professor in psychiatry at Michigan State

University and a leading expert on PTSD, would be brought in by the FBI a

few months later and would spend years advising mental health workers on

the case. He and a group of psychiatrists had first developed the term in the

1970s. They had observed a phenomenon that was stress-induced but was

qualitatively more severe, and brought on by a really traumatic experience.

This was something that produced truly profound effects and lasted for

years or, if untreated, even a lifetime.


A far milder and more common response was also under way: survivor's

guilt. It began playing out almost immediately, in the hallways of the six

local hospitals where the injured were recovering. At St. Anthony's, the first

week, the waiting rooms were packed with students coming to see Patrick

Ireland. Every seat in every room was taken. Dozens of students waited in

the hallways.

Patrick spent the first days in ICU. Most visitors were refused, but the

kids kept streaming into the hospital room anyway. They just needed to be


"You have to realize that this was part of their healing too," Kathy Ireland


All day, some of them stayed, and well into the evening. The staff started

bringing food in once they realized some of the kids hadn't been eating.


Patrick's situation looked grim. His doctors were just hoping to keep him

alive. They advised John and Kathy to keep expectations low: whatever

condition they observed the first day or two would be the prognosis for the

rest of his life. John and Kathy accepted this. And they saw a paralyzed boy,

struggling mightily to speak gibberish.

The medical staff chose to not operate on Patrick's broken right foot.

They cleaned out the wound and placed a brace around it. Why? his parents

asked. There were more pressing concerns, they were told. And Patrick was

never going to use that foot.

John and Kathy were devastated. But they had to be realists. They turned

their attention to raising an invalid, and figuring out how to help him be

happy that way.

Patrick was unaware of the prognosis. It never occurred to him that he

might not walk. He viewed the injury like a broken bone: you wear a cast,

you build the muscle back, you pick your life up where you left off. He

knew it would be tougher than the time he broke his thumb. A lot tougher. It

might take three or four times as long to recover. He assumed he would



Patrick's friend Makai was released from St. Anthony's Friday. He had been

shot in the knee alongside Patrick. Reporters were invited into the hospital

library for a press conference, broadcast on CNN. Makai was in a

wheelchair. It turned out that he'd known Dylan.

"I thought he was an all right guy," Makai said. "Decent, real smart."

They'd taken the same French class and worked together on school


"He was a nice guy, never treated me bad," Makai said. "He wasn't the

kind of person he's being portrayed as."


Patrick made improvement with his speech the first week, and his vitals

began returning to normal. On Friday, he was moved out of the ICU and

into a regular room. Once he had settled in, his parents decided it was time

to ask him the burning question. Had he gone out the library window?

They knew. They just had to know if he did. Did he know why he was

there? Was the trauma of the truth still ahead?

"Well, yeah!" he stammered. Were they just figuring that out?

He was incredulous, Kathy said later. "He looked at us like, 'How could

you be so ignorant?'" She was OK with that. All she felt was relief.


That same week, Dr. Alan Weintraub, a neurologist from Craig Hospital,

came to see Patrick. Craig is one of the leading rehab centers in the world,

specializing in brain and spinal cord injuries. It's located in Jeffco, not far

from the Irelands' home. Dr. Weintraub examined Patrick, reviewed his

charts, and gave John and Kathy his assessment: "The first thing I can say

to you is there's hope."

They were astounded, relieved, and perplexed. Later, the discrepancy

made sense to them. The staffs had different expertise and different

perspectives. St. Anthony's specialized in trauma. "Their goal is to save

lives," Kathy said. "At Craig the goal is to rebuild them."

They began making arrangements to transfer Patrick to Craig.


By Thursday, students in Clement Park were angry. The killers were dead,

so much of the anger was deflected: onto Goths, Marilyn Manson, the

TCM, or anyone who looked, dressed, or acted like the killers--or the

media's portrayal of them.

The killers were quickly cast as outcasts and "fags."

"They're freaks," said an angry sophomore from the soccer team.

"Nobody really liked them, just'cause they--" He paused, then plunged

ahead. "The majority of them were gay. So everyone would make fun of


Several jocks reported having seen the killers and friends "touching" in

the hallways, groping each other or holding hands. A football player

captivated reporters with tales of group showering.

The gay rumor was almost invisible in the media, but rampant in Clement

Park. The stories were vague. Everything was thirdhand. None of the

storytellers even knew the killers. Everyone in Clement Park heard the

rumors; most of the students saw through them. They were disgusted at the

jocks for defaming the killers the same way in death as they had in life.

Clearly, "gay" was one of the worst epithets one kid could hurl against

another in Jeffco.

Eric and Dylan's friends generally shrugged off the stories. One of them

was outraged. "The media's taken my friends and made them to be gay and

neo-Nazis and all these hater stuff," he said. "They're portraying my friends

as idiots." The angry boy was a brawny six-foot senior dressed in

camouflage pants. He ranted for several hours, and he was soon all over the

national press--sometimes looking a bit ridiculous. He stopped talking. His

father began screening media calls.

A few papers mentioned the gay rumors in passing. Reverend Jerry

Falwell described the killers as gay on Rivera Live. A notorious picketer of

gay funerals issued a media alert saying, "Two filthy fags slaughtered 13

people at Columbine High." Most significantly, the Drudge Report quoted

Internet postings claiming that the Trench Coat Mafia was a gay conspiracy

to kill jocks. But most major media carefully sidestepped the gay rumor.

The press failed to show similar deference to Goths. Some of the most

withering attacks were reserved for that group: a morose-acting subculture

best known for powder-white face paint and black clothes, black lips, and

black fingernails, accented by heavy, dripping mascara. They were

mistakenly associated with the killers on Tuesday by students unfamiliar

with the Goth concept. Equally clueless reporters amplified the rumor. One

of the most egregious reports was an extended 20/20 segment ABC aired,

just one night after the attack. Diane Sawyer introduced it by noting that

unnamed police said "the boys may have been part of a dark, underground

national phenomenon known as the Gothic movement and that some of

these Goths may have killed before." It was true, Goths had killed before--

as had members of every conceivable background and subculture.

Correspondent Brian Ross described a double murder committed by

Goths and two ghastly attempts in graphic detail. He presented them as

evidence of a pattern: a Goth crime wave poised to sweep through suburbia

and threaten us all. "The so-called Gothic movement has helped fuel a new

kind of teenage gang--white suburban gangs built around a fascination with

the grotesque and with death," he said. He played other examples, as well as

a horrifying 911 tape of a victim calling for help with a knife still

protruding from his chest. "Hurry," he pleaded. "I'm not going to last too

much longer." Ross described the killers in that case as "proud, selfproclaimed members of the Gothic movement, and like the students

involved in yesterday's shootings, focused on white extremism and hate."

The only real problems with Ross's report were that Goths tended to be

meek and pacifist; they had never been associated with violence, much less

murder; and, aside from long black coats, they had almost nothing in

common with Eric and Dylan.

Where it avoided snap conclusions, much of the reporting was first rate.

The Rocky passed on most of the myths, and it, the Post, and the Times ran

excellent bios on the killers. On TV, several correspondents helped

survivors convey their stories with empathy, dignity, and insight. Katie

Couric was a particular standout. And several papers tried to rein in the

Goth scare. "Whatever the two young men in Colorado might have

imagined themselves to be, they weren't Goths," a USA Today story began.

"The morose community, much too diffuse to be called a movement, is at its

heart quiet, introverted and pacifistic... Goths tend to be outcasts, not

because they are violent or aggressive, but the opposite."

Thursday, a young Goth from a nearby school showed up in Clement

Park. Andrew Mitchell was a striking sight, standing alone in a foot of

snow. Black on black on white on white. Jet-black hair cut long on top,

shaved on the sides, bare skin above his ears. A silver-and-blue support

ribbon pinned to his black lapel. The densely packed crowd parted. A tenfoot perimeter opened up around him. Reporters rushed in.

"Why are you here!" one demanded.

"To pay my respects," Mitchell said. Then he offered a plea: "Picture

these kids, for years being thrown around, treated horribly. After a while

you can't stand it anymore. They were completely wrong. But there are

reasons for why they did it."

Mitchell was wildly mistaken about the killers' lives and their intentions.

But it was already the pervasive assumption. The massacre brought

widespread tales of alienation out into the open. Salon published a

fascinating piece called "Misfits Who Don't Kill." It consisted of firstperson accounts from rational adults who had shared similar fantasies but

lived to avoid them. "I remember sitting in biology class trying to figure out

how much plastic explosive it might take to reduce the schoolhouse--my

biggest source of fear and anxiety--to rubble," one man wrote. "I scowled at

those who teased me, and I had fantasies of them begging me for mercy,

maybe even with a gun in their mouths. Was I a sick person? I don't think

so. I'm sure there were thousands of other students who had the same

fantasies I did. We just never acted on them."

The more animosity reporters sensed, the deeper they probed. What was

it like to be an outcast at Columbine? Pretty hard, most of the kids admitted.

High school was rough. Most of the students in Clement Park were still

speaking confessionally, and everyone had a brutal experience to share. The

"bullying" idea began to pepper motive stories. The concept touched a

national nerve, and soon the anti-bullying movement took on a force of its

own. Everyone who had been to high school understood what a horrible

problem it could be. Many believed that addressing it might be the one

good thing to come out of the tragedy.

All the talk of bullying and alienation provided an easy motive. Fortyeight hours after the massacre, USA Today pulled the threads together in a

stunning cover story that fused the myths of jock-hunting, bully-revenge,

and the TCM. "Students are beginning to describe how a long-simmering

rivalry between the sullen members of their clique [the TCM] and the

school's athletes escalated and ultimately exploded in this week's deadly

violence," it said. It described tension the previous spring, including daily

fistfights. The details were accurate, the conclusions wrong. Most of the

media followed. It was accepted as fact.


There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence

it was a problem at Columbine High. After the tragedy, Mr. D took a lot of

flak for bullying, particularly since he insisted he was unaware it had gone


"I'm telling you, as long as I've been an administrator here, if I'm aware

of a situation, then I deal with that situation," he said. "And I believe our

teachers, and I believe our coaches. I turned my own son in. I believe that

strongly in rules."

That may have been part of his downfall. Mr. D did believe that strongly

in the rules. He held his staff to the same standard, and seemed to believe

they would meet it. His unusual rapport with the kids also created a blind

spot. It was all smiles when Mr. D strode down the corridor. They sincerely

warmed at the sight of him, and sought to please him as well. Sometimes he

mistook that joy for pervasive bliss in his high school.

Personal affinities also obscured the problem. Mr. D knew he was drawn

to sports. He worked hard to offset that by attending debate tournaments,

drama tryouts, and art shows. He conferred regularly with the student

senate. But those were all success stories. Mr. D balanced athletics and

academics better than overachievers and unders.

"I don't think he had a preference on purpose," a pierced-out girl in a

buzz cut and red tartan boots said. "He's got a lot of school spirit, and I

think he aims it in the direction he's most comfortable with, like school

sports and student congress." She saw DeAngelis as a sincere man, making

a tremendous effort to interact with students, unaware that his natural

inclination toward happy, energetic students created a blind spot for the

outsiders. "My Goth friends hated the school," she said.


The crowds in Clement Park kept growing, but the students among them

dwindled. Wednesday afternoon they poured their hearts out to reporters.

Wednesday evening they watched a grotesque portrait of their school on

television. It was a charitable picture at first, but it grew steadily more

sinister as the week wore on. The media grew fond of the adjective "toxic."

Apparently, Columbine was a horrible place. It was terrorized by a band of

reckless jock lords and ruled by an aristocracy of snotty rich white kids in

the latest Abercrombie & Fitch line.

Some of that was true--which is to say, it was high school. But

Columbine came to embody everything noxious about adolescence in

America. A few students were happy to see some ugly truths about their

high school exposed. Most were appalled. The media version was a gross

caricature of how they saw it, and of what they thought they had described.

It made it difficult for social scientists or journalists to come to Littleton

later, to study the community in-depth and see what was really going on.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle had played out in full force: by observing

an entity, you alter it. How bad were the Columbine bullies? How horribly

were the killers treated? Every scrap of testimony after day two is tainted.

Heisenberg was a quantum physicist, observing electron behavior. But

social scientists began applying his principle to humans. It was remarkable

how similarly we behaved. During the third week of April, Littleton was

observed beyond all recognition.

The bright side is that a tremendous amount of data was gathered in those

first few days, while students were naive, before any developed an agenda.

Hundreds of journalists were in the field, and nearly as many detectives

were documenting their findings in police reports. Those reports would

remain sealed for nineteen months. Virtually all the early news stories were

infested with erroneous assumptions and comically wrong conclusions. But

the data is there.

29. The Missions

Two years before he hauled the bombs into the Columbine cafeteria, Eric

took a crucial step. He had always maintained an active fantasy life. His

extinction fantasies progressed steadily, but reality held firm and was

completely separate from his fantasy life. Then one day, midway through

sophomore year, Eric began to take action. He wasn't angry, cruel, or

particularly hateful. His campaign against the inferiors was comically banal.

But it was real.

The mischief started as a threesome. Dylan and Zack were coconspirators and squad mates. In his written accounts, Eric referred to the

two by their code names, VoDKa and KiBBz. They launched the escapades

in January 1997, second semester of their sophomore year. They would

meet at Eric's house mostly, sneak out after midnight, and vandalize houses

of kids he didn't like. Eric chose the targets, of course.

They had to be careful sneaking out. They couldn't wake his parents. Lots

of rocks to navigate in Eric's backyard and a pesky neighbor's dog kept

"barking its faulking head off," Eric wrote. Then they plunged into a field

of tall grass he compared to Jurassic Park's Lost World. To Eric, it was one

hell of an adventure. He had been role-playing Marine heroes on military

maneuvers since grade school. Finally, he was in the field conducting them.

Eric dubbed his pranks "the missions." As they got under way, he

ruminated about misfit geniuses in American society. He didn't like what he

saw. Eric was a voracious reader, and he had just gobbled up John

Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven, which includes a fable about the idiot

savant Tularecito. The young boy had extraordinary gifts that allowed him

to see a world his peers couldn't even imagine--exactly how Eric was

coming to view himself, though without Tularecito's mental shortcomings.

Tularecito's peers failed to see his gifts and treated him badly. Tularecito

struck back violently, killing one of his antagonists. He was imprisoned for

life in an insane asylum. Eric did not approve. "Tularecito did not deserve

to be put away," he wrote in a book report. "He just needed to be taught to

control his anger. Society needs to treat extremely talented people like

Tularecito much better." All they needed was more time, Eric argued--gifted

misfits could be taught what was right and wrong, what was acceptable to

society. "Love and care is the only way," he said.

Love and care. Eric wrote this at the very moment he started moving

against his peers. Sometimes he attacked their houses to retaliate for

perceived slights, but most often for the offense of inferiority.

Between missions, the boys got into unscripted trouble. Eric got mad at

Brooks Brown and stopped talking to him. Then he escalated a snowball

fight by breaking a chunk of ice off a drainpipe. He hurled it at the car of a

friend of Brooks's and dented the trunk. He grabbed another hunk and

cracked the windshield of Brooks's Mercedes.

"Fuck you!" Brooks screamed. "You're going to pay for this!"

Eric laughed. "Kiss my ass, Brooks. I ain't paying for shit."

Brooks drove home and told his mom. Then he headed to Eric's. He was

furious, but Kathy Harris remained calm. She invited Brooks in and gave

him a seat in the living room. Brooks knew lots of Eric's secrets, and he

spilled them all. "Your son's been sneaking out at night," he said. "He's

going around vandalizing things." Kathy seemed incredulous. She tried to

calm the kid down. Brooks kept ranting: "He's got liquor in his room.

Search it! He's got spray-paint cans. Search it!" She wanted him to talk, but

he felt that she was acting like a school counselor. He was out of there, he

said--he was getting out before Eric got back.

Brooks went home and discovered his friend had grabbed Eric's

backpack, taking it hostage, more or less. Brooks's mom, Judy, took control

of the situation. She ordered everyone into her car and brought them to see


He was still enjoying the snowball fight. "Lock the doors!" Judy

demanded. She rolled her window down a crack and yelled over to Eric:

"I've got your backpack and I'm taking it to your mom's. Meet us over


Eric grabbed hold of the car and screamed ferociously. When she pulled

away, he hung on, wailing harder. Eric reminded her of an escaped animal

attacking a car at a wildlife theme park. Brooks's friend shifted to the other

side of the back seat. Judy was terrified. They had never seen this side of

Eric. They were used to Dylan's tirades, but he was all show. Eric looked

like he meant it.

Judy got up enough speed, and Eric let go. At his house, Eric's mom

greeted them in the driveway. Judy handed her the backpack and unloaded

the story. Kathy began to cry. Judy felt bad. Kathy had always been so


Wayne came home and threw the fear of God into Eric. He interrogated

him about the alcohol, but Eric had it hidden and played innocent

convincingly. He wasn't taking any chances, though--as soon as he got a

chance, he destroyed the stash. "I had to ditch every bottle I had and lie like

a fuckin salesman to my parents," he wrote.

That night, he went with the confessional approach. He admitted a

weakness to his dad: the truth was, he was afraid of Mrs. Brown. That

explained a lot, Wayne thought.

Kathy wanted to hear more from the Browns; Wayne bitterly resented the

interference. Who was this hysterical woman? Or her conniving little brat

Brooks? Wayne was hard enough on the boys without outsiders telling him

how to raise his sons.

Kathy called Judy that night. Judy felt she really wanted to listen, but

Wayne was negative and dismissive in the background. It was kids' stuff, he

insisted. It was all blown way out of proportion. He got on the line and told

Judy that Eric had copped to the truth: he was afraid of her.

"Your son isn't afraid of me!" Judy said. "He came after me at my car!"

Wayne jotted notes about the exchange on a green steno pad. He outlined

Eric's misdeeds, including getting in Judy Brown's face and "being a little

bully." At the bottom of the page he summarized. He found Eric guilty of

aggression, disrespect, property damage, and idle threats of physical harm.

But he did not look kindly on the Browns. "Over-reaction to minor

incident," he concluded. He dated it February 28, 1997.

At school the next day, Brooks heard Eric was making threats about him.

He told his parents that night. They called the cops. A deputy came by to

question them, then went to see the Harrises. Wayne called a few minutes

later. He was bringing Eric over to apologize.

Judy told Brooks and his brother, Aaron, to hide. "I want you both in the

back bedroom," she said. "And don't come out."

Wayne waited in the car. He refused to supply moral support--Eric had to

walk up to the door and face Mr. and Mrs. Brown alone.

Eric had regained his normal composure. He was exceptionally contrite.

"Mrs. Brown, I didn't mean any harm," he said. "And you know I would

never do anything to hurt Brooks."

"You can pull the wool over your dad's eyes," she said, "but you can't pull

the wool over my eyes."

Eric gaped. "Are you calling me a liar?"

"Yes, I am. And if you ever come up our street, or if you ever do

anything to Brooks again, I'm calling the police."

Eric left in a huff. He went home and plotted revenge. He was wary now,

but he wouldn't back down. The next mission target was the Browns' house.

The team also hit "random houses." Mostly, they would set off fireworks,

toilet paper the places, or trigger a house alarm; they also stuck Silly Putty

to Brooks's Mercedes. Eric had been bragging about the missions on his

Web site, and at this point, he posted Brooks's name, address, and phone

number. He encouraged readers to harass "this asshole."

Brooks had betrayed Eric. Brooks had to be punished, but he was never

significant. Eric had bigger ideas. He was experimenting with timers now,

and those offered new opportunities. Eric wired a dozen firecrackers

together and attached a long fuse. He was fastidiously analytical, but he had

no way to assess his data, because he fled as soon as he lit the fuses.

Judy Brown viewed Eric as a criminal in bloom. She and Randy spoke to

Eric's dad repeatedly. They kept calling the cops.

Wayne did not appreciate that. He would do anything to protect his sons'

futures. Discipline was a no-brainer, but the boys' reputations were out of

his control. Every kid was going to screw up now and then. The important

thing was keeping it inside the family. One black mark could wipe out a

lifetime of opportunities. What was the purpose of instilling discipline if

one crazy family could ruin Eric's permanent record?

Wayne scrutinized Eric for a while, but ultimately he bought into his

son's version. Eric was smart enough to cop to some bad behavior. His calm

contrition made the Browns look hysterical.

Three days after the ice incident, Wayne was grappling with more parents

and a Columbine dean. Wayne pulled out the six-by-nine-inch pad and

labeled the cover "ERIC." He filled three more notebook pages over two

days. Brooks knew about the missions and had gone to see a dean. The dean

was concerned about alcohol consumption and damage to school property.

He would get the police involved if necessary.

Eric played dumb. The word "denial" appears in large letters on two

consecutive pages of Wayne's journal. Both times the word is circled, but

the first entry is scribbled out. "Denial of even knowledge about alcohol

subject between he & me," the second entry reads. "Didn't know what

[Dean] Place was talking about." Wayne concluded that the issue was "Over

& done--don't discuss with friends." He repeatedly stressed that silence was

key. "Talked to Eric: Basically--finished," he wrote. "Leave each other

alone don't talk about it. Agreed all discussion is over with."

Wayne Harris apparently breathed easier for a while. He didn't write in

his journal for a month and a half. Then come four rapid entries

documenting a slew of phone calls. First, Wayne talked to Zack's mom and

another parent. The next day, two years and one day before the massacre, a

deputy from the Jeffco sheriff's department called. Wayne put his guard up.

"We feel victimized, too," he wrote. "We don't want to be accused every

time something happens. Eric learned his lesson." He crossed out the last

phrase and wrote "is not at fault."

The real problem was Brooks, Wayne was convinced. "Brooks Brown is

out to get Eric," he wrote. "Brooks had problems with other boys.

Manipulative & Con Artist."

If the problem continued, it might be time to hire a mediator. Or a lawyer.

Wayne's last entry on the feud occurred a week later, on April 27, after a

call with Judy Brown. "Eric hasn't broken promise to Mr. Place--the dean--

about leaving each other alone," he wrote. At the bottom of the page he

repeated his earlier sentiments: "We feel victimized, too. Manipulative, Con



Eric totally rocked on the missions. Dylan enjoyed them, too--he liked the

camaraderie, especially. He fit in there, he had a role to play, he belonged.

But the missions were brief diversions; they were not making him happy. In

fact, Dylan was miserable.

30. Telling Us Why

Jeffco had a problem. Before Eric and Dylan shot themselves, officers had

discovered files on the boys. The cops had twelve pages from Eric's Web

site, spewing hate and threatening to kill. For detectives, a written

confession, discovered before the killers were captured, was a big break. It

certainly simplified the search warrant. But for commanders, a public

confession, which they had sat on since 1997--that could be a PR disaster.

The Web pages had come from Randy and Judy Brown. They had

warned the sheriff's department repeatedly about Eric, for more than a year

and a half. Sometime around noon April 20, the file was shuttled to the

command center in a trailer set up in Clement Park. Jeffco officials quoted

Eric's site extensively in the search warrants executed that afternoon, but

then denied ever seeing it. (They would spend several years repeating those

denials. They suppressed the damning warrants as well.) Then Sheriff Stone

fingered Brooks as a suspect on The Today Show.

It was a rough time for the Brown family. The public got two conflicting

stories: Randy and Judy Brown had either labored to prevent Columbine or

raised one of its conspirators. Or both.

To the Browns it looked like retribution. Yes, their son had been close to

the killers--close enough to see it coming. The Browns had blown the

whistle on Eric Harris over a year earlier, and the cops had done nothing.

After Eric went through with his threats, the Browns were fingered as

accomplices instead of heroes. They couldn't believe it. They told the New

York Times they had contacted the sheriff's department about Eric fifteen

times. Jeffco officials would insist for years that the Browns never met with

an investigator--despite holding a report indicating they had.

The officers knew they had a problem, and it was much worse than the

Browns realized. Thirteen months before the massacre, Sheriff's

Investigators John Hicks and Mike Guerra had investigated one of the

Browns' complaints. They'd discovered substantial evidence that Eric was

building pipe bombs. Guerra had considered it serious enough to draft an

affidavit for a search warrant against the Harris home. For some reason, the

warrant was never taken before a judge. Guerra's affidavit was convincing.

It spelled out all the key components: motive, means, and opportunity.

A few days after the massacre, about a dozen local officials slipped away

from the Feds and gathered clandestinely in an innocuous office in the

county Open Space Department building. It would come to be known as the

Open Space meeting. The purpose was to discuss the affidavit for a search

warrant. How bad was it? What should they tell the public?

Guerra was driven to the meeting, and told never to discuss it outside that

group. He complied.

The meeting was kept secret, too. That held for five years. March 22,

2004, Guerra would finally confess it happened, to investigators from the

Colorado attorney general. He described it as "one of those cover-your-ass


District Attorney Dave Thomas attended the meeting. He told the group

he found no probable cause for the investigators to have executed the draft

warrant--a finding ridiculed once it was released. He was formally

contradicted by the Colorado attorney general in 2004.

At a notorious press conference ten days after the murders, Jeffco

officials suppressed the affidavit and boldly lied about what they had

known. They said they could not find Eric's Web pages, they found no

evidence of pipe bombs matching Eric's descriptions, and had no record of

the Browns meeting with Hicks. Guerra's affidavit plainly contradicted all

three claims. Officials had just spent days reviewing it. They would repeat

the lies for years.

Several days after the meeting, Investigator Guerra's file on his

investigation of Eric disappeared for the first time.


The cover-your-ass meeting was a strictly Jeffco affair, limited mostly to

senior officials. Most of the detectives on the case--including the Feds and

cops from local jurisdictions--were unaware of the cover-up. They were

trying to crack the case.

Police detectives continued fanning out across Littleton. They had two

thousand students to interview--no telling where the truth might be tucked

away. They all reported back to the leadership team in the Columbine band

room. It was chaos. Guys were coming in with notes on scraps of paper and

matchbook covers.

At the end of the week, Kate Battan took control of the situation. She

called everyone into the band room for a massive four-hour debriefing and

information exchange. At the end of the meeting, three crucial questions

remained: How had the killers gotten all the guns? How had they gotten the

bombs into the school? Who had conspired to help them?

Battan and her team had a good idea where the conspiracy lay. They had

nearly a dozen chief suspects. They pitted two against each other. Chris

Morris claimed he was innocent. Prove it, they said. Help us smoke out


Chris agreed to a wiretap. On Saturday afternoon, he called Phil Duran

from FBI headquarters in Denver, while federal agents listened in.

They commiserated about how rough it had gotten. "It's pretty crazy,

man," Phil said.

"Yeah. The media's going psycho."

Chris went for the kill too soon. He had heard Duran had gone out

shooting with the killers, and someone videotaped it. He mentioned the

tape, but Duran brushed it off. For fourteen minutes, they spoke. Chris kept

circling back to it; Duran deflected as many times. "I have no clue, dude,"

he said.

Finally, Chris got an admission that Duran had been out shooting with

Eric and Dylan. He got a name: the place was called Rampart Range.

It didn't sound like much. It was leverage.


On Sunday, an ATF agent paid Duran a visit. Duran told him everything.

Eric and Dylan had approached him about a gun. He'd put them in touch

with Mark Manes, who'd sold them the TEC-9. Duran admitted to relaying

some of the money but said he'd earned nothing on the deal. Every bit of

that was true.

Five days later, detectives hauled Manes into ATF headquarters in

downtown Denver, with attorneys for defense and prosecution. Manes made

a full confession. Duran had introduced him to Eric and Dylan on January

23 at the Tanner Gun Show--the same place the killers had bought the three

other guns. Duran identified Eric as the buyer, and he did the talking.

Manes agreed to sell the gun on credit. Eric would pay $300 now, $200

more when he could raise it.

It was Dylan who showed up at Manes's house that night. He handed

over the down payment and picked up the gun. Duran delivered the $200 a

couple of weeks later.

Detectives asked Manes repeatedly about the killers' ages. Eventually, he

admitted that he'd assumed they were under eighteen.

Manes had bought the TEC-9 at the same show, about six months earlier.

He'd used his debit card. Later, he produced a bank statement, showing he'd

paid $491. He'd made nine dollars on the deal. It could cost him eighteen



Dr. Fuselier didn't think much about motive the first few days. It was kind

of a moot point, and they had a conspiracy to rope in. Every minute,

evidence could be vanishing, alibis arranged, cover stories coordinated. But

curiosity soon intruded, and refused to be dented. His mind kept returning

to the critical question of why?

With nearly a hundred detectives working the case, that central question

largely fell to one. It began as a small part of Agent Fuselier's job. He was

primarily concerned with leading the FBI team. He met daily with his team

leaders: they briefed him, he asked questions, shot holes in their theories,

suggested new questions, and challenged them to probe harder. He spent

eight to ten hours a day leading that effort, and on Saturdays he drove into

Denver to sort through his in-box at FBI headquarters. He had to get up to

speed on the federal cases he had handed off, and offer insight and

suggestions where he could.

But he began to carve out a little time every evening to assess the killers.

He had teams of people to assemble the data, but no one else was qualified

to analyze it. He was the only psychologist on the team. He had studied this

very sort of killer for years for the FBI, and he knew what he was up

against. Even if it meant a few hours of extra work each night, he was going

to understand these boys. It pissed him off, watching them brag on video

about the people they would maim. "You damn little jerks," he would hear

himself mutter. But sometimes he felt a little sorry for them. Their point of

view was indefensible, but he had to embrace it temporarily and empathize

with them. If he refused to see the world through their lens, how would he

ever understand how they could do it? They were high school kids. How

did they get this way? Dylan, in particular--what a waste.

Fuselier's peers and subordinates were glad someone had taken on the

informal role of chief psychologist. They had a lot of questions about the

killers, and they needed someone to turn to: one person who deeply

understood the perps. Fuselier quickly became known internally as the

expert on the two boys. Kate Battan was leading the day-to-day

investigation, and everyone deferred to her on logistical questions, like

who'd been running down a particular hallway at a certain moment during

the attack. But Fuselier understood the perpetrators. He returned to Eric's

journal over and over, and then Dylan's, pouring over every line.

About a week after the murders, Fuselier was introduced to the Basement

Tapes and earlier footage Eric and Dylan had shot of themselves. He took

the tapes home and watched them repeatedly. He hit the Pause button

frequently, advancing frame by frame, going back over revealing moments

to dissect nuance. On the surface, much of the material was tedious and

banal: little snippets of daily life, like the boys making dumb high school

jokes with Chris Morris in the car, and bickering over the drive-thru order at

Wendy's. Nothing even tangentially related to the murders appeared on

most of the tapes, but Fuselier soaked up ordinary impressions of his


Fuselier watched or read every word from the killers dozens of times. His

big break came just a few days after the murders, before he saw the

Basement Tapes. Fuselier heard an ATF agent quoting a ghastly phrase Eric

Harris had written.

"What you got there?" Fuselier asked.

A journal. For the last year of his life, Eric Harris had written down many

of his plans in a journal.

Fuselier zipped over and read the opening line: "I hate the fucking


"When I read that first sentence, all the commotion in the band room

ended," he said later. "I just zoned out. Everything else faded." Suddenly

the big bombs began to make a lot more sense. The fucking world. "That's

not Brooks Brown," Fuselier said. "That's not the jocks. That is an allpervasive hate."

Fuselier read a bit further, then turned to the ATF agent. "Can I have a

copy of this?"

The pages had been photocopied from a spiral notebook: sixteen

handwritten pages and a dozen more of sketches and charts and diagrams.

There were nineteen entries, all dated, running from April 10, 1998, to

April 3, 1999, seventeen days before Columbine. They ran a page or two at

the beginning, then shortened considerably, with the last five crammed into

the last page and a half. They were dark and fuzzy from too many trips

through the copier. Eric's scrawl was hard to decipher at first, but Fuselier

was reading again while the pages made another pass through the copy

machine. "It was mesmerizing," he said.

The journal told infinitely more than Eric's Web site had. The Web site--

which predated the journal by at least a year--was mostly vented rage. It

told us who he hated, what he wanted to do to the world, and what he had

already done. It said very little about why. The journal was angry but deeply

reflective. And infinitely more candid about the urges driving Eric to kill.

Fuselier read while the photocopies ran, he read on the walk back to the

ATF agent's desk, and he stood there reading rather than return to his own

chair. He didn't notice his back stiffening up for several minutes, until the

pain finally interrupted. Then he took a seat. And kept reading. Holy shit,

Fuselier thought. He's telling us why he did it.

Eric would prove the easier killer to understand. Eric always knew what

he was up to. Dylan did not.



31. The Seeker

Dylan's mind raced night and day: analyzing, inventing, deconstructing. He

was fifteen, he had tagged along on the missions, he was Eric's number one

go-to guy, and none of that mattered. Dylan's head was bursting with ideas,

sounds, impressions--he could never turn the racket off. That asshole in

gym class, his family, the girls he liked, the girls he loved but could never

get--why could he never get them?--he was never going to get them. A guy

could still dream, right?

Dylan was in pain. Nobody got it. Vodka helped. The Internet did, too.

Girls were hard to talk to; Instant Messenging made it easier. Dylan would

IM alone in his room for hours at night. Vodka made the words flow but

reduced his ability to spell them. When an Internet girl called him on it, he

laughed and admitted he was sloshed. It was easy to hide from his parents--

they never suspected. It all happened quietly in his room.

IMs were not enough. Too many secrets to hold on to; too many concepts

zipping over their heads. Suicide was consuming him--no way Dylan was

confessing that. He tried explaining some of the other ideas, but people

were too thick to understand.

Shortly after the missions started, in the spring of sophomore year, March

31, 1997, Dylan got drunk, picked up a pen, and began the conversation

with the one person who could understand. Himself. He imagined his

journal as a stately old tome, with oversized covers extending just past the

parchment, and a fine satin ribbon sewn into the binding, like in a Bible. All

he had was a plain pad of notebook paper, college-ruled and three-hole

punched. So he drew the imaginary cover on the cover. He titled his work

"Existences: A Virtual Book."

There was no hint of murder that first day, not even violence. Only traces

of anger seeped out, mostly aimed at himself. Dylan was on a spiritual

quest. "I do shit to supposedly 'cleanse' myself in a spiritual, moral sort of

way," he wrote. He had tried deleting the Doom files from his computer,

tried staying sober, tried to stop making fun of kids--that was a tough one.

Kids were so easy to ridicule.

The spiritual purge wasn't helping. "My existence is shit," he wrote. He

described eternal suffering in infinite directions through infinite realities.

Loneliness was the crux of the problem, but it ran deeper than just

finding a friend. Dylan felt cut off from humanity. Humans were trapped in

a box of our own construction: mental prisons caging us from a universe of

possibilities. God, people were annoying! What were they afraid of? Dylan

could see an entire universe opening up in his mind. He was a seeker, he

sought to explore it all, across time and space and who knew how many

dimensions. The possibilities were breathtaking. Who could fail to behold

the wonder of it all? Almost everyone, unfortunately. Humans loved their

little boxes, so safe and warm and comfy and boring! They were zombies

by choice.

Some of Dylan's ideas were hard to put into words. He drew squiggles in

the margins and labeled them "thought pictures."

He was a profoundly religious young man. His family was not active in

any congregation, yet Dylan's belief was unwavering. He believed in God

without question, but constantly challenged His choices. Dylan would cry

out, cursing God for making him a modern Job, demanding an explanation

for the divine brutality of His faithful servant.

Dylan believed in morality, ethics, and an afterlife. He wrote intently

about the separation of body and soul. The body was meaningless, but his

soul would live forever. It would reside either in the peaceful serenity of

heaven or in the blistering tortures of hell.

Dylan's anger would flare, then fizzle quickly into self-disgust. Dylan

wasn't planning to kill anyone, except, God willing, himself. He craved

death for at least two years. The first mention comes in the first entry:

"Thinking of suicide gives me hope that i'll be in my place wherever i go

after this life--that ill finally not be at war w. myself, the world, the

universe--my mind, body, everywhere, everything at PEACE--me--my soul


But suicide posed a problem. Dylan believed in a literal heaven and hell.

He would be a believer right up until the end. When he murdered several

people, he knew there would be consequences. He would refer to them in

his final video message, recorded on the morning he called "Judgment


Dylan was unique, that much he was sure of. He had been watching the

kids at school. Some were good, some bad, but all so utterly different from

him. Dylan exceeded even Eric in his belief in his own singularity. But Eric

equated "unique" with "superior"--Dylan saw it mostly as bad. Unique

meant lonely. What good were special talents when there was no one to

share them with?

His moods came and went quickly. Dylan turned compassionate, then

fatalistic. "I don't fit in here," he complained. But the road to the afterlife

was just monstrous: "go to school, be scared & nervous, hoping that people

can accept me."


Eric and Dylan both left journals behind. Dr. Fuselier would spend years

studying them. At first glance, Dylan's looked more promising. Fuselier

was hungry for data, and Dylan provided an impressive stack. His journal

began a year earlier than Eric's, filled nearly five times as many pages, and

remained active right up to the end. But Eric would begin his journal as a

killer. He already knew where it would end. Every page pointed in the same

direction. His purpose was not self-discovery but self-lionization. Dylan

was just trying to grapple with existence. He had no idea where he was

headed. His ideas were all over the map.

Dylan liked order. Each journal entry began with a three-line heading in

the right margin: name, date, and title, all written out in half-sized letters.

He then repeated the title--or sometimes adapted it--in double-sized

characters centered above the main text. Most of the copy was printed, but

occasionally he would veer into script. He wrote one entry a month, nearly

every month, but hardly ever twice a month. He would fill two complete

pages and then stop. If he ran out of ideas or interest, he would fill out the

second page with huge lettering or sketches.

His second entry came early: just two weeks after the first. His ideas

were beginning to cohere. "The battle between good & bad never ends," he

wrote. Dylan would repeat this idea endlessly for the next two years. Good

and evil, love and hate--always wrestling, never resolving. Pick your side,

it's up to you--but you better pray it picks you back. Why would love never

choose him?

"I dont know what i do wrong with people," he wrote, "it's like they are

set out to hate & (insult) me, i never know what to say or do." He had tried.

He had brought in Chips Ahoy cookies to win them over. What exactly

would it take?

"My life is still fucked," he wrote, "in case you care." He had just lost

$45, and before that it was his Zippo lighter and his knife. True, he had

gotten the first two back, but still. "Why the fuck is he being such an

ASSHOLE??? (god i guess, whoever is the being which controls shit.) He's

fucking me over big time & it pisses me off. Good god i HATE my life, i

want to die really bad right now."

32. Jesus Jesus Jesus

Sunday morning, April 25, the Columbine churches were packed.

Afterward, the crowds trekked down to the Bowles Crossing Shopping

Center, across from Clement Park. Organizers had planned for up to thirty

thousand mourners in the sprawling parking lot. Seventy thousand showed

up. Vice President Al Gore was on the platform, along with the governor,

most of Colorado's congressional delegation, and a whole lot of clergy. The

TV networks broadcast the ceremony live.

"Put your faith and trust in the living son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ,"

Reverend Billy Graham's son Franklin instructed the crowd. "We must be

willing to receive His son Jesus Christ."

"Genuine lasting comfort comes only through Jesus Christ," local pastor

Jerry Nelson proclaimed. "We, your pastors, urge you: Seek Jesus!"

Jesus Jesus Jesus. There was a whole lot of Him that day. Reverend

Graham dominated the ceremony with a long, impassioned appeal for

returning prayer to public schools. He invoked the name of his personal

savior seven times in a single forty-five-second flurry. "Do you believe in

the Lord Jesus Christ?" he asked. He called upon God and Jesus nearly fifty

times in course of the speech. Cassie had been ready, he said. She'd stood

before a gunman who'd transported her immediately into the presence of

Almighty God. "Are you ready?" he asked.

Christian pop star Amy Grant sang twice; a drum and bugle corps

performed a stirring rendition of "Amazing Grace"; and a succession of

thirteen white doves were released as Governor Bill Owens recited the

names of the victims. Toward the end, it began to rain. A slow, steady

shower. Nobody moved. Thousands of umbrellas went up, but tens of

thousands of mourners just got wet.

For many, Cassie Bernall was the heroine of Columbine. Word spread

quickly that her killer had held her at gunpoint and asked if she believed in

God. "Yes," she'd answered. She'd professed her faith and had promptly

been shot in the head. Vice President Gore recounted her story to the crowd

and the cameras. He quoted liberally from Scripture throughout his speech.

"To the families of the victims, may you feel the embrace of the literally

hundreds of millions of Americans who grieve with you," Vice President

Gore said. "We hold your agony in the center of our prayers. You are not



The country was transfixed. In the first ten days, newsmagazines on the

four main broadcast networks devoted forty-three pieces to the attack. The

shows dominated the ratings that week. CNN and Fox News charted the

highest ratings in their history. A week afterward, USA Today was still

running ten separate Columbine stories in a single edition. It would be

nearly two weeks before the New York Times would print an issue without

Columbine on page 1.

And Cassie Bernall's martyrdom was showing the most legs. "Millions

have been touched by a martyr," Pastor Kirsten proclaimed to his

congregation. He shared a vision his youth pastor had received while

ministering to the Bernalls: "I saw Cassie, and I saw Jesus, hand in hand.

And they had just gotten married. They had just celebrated their marriage

ceremony. And Cassie kind of winked over at me, like, 'I'd like to talk, but

I'm so much in love.' Her greatest prayer was to find the right guy. Don't

you think she did?"

Kirsten consoled his grieving congregation, but he saw opportunity in the

tragedy to unabashedly save more souls. "Pack that ark with as many

people as possible," he said.

Down the road at the Foothills Bible Church, Pastor Oudemolen was

sharing a similar enthusiasm. "Men and women, open your eyes!" he

declared. "The kids are turning to God! They're going to churches!"

Much of the Denver clergy was appalled. The opportunism at the public

service drew an outcry, particularly from mainline Protestant pastors.

Reverend Marxhausen, the pastor who'd performed Dylan's funeral, told the

Denver Post he'd felt "hit over the head with Jesus" at the service.

Evangelicals faced a profound moral dilemma: respect for others' beliefs

versus an obligation to stand up for Jesus as the only way, every day. Eric

and Dylan had terrorized the country, but they offered an invaluable

opportunity as well. Evangelical clergy would answer to God if they wasted

it. One thoughtful Evangelical pastor said he approved of using the

massacre for recruitment, as long it was truly done for God. He bristled at

"spiritual headhunters, just racking up another scalp. The Bible was never

meant to be a club," he said. "If I'm using it as a weapon, that's really sad."


Craig Scott was a sophomore, sixteen years old, and exceptionally good

looking, like his sister Rachel. He had hidden under a library table with

Matthew Kechter and Isaiah Shoels. While he was down there, one of the

gunmen yelled, "Get anyone with white hats!" Craig was wearing one. He

yanked it off and stuffed it under his shirt. Both killers passed his table

several times. They stopped there, eventually, and both of them fired. Matt

slumped; so did Isaiah. Craig was spared. The shots were so loud Craig

thought his ears were going to bleed. He spent much of his time in the fetal

position, with his head down, silently praying for courage and strength.

When he looked up to assess the damage, Matt and Isaiah had collapsed

leaning against each other and moaning. Their blood had pooled around

Scott--he couldn't tell whose it was that had soaked into his pants. Smoke or

steam was rising up from the rupture in Matt's side.

Then the killers moved into the hallway. "I think they're gone," Craig

called out. "Let's get out of here." Other kids were getting up slowly,

heading for a side exit. Craig dropped his white hat on the floor by his table.

On his way out, a girl under the computer desk said, "Please help me."

Kacey Ruegsegger had a big hole in her right shoulder. Scott helped her up.

He draped her good arm over his shoulder and led her out.

Outside, they ran for a police car parked on the side of the hill. Cops

were there, pointing their guns at the library windows. Craig continued to

pray. He asked other kids to join him. Craig had accepted Jesus Christ as his

personal savior, and they needed Him badly now. He led a small prayer


The cops shuttled the wounded out first. When Craig's turn came, he

heard more gunfire behind him. "They're shooting at us," one of the cops


The officers dropped the kids off at a cul-de-sac just off the school

grounds. Craig joined hands with others in a group to pray. Then he got to a

phone, called his mom, and asked her to pray for his sister. He had a bad

feeling about her. He prayed that Rachel was not injured. Within an hour or

two, he began accepting that she might be dead. She was. Rachel had been

the first one killed, on the lawn outside. Matt and Isaiah were dead too.

Kacey lived.

Craig took it hard. He had seen horrible things, but he'd heard something

wonderful. In the worst of it in the library, he'd heard a girl profess her

faith. Amazing. Craig began telling the story early that first afternoon. It

spread like brushfire. Among Evangelicals, e-mails, faxes, and phone calls

whipped across the country.

On Friday it hit the mainstream media. Both Denver papers featured it.

The Rocky's piece, "Martyr for Her Faith," opened with a play-by-play:

A Columbine killer pointed his gun at Cassie Bernall and asked her

the life-or-death question: "Do you believe in God?"

She paused. The gun was still there. "Yes, I believe in God," she


That was the last thing this 17-year-old Christian would ever say.

The gunman asked her "Why?" She had no time to answer before

she was shot to death.

Bernall entered the Columbine High School library to study during

lunch. She left a martyr.

The Post ran a similar account. The national press quickly jumped

aboard. On Saturday, an Evangelical Teen Mania rally in Michigan "turned

into a Cassie Bernall festival," according to Weekly Standard writer J.

Bottum. He described 73,000 teens in the Silverdome "weeping along with

sermon after sermon about her death." On Sunday morning, it was

proclaimed from countless pulpits.

At first, her mother was unsure what to make of Cassie's martyrdom. But

soon Misty was bursting with pride, and her husband, Brad, was, too. "This

tragic incident has been thrown back into the face of Satan," Brad said in a

statement. He called on teens to step forward while The Enemy was in

retreat: "To all young people who hear this: Don't let my daughter's death be

for nothing. Make your stand. If you're not in the local church's youth

group, try it. They want you and will help support you."

On Monday, Brad and Misty were featured on a 20/20 segment titled

"Portrait of an Angel." Stories were circulating that the killers had targeted

Evangelicals as well as jocks and minorities. Brad's community presumed

that Cassie's response had provoked the killer to shoot. "She knew where he

was coming from," Brad said. "And she was saying that, 'You can't defeat

me. You can't really kill me. You can take my body away, but you can't kill

me. I'm going to live in heaven forever.'"

Initially, Brad seemed to draw a bit more strength from Cassie's bravery

than Misty did. "You wake up crying," she said. "I hope one day I can wake

up in the morning and not cry. But I said to Brad, I wondered how they

could do this. Why did they kill our baby girl? Why did they do that?


A few days after the 20/20 segment, Brad and Misty appeared on Oprah.

"Do you wish she had said 'No'?" Oprah asked.

"Knowing that a girl begged for her life and was released" made a big

difference, Misty said. Eric had taunted Bree Pasquale for several minutes,

repeatedly forcing her to beg, then finally dismissed her. "As a mom, you

would have wanted her to beg," Misty said. "So on the one hand, you're

like, 'Yeah, I'd have wanted her to beg.' But I can't think of a more

honorable way to die than to profess your faith in God."

33. Good-bye

Two years before Cassie's murder, Dylan laid out his case for God. He

enumerated the pros and cons of his existence. Good: a nice family, a

beautiful house, food in the fridge, a few close good friends, and some

decent possessions. The bad list went on and on: no girls--not even platonic,

no other friends, nobody accepting him, doing badly in sports, looking ugly

and acting shy, getting bad grades, having no ambition in life.

Dylan understood what God had chosen for him. Dylan was to be a

seeker: "one man in search of answers, never finding them, yet in

hopelessness understands things. He seeks knowledge of the unthinkable, of

the undefinable, of the unknown. He explores the everything--using his

mind, the most powerful tool known to him."

Dylan thrashed about madly, but clarity sometimes emerged: "death is

passing through the doors," he wrote. "the ever-existant compulsion of

everything is the curiosity to keep moving down the hall." Down the hall,

exploring the rooms, finding the answers, raising new questions--at long

last, Dylan the seeker would achieve the state he was searching for.


Dylan took to referring to humans as zombies. That was a rare similarity to

Eric. But pitiful as we zombies were, Dylan didn't want to harm us. He

found us interesting, like new toys. "I am GOD compared to some of these

un-existable brainless zombies," he wrote.

That was Dylan's first brush with blasphemy. He immediately qualified

it: he wasn't claiming godhood, just that he was like God compared to

humans. It would be months before he'd try it again. Each time, he would

push the idea further, but he never quite seemed to believe. As spring 1997

progressed, he filled page after page with aborted attempts.

He saw history as good vs. bad, love vs. hate, God vs. Satan--"The

Everlasting Contrast." And he saw himself on the good side.

Eric had more practical concerns. Two months of heat from his dad

taught Eric to cover his tracks better. The vandalism missions continued

through spring and early summer, with no record of further detection. By

mission 5 the boys were drinking again. Wayne appeared to have watched

Eric closely for a while, then resumed trusting him. According to Eric, only

one outing went alcohol-free.

The emphasis on larger explosives continued; some of the timing devices

began to work. Eric discovered that he could light the tip of a cigarette and

let it burn down toward the fuse for an added delay. The boys survived a

few close calls, including near detection by a police officer in a squad car.

On the sixth outing, they brought along Dylan's sawed-off BB gun and fired

randomly into houses. "We probly didnt do any damage," Eric wrote, "but

we arent sure." That same night, they stole some Rent-a-Fence signs from a

construction site. Eric didn't make much of the swipe, but this appears to be

the moment where they crossed the hazy boundary between petty vandalism

and petty theft.


The missions had been satisfying for a couple of months. But sophomore

year was over. Eric was hungry for more. In the summer of 1997, Zack

Heckler went to Pennsylvania for two weeks. When he got back, Eric and

Dylan had built a pipe bomb. Dylan was involved, but it was Eric's baby.

Eric would not begin his journal until the spring of 1998. But he was

active with his Web site the previous year. By the summer of 1997, he had

posted his hate lists:


--Cuuuuuuuuhntryyyyyyyyyy music!!!


--R rated movies on CABLE! My DOG can do a better damn editing

job than those tards!!!...





The list went on for pages, fifty-odd entries about hating "fitness

fuckheads," phony martial arts experts, and people who mispronounced

"acrosT" or "eXspreso." At first, his targets seem preposterously random,

but Fuselier divined the underlying theme: stupid, witless inferiors. It wasn't

just the WB network Eric hated heart and soul, it was all the morons

watching it.

Eric's briefer love lists backed Fuselier's analysis. Eric loved "Making

fun of stupid people doing stupid things!" His greatest love was "Natural

SELECTION!!!!!!!!!!! God damn it's the best thing that ever happened to

the Earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms. I wish the

government would just take off every warning label. So then all the

dumbasses would either severely hurt themselves or DIE!"

What the boy was really expressing was contempt.


Eric's ideas began to fuse. He loved explosions, actively hated inferiors, and

passively hoped for human extinction. He built his first bombs.

He started small: nothing that would kill anyone, just enough to injure

people or their property. He went searching for instructions and found them

readily available on the Web. During the summer of 1997, he built several

explosives and began setting them off. Then he bragged about it on his Web


"If you havent made a CO2 bomb today, I suggest you do so," he wrote.

"Me and VoDkA detonated one yesterday and it was like a fucking

dynomite stick. Just watch out for shrapnel."

That was an exaggeration. They had taken small carbon dioxide

cartridges--which kids often called whip-its--and punctured them, then

shoved gun powder inside. Eric called them crickets, and they were closer

to a large firecracker than a bomb. Eric had also built pipe bombs, which

were more powerful. He was still searching for a spot safe for detonation.

Eric realized his Web audience would doubt him. He backed his claims

with specifications and an ingredient list. He wanted to make sure his

readers understood that he was serious.


Someone sensed the danger. On August 7, 1997, a "concerned citizen"--

apparently Randy Brown--read Eric's Web site and called the sheriff's

department. On that day--one year, eight months, and thirteen days before

Columbine--the killers' names permanently entered the law enforcement


Deputy Mark Burgess printed out Eric's pages. He read through them and

wrote up a report. "This Web page refers to 'missions' where possible

criminal mischiefs have occurred," he wrote. Curiously, Burgess made no

mention of the pipe bombs, which seem far more serious.

Burgess sent his report to a superior, Investigator John Hicks, with eight

Web site pages attached. They were filed.


Eric and Zack and Dylan were working age now. They all got jobs at

Blackjack together. There were flour fights and water chases all the time.

Eric plunged right in; Dylan watched from the sidelines. They made dry-ice

eruptions out back in the parking lot, watched how high they could get a

construction cone to sail. It was great. Then Zack met a girl. Bastard.

Dylan took it hard. Devon was her name, and she totally ripped the team

apart. Zack was with her all the time now, and that squeezed his buddies out

of the picture. Eric and Dylan were nobodies. The missions were suddenly

over. Eric didn't seem to mind too much, but Dylan was a mess.

It wasn't good for him now, he confided to "Existences." "My best friend

ever: the friend who shared, experimented, laughed, took chances with, &

appreciated me, more than any friend ever did.... Ever since Devon (who i

wouldn't mind killing) has loved him--that's the only place hes been!" They

had done everything together: drinking, cigars, sabotaging houses. Since

seventh grade, he had felt so lonely. Zack had changed all that. "hello I

finally found someone who was like me! who appreciated me & shared

very common interests. I finally felt happiness (sometimes)." But Zack had

found a girlfriend and moved on. "i feel so lonely, w/o a friend."

Who he wouldn't mind killing? Dylan tossed out the comment in passing,

and presumably it was just a figure of speech. Presumably. But he had

verbalized the idea--a big step. And Dylan did not yet consider Eric his best

friend. Dylan belabored the point that no one besides Zack had ever

understood him; no one else appreciated him. That would include Eric.


Dylan was lonelier than ever. Conveniently, he stumbled into a solution:

"My 1st love???"

"OH My God," his next entry began. "I am almost sure I am in love w,

Harriet. hehehe. such a strange name, like mine." He loved everything

about her, from her good body to her almost perfect face, her charm, her wit

and cunning and not being popular. He just hoped she liked him as much as

he loved her.

That was the wrinkle. Dylan had not actually spoken to Harriet. But he

couldn't let that stop him. He thought of her every second of every day. "If

soulmates exist," he wrote, "then I think I've found mine. I hope she likes


That was the other hurdle. He had not yet established whether she liked



Dylan felt happiness sometimes. He got excited about his driver's license.

But he couldn't stay happy. Shortly after falling for Harriet, he returned to

his journal to complain. Such a desolate, lonely, unsalvageable life. "NOT

FAIR!!!" He wanted to die. Zack and Devon looked at him like he was a

stranger, but Harriet had played the meanest trick: Dylan had fallen for

"fake love."

"She in reality doesn't give a good fuck about me," he said. She didn't

even know him, he admitted. He had no happiness, no ambitions, no

friends, and "no LOVE!!!"

Dylan wanted a gun. He had spoken to a friend about getting one. He

planned to turn the weapon on himself. That was a big step in the long

suicide process: from writing about it to action.

At this point, nearly two years before Columbine, Dylan saw the gun as

his last resort. He continued his spiritual quest "i stopped the pornography,"

he said. "I try not to pick on people." But God seemed intent on punishing

him. "A dark time, infinite sadness," he wrote. "I want to find love."

Love was the most common word in Dylan's journal. Eric was filling his

Web site with hate.


When Fuselier examined a crime, one of his primary tactics was to begin

ruling out motives. Dylan seemed like a classic depressive, but Fuselier had

to be sure. With both Columbine killers, an obvious question loomed: Were

they insane? Most mass murderers act deliberately--they just want to hurt

people--but some truly can't help themselves. Fuselier would describe those

killers as psychotic. A broad term, psychotic covers a spectrum of severe

mental illnesses, including paranoia and schizophrenia. Psychotics can

grow deeply disoriented and delusional, hearing voices and hallucinating. In

severe cases, they lose all contact with reality. They sometimes act out of

imaginary yet terrifying fear for their own safety, or according to

instructions from imaginary beings. Fuselier saw no indication of any of

that here.

Another possibility was psychopathy. In popular usage, any crazy killer

is a called a psychopath, but in psychiatry, the term denotes a specific

mental condition. Psychopaths appear charming and likable, but it's an act.

They are coldhearted manipulators who will do anything for their own gain.

The vast majority are nonviolent: they want your money, not your life. But

the ones who turn sadistic can be monstrous. If murder amuses them, they

will kill again and again. Ted Bundy, Gary Gilmore, and Jeffrey Dahmer

were all psychopaths. Typically, murderous psychopaths are serial killers,

but occasionally one will go on a spree. The Columbine massacre could

have been the work of a psychopath, but Dylan showed none of the signs.

Fuselier continued ruling out profiles. None of the usual theories fit.

Everything about Dylan screamed depressive--an extreme case, selfmedicating with alcohol. The problem was how that had led to murder.

Dylan's journal read like that of a boy on the road to suicide, not homicide.

Fuselier had seen murder arise from depression, but it rarely looked like

this. There is usually a continuum of depressive reactions, ranging from

lethargy to mass murder. Dylan seemed muddled on the languorous side.

Depressives are inherently angry, though they rarely appear that way. They

are angry at themselves. "Anger turned inward equals depression," Fuselier

explained. Depression leads to murder when the anger is severe enough and

then turns outward. Depressive outbursts tend to erupt after a debilitating

loss: getting fired, dumped by a girlfriend, even a bad grade, if the

depressive sees that as significant. "Most of us get angry, kick a trash can,

drink a beer or two, and get over it," Fuselier explained. For 99.9 percent of

the population, that's the end of it. But for a few, the anger festers.

Some depressives withdraw--from friends, family, schoolmates. Most of

them get help or just get over it. A few spiral downward toward suicide. But

for a tiny percentage, their own death is not enough. They perform a

"vengeful suicide"--a common example is the angry husband who shoots

himself in front of his wedding photo. He deliberately splatters his remains

on the symbol of the marriage. The offense is directed straight at his

conception of the guilty party. A tiny number of angry depressives decide to

make the tormentor pay. Typically that's a wife, girlfriend, boss, or parent--

someone close enough to matter. It's a rare depressive who resorts to

murder, but when one does, it nearly always ends with a single person.

A few lash out in a wider circle: the wife and her friend who badmouthed him; the boss and some coworkers. The targets are specific. But

the rarest of these angry depressives take the reasoning one step further:

everyone was mean to them; everyone had a role in their misfortune. They

want to lash out randomly and show us all, hurt us back and make sure we

feel it. This is the gunman who opens fire on a random crowd.

Fuselier had seen each of those types several times over the course of his

career. Dylan didn't look like a candidate. Murder or even suicide takes

willpower as well as anger. Dylan fantasized about suicide for years without

making an attempt. He had never spoken to the girls he dreamed of. Dylan

Klebold was not a man of action. He was conscripted by a boy who was.

34. Picture-Perfect Marsupials

Patrick Ireland was trying to learn to talk again. So frustrating. The first

couple of days he couldn't manage much of anything. He struggled to spit

out a single sentence, word by word, and when he had finished, it often

made no sense. In his best moments, Patrick spoke like the victim of a

severe stroke: slow, labored attempts would produce a single guttural

syllable, then a sudden burst of sound. He could form the words in his head,

but few made the passage to his mouth. Where did all the rest go? Any

chance distraction could hijack the thought as it made its way to his vocal

chords. Random phrases often slipped in to replace the ideas. His mom

would ask how he was feeling, and he'd answer in Spanish, or recite the

capitals of South American countries. His brain was never aware of the

mix-up. He was sure he had just described his mood or asked for a straw,

and was confused by her confusion.

Patrick's brain tended to spit out whatever was in short-term memory. He

had been studying the capitals just before the shooting, and recently

returned from Spain. Often the memories were more immediate. Hospital

intercom announcements were constantly echoing out of Patrick's mouth, in

response to unrelated questions. He had no idea he had even heard the

voices in the background. Other times it was complete nonsense. "Pictureperfect marsupials" kept popping out. No one knows where that came from.

It got frustrating, for everyone. One of Patrick's first meals out of the ICU

was a juicy hamburger. He was so excited about it, and couldn't wait to

slather the bun with... something. Kathy gently asked him to repeat. That

was annoying, but he answered with fresh gibberish. Over and over he

repeated himself, more angry with each new batch of nonsense. He tried

miming it, shaking the bottle--he really wanted that condiment. Kathy's

sister ran downstairs and got one of everything from the cafeteria: mustard,

relish, salsa--big handfuls of packets. None of that. They never did figure

out what he wanted.


Patrick understood that he'd been shot. He knew he had gone out the

window. He didn't grasp the scale of the massacre. He didn't know he had

been on TV--or that television shows were interested in him. He had no idea

the networks had cast him as The Boy in the Window.

Now and then, Patrick would stammer out an intelligible answer. And it

would make him extremely happy. His motor skills seemed fine on the left

side. If his brain could control his left hand to work a fork, why not a pen?

Someone fetched a pack of markers and a whiteboard.

"Oh boy, was that a mistake," Kathy recalled.

"Big mistake," John said. "It was just scribbles. Just scribbles, absolute."

It was one thing to hear Patrick struggle. Seeing his inability sketched out

in black and white, that was a shocker. It was like a diagram of a brain

malfunctioning: scads of tiny neurons, misfiring randomly into nowhere.

The Irelands were also confronted with the realization that the problem

lay deeper than the control centers for Patrick's vocal cords: he couldn't

organize the thoughts behind them. He could respond emotionally, but he

could not translate that into language, regardless of the medium.

"It frustrated him; it scared the hell out of us," John said. "He can't speak

and now he can't write, and how are we going to communicate with him?"

Sometimes, with a great struggle, Patrick formed the words out loud.

Sometimes that posed bigger problems. The questions could be unsettling.

Urgently, he begged them to tell him one thing: "How long is this going to



The hospital, the recovery--he didn't have time for all this. He had finals

in three weeks, he had ski season and basketball to train for, he was totally

coming into his own on the basketball court. He couldn't afford to get a B.

He had gone three straight years without one; he had worked his ass off

again all semester, and he was acing every class. The valedictorian thing

was for real now, almost in reach. He wasn't about to screw it up with this

hospital crap. He was going to graduate as valedictorian.

It had been an ambitious goal. Patrick was a bright kid, but no genius.

And Columbine was competitive. Some kids could cruise to easy A's, but

Patrick had to fight for some of his. Several students with unblemished

records shared the valedictory title every year. He couldn't afford even one


The geniuses could cruise to A's without breaking a sweat. Patrick hated

getting lumped in with them.

So Patrick made his parents a little uneasy when he announced his

intention, freshman year, in the car, on the way to basketball practice. He

didn't make a big deal out of it, and he didn't say he would try, he just said

he was going to do it.

Two years later, in his hospital room, John and Kathy Ireland had let go

of basketball, waterskiing, and academic honors. Walking and talking

sounded ambitious.

The severity of his situation was more than Patrick could swallow. "I

didn't comprehend, really," he said later.

Patrick Ireland did not see a television or a newspaper the first week. He

didn't realize his family was protecting him or how big the Columbine

tragedy was. He had no idea the whole country was watching. He didn't

even know who had died.

The first indication of what he was involved in came when friends called

to check on him from Europe. He had gone on a class trip a month earlier

and stayed with a family near Madrid. Now they were worried about him.

Patrick was taken aback. They were hearing about this in Spain?

Seven days out, he transferred to Craig Hospital. He began rehab and was

quickly scooting around the hospital in a wheelchair. He returned from

therapy one day and turned on the TV. It was the news, they were listing the

people killed. They showed Corey DePooter's picture. Patrick was stunned.

Corey was one of his best friends. They had started in the library together,

but gotten separated when the noises first started outside and Corey went to

investigate. Patrick had never seen him since.

"I started bawling," Patrick said later. "I think that was the first time I


The staff at Craig was not pushing for a first step--just a little movement.

If he could get control of that leg and lift it up off the mattress, there was

hope. His leg was fine. All the neural pathways up and down his spinal cord

were intact. Signals passed unimpeded to the muscles wrapped around his

femur. Millions of tiny nerve endings continued transmitting sensory data

along the length of his thigh.

Patrick knew, intellectually, that all that fine machinery was functional.

But he couldn't reach it. There was just the tiniest little gap in the network

inside his brain. Somewhere inside his head he could feel himself issue the

command. He felt it moving in there, but then it got lost. He squeezed his

eyes, squeezed his brain, tried to force it. Squeezing didn't help. The leg



Something was missing. The makeshift memorials in Clement Park had

grown enormous over the first few days. Hundreds of thousands of flowers

were piled up with poems, drawings, and teddy bears. Letter jackets,

jewelry, and wind chimes added sprinkles of individuality. The district

rented several warehouses to store them.

It wasn't enough. The survivors didn't know what they needed, or where

or why, exactly, but they needed something. They were searching for a

symbol, and they knew it immediately when it came.

Seven days after the massacre, shortly before sunset, a row of fifteen

wooden crosses rose up along the crest of Rebel Hill. They stood seven feet

high, three feet wide, and were spaced evenly along the length of the mesa.

Clement Park's floodlights lit up the low-hanging clouds behind them, and

the crosses cast an eerie silhouette against the thunderheads. The tips

seemed to glow. They were startling, too, for their imperfections. The

dimensions seemed a little off: the crossbeams looked far too short, and

were branched too close to the top. Some were planted poorly, leaning

badly to one side. Within hours, the arms dangled beads, ribbons, rosaries,

placards, flags, and so many blue and white balloons.

Over the next five days, 125,000 people trekked up the hill to reach the

crosses. They trudged through the mud as a vicious storm pounded the hill.

They tore away the grass. Many waited two hours in the rain just to begin

the climb. It felt like a pilgrimage.

The crosses had come from Chicago. A short, pudgy carpenter built them

out of pine he got at Home Depot. He drove them to Colorado in a pickup,

planted them on the hill, and drove back. He'd taped a black-and-white

photo of one victim or killer to each cross, and he left a pen dangling from

each one to encourage graffiti.

"I couldn't believe how fast people came up and started putting stuff

around them," an onlooker said. Soon each cross had sprouted a pile

covering the base and making its way up to the arms. Christian dog tags

were popular, with phrases like "God Is Awesome" and "Jesus Lives."

Several crosses were wrapped head to foot in flowers, others dressed in

shirts and jackets and pants.

On thirteen crosses, the messages were loving and uncontroversial. The

killers' crosses hosted a bitter debate: "HATE BREEDS HATE." "How can

anyone forgive you?"

"I forgive you," someone responded. Half the messages were

conciliatory: "Sorry we all failed you." "No one is to blame."

It was exactly as Tom and Sue Klebold had feared. If they had buried

Dylan, his grave would look like that.

A woman told a reporter she'd been spit on for grieving for the killers,

then shoved into the mud. A woman with a baby wrote "Evil Bastard" on

Dylan's cross. The crowd didn't like it. Then she wrote it again. Two

teenage girls approached her; crying, they begged her to stop. Someone

began singing "Amazing Grace." Soon much of the hillside was belting out

the refrain. The woman left.

"The crosses ask an implicit question," Rocky Mountain News columnist

Mike Littwin wrote. "Are you ready to forgive? When I first saw the

crosses and understood what they meant, I wondered if it was too soon even

to ask that question. Most people wouldn't have defaced the cross, but many

would have been tempted. Do those crosses defile what has become sacred


Hell yes, Brian Rohrbough said. Just when he thought the pain couldn't

get any worse, some jerk had raised a shrine to his son's murderer. Who

could be that cruel?

Despite the flare-ups, controversy was the exception. One woman

marveled at the forgiveness in her community. "How many other places

would allow this and not have taken [Eric and Dylan's crosses] out of the

ground already?" she asked.

Saturday's edition of the Rocky led with a three-word headline: DAD DESTROYS

CROSSES. A haunting photo captured thirteen remaining tributes, with two stark

gaps. Eric and Dylan's crosses had lasted three days.

"You don't cheapen what Christ did for us by honoring murderers with

crosses," Brian said. "There's nowhere in the Bible that says to forgive an

unrepentant murderer. Most Christians don't know that. These fools have

come out saying 'Forgive everyone.' You don't repent, you don't forgive

them--that's what the Bible says."

Rohrbough divided the community. Some people understood his anger.

Others found his response a little harsh. "People need to learn to forgive," a

woman on the hill told the Rocky. But then she thought for a moment. "I

can understand his rage."

Brian's first response was not to destroy the two crosses. He initially

affixed each one with a sign saying "Murderers burn in hell."

The park district took them down. Officials said they had also removed a

teddy bear smeared with ketchup and were prohibiting anything obscene.

Brian conferred with his ex-wife, Sue, and her husband, Rich Petrone.

They agreed to a united front on everything. Rich called several officials:

Sheriff Stone; Dave Thomas, the DA; and the man in charge of the parks


"The three of them said those crosses shouldn't be there; we're going to

take them down--give us until tomorrow at five and we promise you they'll

be gone," Brian said. He and the Petrones went to the hill at five and

nothing had happened. "So we decided, let's just go take care of this," Brian

said. "We don't need to put up with this stuff."

Brian wanted those symbols out, and he wanted the world to see it. He

called CNN and a crew filmed it. "It wasn't going be done in darkness,"

Brian said.

Brian and the Petrones hauled the crosses away, hacked them into little

pieces, and then tossed the rubble into a Dumpster.

"We got back and we were sitting there talking about it, and the phone

rings," Brian recalled. "It was Thomas: 'Just give us a little more time.' And

Rich says, 'Nope, we've already taken care of it.'"

Brian took charge of his tragedy that day. He discovered the power of

being Danny Rohrbough's dad. From that day forward, he would not

hesitate to wield it.

But this particular battle was just getting under way. The carpenter drove

back from Chicago and pulled out the thirteen remaining crosses. Now

Brian Rohrbough was really fuming. The cruelest man of the aftermath had

returned to tear down the monument to his son. Rohrbough also sensed

opportunism. "I question his motives," he said.

Brian had good instincts. The carpenter had made a family business out

of similar stunts. He returned with a new set of crosses, and a pack of media

on his heels. The highlight was a joint appearance with Brian on The Today

Show. The showman apologized profusely and offered a series of solemn

vows: he would never build another cross for the killers, or for any killer,

and he would drive around the country removing several he had erected in

the past.

He broke every promise. He built fifteen new crosses and took them on a

national tour. He milked his celebrity for years. Brian Rohrbough returned

to cursing him: "The opportunist, the great [carpenter], the most hateful,

despicable person who would come to someone else's tragedy."

The world forgot the carpenter. Few had noted his name. Most never

knew what a huckster he was, or the lies he told, or the pain he inflicted.

But they remember his crosses fondly. They recall the comfort that they


35. Arrest

Eric was a thief now. He had a set of Rent-a-Fence signs. He liked the

feeling, he wanted more. Junior year, the boys got right to work. Eric and

Dylan and Zack hacked into the school computer and commandeered a list

of locker combinations. They began breaking in. They got sloppy. On

October 2, 1997, they got caught. They were sent to the dean, who

suspended them for three days.

The Harris and Klebold parents responded the way they always did.

Wayne Harris was a pragmatist. He would make Eric regret what he'd done.

With outsiders he was focused on containment; Eric's future was at stake.

He called the dean and argued that Eric was a minor. The dean was

unmoved. What would show up on Eric's records? Wayne asked. He jotted

down the answer in his journal: "In-house only because police were not

involved. Destroyed upon graduation." Good. Eric had a promising future


The Klebolds addressed the situation intellectually. Dylan had

demonstrated a shocking lapse of ethics, but Tom disagreed with

suspensions on philosophical grounds. There were more effective ways to

discipline a child. The dean had rarely met such a thoughtful, intelligent

parent, but the judgment stood.

Eric and Dylan were each grounded for a month and were forbidden

contact with each other or with Zack. Eric also lost his computer privileges.

Eric and Dylan weathered the punishment and remained close. Zack began

drifting away, particularly from Eric. The tight threesome was over. From

that day forward, Eric and Dylan committed their crimes as a pair.


Fuselier considered Eric's psychological state at this point, a year and a half

before the murders. Eric was not a depressive like Dylan, that was for sure.

And there were no signs of mental illness. No signs of anything to predict

murder. Eric's Web site was obscenely angry, but anger and young men

were practically synonymous. The instincts that would lead to Columbine

were surely in place by now, but Eric had yet to reveal them.


Dylan fixated on Harriet. Fifty minutes a day, for one class period, Dylan

lolled around in heaven. Harriet was in his class.

Sometimes she would laugh. What a darling little laugh she let out. So

innocent, so pure. Innocence--what an angelic quality. Someday Dylan

would speak to her.

One day Dylan saw his chance. He had a group project for the class, a

report to work on together, and Harriet was on his team. Blessed day. This

was it.

He did nothing.

Dylan described his trajectory as a downward spiral. He borrowed the

phrase from Nine Inch Nails's gripping concept album, which documents a

fictional man unraveling. It climaxes with him killing himself with a gun to

the mouth.

Oliver Stone's satirical film Natural Born Killers would become the pop

culture artifact most associated with the Columbine massacre. That was

reasonable, since Eric and Dylan used "NBK" as shorthand for their own

event, and the film bears considerable resemblances. It also captured the

flavor of Eric's egotistical, empathy-free attitude, but it bore no relation to

Dylan's psyche. It certainly wasn't where he saw his life headed, at least not

until the final months. For the first eighteen to twenty months of his journal,

Dylan identified with two powerful characters to convey his torment: the

protagonists of The Downward Spiral and David Lynch's film Lost


After the murders, controversies raged about the role of violent films,

music, and video games. Some columnists and talk-radio hosts saw an easy

cause and effect. That seems simplistic for Eric--who was a gifted critical

thinker with a voracious appetite for the classics--and absurd for his partner.

Dylan identified with depressives on the brink of suicide. He focused on

fictional characters mired in the hopelessness he already felt.


Eric got sloppy. He allowed the worst imaginable person to discover one of

his pipe bombs: his dad.

Wayne Harris was beside himself. Firecrackers were one thing, but this

was too much. He wasn't even sure what to do with it. Eric told several

friends about the incident, and their accounts of Wayne's response varied.

Zack Heckler said Wayne could not figure out how to defuse the bomb, so

he went outside with Eric and detonated it. But Nate Dykeman said Wayne

had merely confiscated the bomb. Sometime later, Eric took Nate into his

parents' bedroom closet and showed it to him. Wayne Harris never referred

to the incident in his journal on Eric, which was dormant at this time.

Eric swore up and down to his parents that he would never make a bomb

again. They apparently believed him. They wanted to. Eric probably shut

down production for a while, and he definitely covered his tracks better.

Eventually, he got back to business. At some point, he showed Nate two or

three of his later products, which he was storing in his own room.


Dylan felt abandoned. He was grounded for the locker scam, home alone,

and lonelier than ever. Then his older brother, Byron, was kicked out for

drugs. Tom and Sue understood the tough love would cause an upheaval, so

they went to family counseling with Dylan. That didn't change their son's

outlook. He got a new room out of it, and he put his own stamp on the

place: two black walls and two red ones, posters of baseball heroes and rock

bands: Lou Gehrig, Roger Clemens, and Nine Inch Nails. Also, some street

signs and a woman in a leopard bikini.

"I get more depressed with each day," he complained. Why did friends

keep deserting him? They did not, actually, but Dylan perceived it that way.

He fretted about Eric dumping him, too. "wanna die," he repeated. Death

equaled freedom now; death offered tranquillity. He began using the words


Then he weighed the other option: He named a friend and said he "will

get me a gun, ill go on my killing spree against anyone I want."

It was Dylan's second allusion to murder. The first had been ambiguous;

this was overt. And now it was a spree.

He changed the subject immediately. That was unusual. As a rule, Dylan

hammered ideas relentlessly. He would drill for two straight pages on the

"Everlasting Struggle" or his destiny as a seeker. Murder was different. For

the second time, he tossed in a single line, at the peak of despair, and

promptly returned to his own destruction.

The idea was germinating, a year and a half out. Dylan appeared to be

exploring a spree. With Eric? Probably. But the details of this critical

moment are lost. Neither boy ever mentions those conversations in the

paper trail they left behind. Eric recorded his actions: he was building

bigger bombs. Coincidence? Unlikely. Eric's thinking had been evolving

steadily in one direction since freshman year.


Late in 1997, Eric took notice of school shooters. "Every day news

broadcasts stories of students shooting students, or going on killing sprees,"

he wrote. He researched the possibilities for an English paper. Guns were

cheap and readily available, he discovered. Gun Digest said you could get a

Saturday night special for $69. And schools were easy targets. "It is just as

easy to bring a loaded handgun to school as it is to bring a calculator," Eric


"Ouch!" his teacher responded in the margin. Overall, he rated it

"thorough & logical. Nice job."


The last day of school before Christmas, something extraordinary

happened. Dylan's true love waved at him. Finally! Dylan was ecstatic; then

he began to wonder. Had she waved? At him? Maybe not. Probably not.

Definitely not. Just delusional, he decided. Again.

He sat down and considered who loved him. He listed their names on a

page in his journal. He drew little hearts beside three. Nineteen people.

Nineteen failures.


A few weeks later, Eric made it with a real woman. Brenda was almost

twenty-three. She had no idea he was sixteen. "He acted a lot older," she

said. When he told her he was in school, she took it to mean college. They

met at the mall, and he drove to her house. They started going out: bowling,

drag racing, driving into the mountains to get drunk. He taught her about

the computer, he told her how great she looked, and she could not have

been more charmed. She described it to reporters later as "a friendship but

more than a friendship."

Sometimes Dylan would hang out with them. He was too shy to speak.


Eric and Dylan got cockier. They stole more valuable merchandise and

started testing their pipe bombs. Outwardly, they seemed like responsible

kids. Teachers trusted them and granted them access to the computer closet.

They helped themselves to expensive equipment. At some point, Eric may

have started a credit card scam. In his notebook, he listed eight steps to

complete the scam, though there's no evidence that he carried them out. He

later claimed he had.

Dylan was no good at deception. He kept getting caught. Eric did not.

Tom Klebold noticed Dylan had a new laptop. Eric could have weaseled out

of that one without missing a beat--it was a friend's... he'd checked it out of

the computer lab. Dylan just confessed. His dad made him turn himself in.

Eric and Dylan both had a penchant for picking on underclassmen, but

Dylan got caught. In January 1998, he got sent to the dean for scratching a

slur about "fags" onto a freshman's locker. He got another suspension and

paid $70 to get the locker fixed.

The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and man, were

those things badass. They bragged to Nate Dykeman and then brought him

along for a demo. Eric was in charge where bombs were concerned, so

everything went according to plan. They waited until Super Bowl Sunday,

when the streets of metro Denver were deserted. The Broncos were

underdogs in their fifth shot at the championship, and everyone was

watching the game. Eric took advantage of the lull. He brought Nate and

Dylan out to a quiet spot near his house, dropped the bomb in a culvert, and

let her rip. Whoa! Nate was appropriately impressed.

On January 30, three days after Dylan's meeting with the dean, a crime of

opportunity presented itself. It was a Friday night, and the boys were


Eric and Dylan drove out into the country, pulled onto a gravel strip, and

got out to break stuff. There was a van parked there, with lots of electronic

gizmos inside. How cool would it be to steal it? The boys had no idea what

they might use the stuff for, but they were sure they could get away with it.

No witnesses and no fingerprints. Eric had a pair of ski gloves to mask


"Everything seemed so easy," he wrote later. "No way we would get

caught." Eric took guard duty and gave Dylan the dirty work. Dylan put one

ski glove on and tried to punch out a window. They had no idea how solid a

car window was. He hit it again and again. Nothing. Eric took over. Just as

useless. Dylan went for a rock. He hauled up a boulder, hurled it into the

glass, and even that was deflected. It took several blows before the rock

crashed through. Dylan put the other glove on, reached in to unlock the

door, and started digging through the pile like crazy. Eric again left Dylan to

commit the act. He ran back to man the getaway car. Dylan grabbed

anything that looked interesting. He flung everything else all over the van.

By his count, he nabbed "one briefcase, one black pouch, one flashlight, a

yellow thing, and a bucket of stuff."

Dylan ran armloads of loot back to the Honda. Eric continued to "guard."

Another car approached. Dylan froze; the car passed. Unfazed, Dylan ran

back to grab more. Eric had grown wary. "That's enough!" he ordered.

"Let's go."

They drove deeper into the country, over the hogback, to Deer Creek

Canyon Park, a vast preserve that ran for miles up into the mountains. The

park was deserted; it closed an hour after nightfall, and the sun had set four

hours ago. They pulled into the parking lot, killed the engine, and checked

out the take.

They cranked some tunes to enjoy themselves, then flipped on the dome

light to hunt for another CD. Dylan reached back and hauled out his

favorite item: a $400 voltmeter, the yellow thing with buttons along the

base and black and red probes hanging off it. Dylan poked at the buttons;

Eric watched intently. When the meter lit up, the boys went wild. Cool!

Dylan pulled out the flashlight and switched it on. "Wow!" Eric howled.

"That is really bright!" Then he spotted something cooler: "Hey, we've got a

Nintendo game pad!"

They rummaged a bit more before Eric realized they had grown sloppy:

time to resume precautions. "We better put this stuff in the trunk," he said.

He popped the latch and stepped out.

That's when Jeffco Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Walsh decided to make his

presence known. He had been standing outside the car for several minutes,

watching and listening to the entire exchange. You can see for miles out in

the country; a lone vehicle in an empty lot in a closed state park just asked

for intervention. The boys had been so immersed, they'd failed to see his

car, hear his engine or his footsteps, or notice his tall frame looming right

over the rear window.

When Eric stepped out, Deputy Walsh blinded him with a flashlight

beam. What were they up to? the deputy asked. Whose property was all

this? "Right then I realized what a damn fool I was," Eric wrote later. He

would claim remorse, but he didn't show any, even then.

Eric thought fast but lied poorly. He was off his game that night. He said

they had been messing around in a parking lot near town and had stumbled

onto the equipment stacked neatly in the grass. He gave a precise location

and described it vividly. Details were the key to a good lie. Good tactics,

bad choice: he depicted the actual robbery location.

Walsh was incredulous. He asked to see the property. "Sure," Eric said.

He kept playing it cool. He kept doing the talking. Dylan shut up and went

along. Walsh had the boys stack the goods on the trunk and tried again:

Where did you find this property? Dylan summoned up his nerve. He

parroted Eric's story. Walsh said it looked suspicious. He would radio

another deputy to check on any break-ins.

Eric was confident. He looked over at his partner. Dylan folded.

Wayne and Kathy Harris were waiting when Eric arrived at the police

station. Tom and Sue Klebold were close behind. They couldn't believe

their boys could do something like this. The boys could be charged with

three felonies, including a Class V, which carried up to a $100,000 fine and

one to three years in prison. Eric and Dylan were questioned separately.

With their parents' consent, they waived their rights. Each boy gave oral and

written statements. Eric blamed Dylan. "Dylan suggested that we should

steal some of the objects in the white van," he wrote. "at first I was very

uncomfortable and questioning with the thought." His verbal account was

more adamant. He said Dylan looked into the van and asked, "Should we

break into it and steal it? It would be nice to steal some stuff in there.

Should we do it?" Eric claimed he responded, "Hell no." He said Dylan kept

pestering him and eventually wore him down.

Dylan accepted joint blame. "Almost at the same time, we both got the

idea of breaking into this white van," he said.

The boys were taken to county jail. They were fingerprinted,

photographed, and booked. Then they were released into the custody of four

furious parents.

36. Conspiracy

After the murders, the detective team sought convictions. It had three

possible crimes to uncover: participation in the attack, participation in the

planning, or guilty knowledge. At first it looked easy. The killers had been

sloppy; they hadn't even tried to cover their tracks. And the primary living

suspects were juveniles. Most of the friends had withheld something

crucial: Robyn had helped purchase three of the guns, Chris and Nate had

seen pipe bombs, and Chris and Zack had heard about napalm. They all

broke quickly. They were kids; it was easy. But they broke only so far. They

admitted to knowing details, but claimed to be clueless about the plan.

Detectives pushed harder. The suspects didn't push back; they just threw

up their hands. Fuselier had several solid agents on the case. He knew they

could sniff out a liar. How are the suspects responding? he asked. Do they

seem deceptive? Not at all. His team leader described them as wide-eyed

and understandably anxious. Most had begun by hiding something, and it

had been painfully obvious. They were awful actors. But once they spilled

it, they just seemed relieved. They were calm, peaceful--all the signs of

someone coming clean. Most of the suspects agreed to polygraphs. That

usually meant they had nothing left to hide.

Two friends, Robert Perry and Joe Stair, had been identified by witnesses

as shooters or at least present at the scene. They were both tall and lanky--

and therefore matched a common description for Dylan. Both boys

produced alibis. Perry's was shaky: he had been sleeping downstairs until

his grandmother woke him with news of the shooting. He said he walked

upstairs, stumbled out onto the porch, and cried. Did anyone see him, other

than his grandmother? No, he didn't think so. But Perry had been seen by

others--he'd just been too upset to notice them. Within a week, a neighbor

who was interviewed described driving up around noon and seeing Perry

crying just the way he'd described.

The physical evidence was even less damning. All the friends' houses

were searched. No weapons were found. No ammo, no ordnance, no refuse

of any pipe bomb assembly. Zack had a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook,

but there was no sign that he had used it to build anything. Fingerprints at

the crime scene were all a bust. There was an extraordinary amount of

material: guns, ammo, gear, unused pipe bombs, strips of duct tape, and

dozens of components from the big bombs. All of it was covered with the

killers' prints; nobody else's. The same was true at the killers' houses:

nothing on the journals, videotapes, camcorders, or bomb-assembly gear.

No one appeared in the killers' records. Eric had been a meticulous planner

and recorder of dates, locations, and receipts. Detectives searched the stores'

files and credit card records. All signs indicated that the killers had

purchased everything.

For months, Sheriff Stone publicly espoused a conspiracy theory.

Fuselier could feel the conspiracy slipping away the first week. Within two,

he knew it was remote. The most telling evidence came from the killers

themselves. In their journals and videos, they cop to everything. They never

mention outside involvement, except, derisively, when they talk about

hapless dupes. The killers leaked their plans in countless way, but there's no

indication that anyone close to them ever breathed a word. Their friends' emails, IMs, day planners, and journals were searched, along with every

paper the investigators could find; there was no sign that any of the friends

had known.

Rumors about a third shooter have continued right up to the present day,

but publicly, it didn't take long for investigators to put them to rest. Eric and

Dylan were correctly identified by witnesses who knew them. No one else

turned up on the surveillance videos or the 911 audio. Witnesses' accounts

were remarkably consistent about a tall shooter and a short one--but there

seemed to be two of each: two in T-shirts and two in trench coats. "As soon

as I learned Eric's coat was left outside on the landing, I knew what had

happened there," Fuselier said. Witnesses exchanged stories, and reports of

two guys in T-shirts and two in trench coats quickly turned into four

shooters. Dylan's decision to leave his coat on until he reached the library

made for more combinations, and the number multiplied over the afternoon.

The killers also lobbed pipe bombs in every direction. Their gunfire

shattered windows and ricocheted off walls, ductwork, and stairs. Many

kids heard crashes or explosions and positively identified the location as the

source of activity rather than the destination. Several witnesses insisted that

they had spotted a gunman on the roof. What they had seen was a

maintenance man adjusting the air-conditioning unit.

So what accounted for all the confusion? "Eyewitness testimony, in

general, is not very accurate," one investigator explained. "Put that together

with gunshots going off and just the most terrifying situation in their life,

what they remember now may not be anywhere near what really happened."

Human memory can be erratic. We tend to record fragments: gunshots,

explosions, trench coats, terror, sirens, screams. Images come back jumbled,

but we crave coherence, so we trim them, adjust details, and assemble

everything together in a story that makes sense. We record vivid details, like

the scraggly ponytail flapping against the dirty blue T-shirt of the boy

fleeing just ahead. All the way out of the building, a witness may focus on

that swishing hair. Later, she remembers a glimpse of the killer: he was tall

and lanky--did he have scraggly hair? It fits together, and she connects it.

Soon the killer is wearing the dirty blue T-shirt as well. Moments later, and

forever after, she is convinced that's exactly what she saw.

Investigators identified nearly a dozen common misperceptions among

library survivors. Distortion of time was rampant, particularly chronology.

Witnesses recalled less once the killers approached them, not more. Terror

stops the brain from forming new memories. A staggering number insisted

they were the last ones out of the library--once they were out, it was over.

Similarly, most of those injured, even superficially, believed they were the

last ones hit. Survivors also clung to reassuring concepts: that they were

actually hiding by crouching under tables in plain sight.

Memory is notoriously unreliable. It happens even with the best

witnesses. Six years later, Principal DeAngelis described the shooting as if

he had just experienced it. He retraced his steps through the building,

pausing at the exact spot where he first saw Dylan Klebold fire his shotgun.

Mr. D pointed out Dylan's position and described everything Dylan was

wearing: white T-shirt, military harness, ball cap turned around backward.

But he has two entirely different versions of how he got there.

In one version, he learned of the shooting in his office. That was unusual:

normally he would have been in the midst of the cafeteria hubbub. But

Tuesday he was held up by an appointment. He had a meeting with a young

teacher working on a one-year contract. Mr. D had been happy with the

teacher's performance and was about to offer him a permanent position.

They had just shaken hands and sat down when Frank's secretary's face

slammed into the glass on the top half of his door. She had run to warn him

so frantically that she'd failed to turn the knob completely and had hurtled

right into the door. A moment later, she burst in shouting.

"Frank! They're shooting!"


"Gunshots! Downstairs, there are gunshots!"

He bolted up. They ran out together--into the main foyer, just past the

huge hanging trophy case. Dylan fired, and the case shattered behind Frank.

It was two or three years after the fact that Frank's secretary recounted

that version for him. He told her she was nuts. He had no memory of that.

"In my version, I'm walking out calmly going to lunch," he said. "We've

finished the meeting, I've offered him the job. He's happy."

DeAngelis had planned to offer the job. He liked the teacher and had

pictured his joyful acceptance. Mentally, it had already happened. The

actual events--gunfire in the hallway, his charge toward the girls' gym class,

and the desperation to hide them--wiped out everything in his mental

vicinity. His secretary's appearance was unimportant, and it conflicted with

his "memory" of offering the job. One memory had to go.

Mr. D checked with the teacher. No job offer--they'd just sat down. Other

witnesses had seen him run alongside his secretary. He came to accept that

version of the truth, but he can't picture it. His visual brain insists that the

false memory is real. Multiply that by nearly two thousand kids and over a

hundred teachers and a precisely accurate picture was impossible to render.


Investigators went back to interview the killers' closest friends several

times. Each new interview and lead would raise more questions about the

killers' associates. Sometimes new evidence revealed lies.

An FBI agent interviewed Kristi Epling the day after the murders. Kristi

was connected to both killers, particularly Eric. They were close, and she

was dating his buddy Nate Dykeman. She didn't seem to know much,

though. Her FBI report was brief and unremarkable. She said Nate was in

shock, the TCM connection was silly, and Eric had probably been the

leader. Kristi did not mention any of his notes in her possession.

Like most of the killers' friends, Kristi was exceptionally smart; she was

headed to college on an academic scholarship. She played it cool about the

notes during her FBI interview, then mailed them to a friend in St. Louis

who was unconnected to Columbine and unlikely to be questioned. Kristi

was careful: no return address on the envelope. The friend went to the

police. She did not inform Kristi.

The pages included notes passed back and forth between Kristi and Eric

in German class--a rambling conversation, conducted in German. They

mentioned a hit list. That was old news to investigators--most of the school

was on one of Eric's lists. But they had withheld that information from the

public. Kristi had been hiding it; maybe she was hiding more. Detectives

returned to question her. They asked about German class, and Kristi said

she had exchanged notes with Eric but had thrown them away months ago.

She assured them repeatedly that Eric had never made any threats. She

would have told a teacher, she insisted. Kristi also said Nate had fled to

Florida, to stay with his father and avoid the media hounds. They had talked

on the phone that morning.

The detectives asked Kristi what should happen to someone who had

helped the killers. "They should go to jail forever," she said. "It was a

horrible thing." And what about someone who withheld information after

the attack? "I don't know," Kristi said. "It would depend on what it was."

They should probably get counseling, she suggested, but some sort of

punishment, too.

They asked again: Did she know anything more? No. Had she destroyed

any notes from Eric? No. They kept repeating the questions, assuring her

that she could disclose anything now without repercussions. No, there was

nothing. They continued questioning her, repeated that offer, and finally she

went for it. OK, there were notes, she admitted. And Nate was not in

Florida; he was staying with her. He was there in the house right now. She

said the notes had been very painful to hold on to but she did not want to

destroy them. If she could just get them somewhere far, far away, she hoped

to retrieve them someday when everything was more clear.

Once she copped to the truth, Kristi was forthcoming. She agreed to turn

over her PC and her e-mail accounts and to take a polygraph. Beyond that,

she didn't know anything significant. She told them about some things Nate

had confessed to, but detectives knew about them already. Kristi had just

been afraid. She'd thought she had something incriminating, and she'd

panicked. No evidence of a conspiracy. Another dead end.

Nevertheless, Dr. Fuselier learned a great deal from the German

conversation. It revolved around Kristi's new boyfriend; she'd had a shortlived romance with a sophomore named Dan. Eric couldn't believe she was

going out with that little fuck. Why, what was wrong with Dan? she asked.

For one thing, the prettyboy had punched him in the face last year, Eric

said. Eric, in a fistfight? That surprised her. He always seemed so rational.

He got mad when kids made fun of his black clothes or all his German crap,

but he always kept his cool. He would calmly figure out how to get even.

Kristi worried about Eric getting even. She asked her boyfriend about it,

and he said he was afraid Eric might kill him.

Kristi decided to play peace broker. She took it up with Eric in German

class again. She told him straight out how scared Dan was. She used the

phrase "kill him." That made Eric nervous. He was in the juvenile Diversion

program because of the van break-in, and threats like that could get him in

trouble. Kristi said she'd be careful about it. But how could Dan make it up

to him?

How about if he let me punch him in the face, Eric suggested. Seriously?


Dr. Fuselier was not surprised by the notes. Very cold-blooded. Any kid

could get in a fight. Dan had gotten really angry, and in the heat of a

fistfight had clocked Eric. Eric was planning his punch. He wanted Dan to

stand there defenseless and let him do it. Complete power over the kid.

That's what Eric craved.


As the conspiracy theory crumbled, far from the eyes of the public, a new

motive emerged. The jock-feud theory was accepted as the underlying

driver, but that had supposedly gone on for a year. What made the killers

snap? Nine days after the murders, the media found yet another trigger. The

Marines. The New York Times and the Washington Post broke the story on

April 29. The rest of the media piled on quickly.

They learned that Eric had been talking to a Marine recruiter during the

last few weeks of his life. They also discovered he'd been taking the

prescription antidepressant Luvox--something that would typically

disqualify him (because it implied depression). A Defense Department

spokesman verified that the recruiter had learned about the medication and

rejected Eric. The media was off to the races, again.

Luvox added an extra wrinkle, as it functioned as an anger suppressant.

The Times cited unnamed friends of Eric's as saying that "they believe that

he may have tried to stop taking the drug, perhaps because of his rejection

by the Marines, five days before he and his best friend, Dylan Klebold,

stormed onto the Columbine campus with guns and bombs."

The story added a bit of evidence that seemed to confirm it: "the

coroner's office said no drugs or alcohol had been found in Mr. Harris's

body in an autopsy, but it would not specify whether the body had been

screened for Luvox." It was finally coming together: the Marines rejected

Eric, he quit the Luvox to fuel his rage, he grabbed a gun and started

killing. It all fit.

Fuselier read the stories. He shuddered. All the conclusions were

reasonable--and wrong. Eric's body had not initially been screened for

Luvox. Later it had: he'd remained on a full dose, right up to his death. And

investigators had talked to the Marine recruiter the morning after the

murders. He had determined Eric was ineligible. But Eric had never known.

By this time, Fuselier had already read Eric's journal and seen the

Basement Tapes. He knew what the media did not. There had been no



April 30, officials met with the Klebolds and several attorneys to discuss

ground rules for a series of interviews. Kate Battan was aggravated that she

could not question the family directly. So she asked them to tell her about

their son. They were still dumbfounded. They described a normal teenage

boy: extraordinarily shy but happy. Dylan was coping well with

adolescence and developing into a responsible young adult. They entrusted

him with major decisions when he could articulate his rationale. Teachers

loved him and so did other kids. He was gentle and sensitive until the day

he died. Sue could recall seeing Dylan cry only once. He came home from

school upset, and went up to his room. He pulled a box of stuffed animals

out of the closet, dumped them out, burrowed under, and fell asleep

surrounded. He never did reveal what disturbed him.

His parents granted Dylan a measure of privacy in his own room. The

last time Tom recalled being in there was about two weeks before the

murders, to turn off the computer Dylan left on. Otherwise, they monitored

Dylan's life aggressively, and forbade him from hanging out with bad


Tom said he was extremely close to Dylan. They shared Rockies season

tickets with three other families, and on his nights, Tom usually took one of

his sons. Tom and Dylan hung out all the time together. They played a lot of

sports until Tom developed arthritis in the mid-1990s. Now it was a lot of

chess, computers, and working on Dylan's BMW. They built a set of custom

speakers together. Dylan didn't like doing repair work with Tom, though,

and sometimes he got testy and snapped off one-word responses. That was

normal. Tom considered Dylan his best friend.

Dylan had a handful of tight buddies, his parents said: Zack and Nate,

and of course Eric, who was definitely closest. Chris Morris seemed like

more of an acquaintance. Dylan had fun with Robyn Anderson--a sweet

girl--but definitely nothing romantic. He hadn't had a girlfriend yet, but had

been kind of group dating. His friends seemed happy. They sure did laugh a

lot. They were always polite and seemed laid back--pretty immune to social

pressure, they said.

Eric was the quietest of the group. Tom and Sue never felt they knew

what was going on in that head. Eric was always respectful, though. They

were aware Judy Brown had a different opinion. "Judy doesn't like a lot of

people," Sue said.

Tom and Sue didn't perceive Eric to be leading or following their son.

But they did notice that he got angry at Dylan when he "screwed something


Before they left, detectives asked the Klebolds if they had any questions.

Yes. They asked to read anything Dylan had written. Anything to


Battan left frustrated. "I didn't get to ask any questions," she said later.

"All I got was a fluff piece on their son." She documented the interview,

which remained sealed for eighteen months. The series of interviews never

occurred. Lawyers demanded immunity from prosecution before they

would talk. Jeffco officials refused. The Harrises took the same position.

Battan didn't even get a fluff piece from them.


While Battan interviewed the Klebolds, the National Rifle Association

convened in Denver. It was a ghastly coincidence. Mayor Wellington Webb

begged the group to cancel its annual convention, scheduled long before.

Angry barbs had flown back and forth all week. "We don't want you here,"

Mayor Webb finally said.

Other promoters gave in to similar demands. Marilyn Manson had been

incorrectly linked to the killers. He canceled his concert at Red Rocks and

the remainder of his national tour. The NRA show went on. Four thousand

attended. Three thousand protesters met them. They massed on the capitol

steps, marched to the convention site, and formed a human chain around the

Adam's Mark Hotel. Many waved "Shame on the NRA" signs. One placard

was different. Tom Mauser's said "My son Daniel died at Columbine. He'd

expect me to be here today."

Tom was a shy, quiet man. It had been a rough week, and friends weren't

sure he was up to public confrontation. "He had a tough, tough day

yesterday," one coworker said.

But Tom drew a deep breath, let it out, and addressed the crowd.

"Something is wrong in this country when a child can grab a gun so easily

and shoot a bullet into the middle of a child's face," he said. He urged them

not to let Daniel's death be in vain.

Tom had been struck by another coincidence. In early April, Daniel had

taken an interest in gun control and had come to his father with a question:

Did Tom know there were loopholes in the Brady Bill? Gun shows were

excluded from the mandatory background checks. Two weeks later, Daniel

was murdered by a gun acquired at one of those shows.

"Clearly it was a sign to me," Tom explained later.

Critics had already blasted Tom for profiting off his son's murder, or

getting duped by gun control activists. "I assure you, I am not being

exploited," he told the crowd.

Inside the Adam's Mark, NRA president Charlton Heston opened the

show. He went straight at Mayor Webb. The crowd booed. "Get out of our

country, Wellington Webb!" someone yelled. Conventioneers were amused.

Heston charged on. "They say, 'Don't come here,'" he said. "I guess what

saddens me most is how it suggests complicity. It implies that you and I and

eighty million honest gun owners are somehow to blame, that we don't care

as much as they, or that we don't deserve to be as shocked and horrified as

every other soul in America mourning for the people of Littleton. 'Don't

come here.' That's offensive. It's also absurd."

The group observed a moment of silence for the Columbine victims. It

then proceeded with the welcome ceremony. Traditionally, the oldest and

youngest attendees are officially recognized at that time. The youngest is

typically a child. "Given the unusual circumstances," Heston announced

that the tradition would be suspended this year.


When the conspiracy evaporated, it left a dangerous vacuum. Dr. Fuselier

saw the danger early on. "Once we understood there was no third shooter, I

realized that for everyone, it was going to be difficult to get closure," he

said. The final act of the killers was among their cruelest: they deprived the

survivors of a living perpetrator. They deprived the families of a focus for

their anger, and their blame. There would be no cathartic trial for the

victims. There was no killer to rebuke in a courtroom, no judge to implore

to impose the maximum penalty. South Jeffco was seething with anger, and

it would be deprived of a reasonable target. Displaced anger would riddle

the community for years.

The crumbling conspiracy eliminated the primary mission of the task

force. The all-star team was left to sort out logistical issues: exactly what

had happened, and how. Those were massive investigations, easy to get lost

inside. Investigators wanted to retrace every step, reconstruct each moment,

place every witness and every buckshot fragment in place and time and

context. It was a Herculean effort, and it drew the team's attention from the

real objective: Why? The families wanted to know how their children died,

of course, but that was nothing compared to the underlying question.

Early on, officials began to say the report would steer clear of

conclusions. "We deal with facts," Division Chief Kiekbusch said. "We'll

make a diligent effort not to include a bunch of conclusions. Here are the

facts: You read it and make your own conclusions."

The families were incredulous. So was the press. Make our own

conclusions? How many civilians felt qualified to diagnose mass

murderers? Isn't that what homicide detectives were for? The public was

under the impression that a hundred of them had been paid for months to

perform that service.

Of course homicide teams draw conclusions. What Kiekbusch meant was

that they avoid discussing those conclusions externally. That's the DA's

role. The cops develop the case, but the DA presents it to the jury--and to

the public, as necessary. But aside from the gun providers, there was no one

to try for the Columbine killings.


Sheriff Stone kept talking up the conspiracy theory with the press. He was

driving his team nuts. They had all but ruled it out. Every few days, Jeffco

spokesmen corrected another misstatement by the sheriff. Several

corrections were extreme: arrests were not imminent, deputies had not

blocked the killers from escaping the school, and Stone's descriptions of the

cafeteria videos had been pure conjecture--the tapes had not even been

analyzed yet. They did not try to correct some of his mischaracterizations,

like when he quoted Eric's journal out of context to give the impression that

the killers had been planning to hijack a plane when they'd started their

attack. He was quickly becoming a laughingstock, yet he was the ultimate

ranking authority on the case.

His staff begged him to stop speaking to the press. But how would it look

if subordinates spoke about the case while the head man was muzzled? A

tacit understanding developed on the team: if Stone kept his mouth shut,

they would, too. (Though they continued background interviews with the

Rocky.) For the next five months, until an impromptu interview by lead

investigator Kate Battan in September, law enforcement officers would

divulge virtually nothing more publicly about their discoveries or

conclusions. After that, it would be a slow trickle, and a fight for every

scrap of information. Nine days after the shootings, the Jeffco blackout



Columbine coverage ended abruptly, too. A string of deadly tornadoes hit

Oklahoma, and the national press corps left town in a single afternoon. The

school would return periodically to national headlines over the years, but

the narrative of what had happened was set.

37. Betrayed

Eric needed professional help. His father made that determination within

forty eight hours of his arrest. Wayne picked up the steno pad that had sat

idle for nine months and began filling half a dozen pages: "See

psychologist," he wrote. "See what's going on. Determine treatment."

Wayne gathered names and numbers for several agencies and services and

added bulleted items to them: anger management, life management,

professional therapist, mental health center, school counselor, juvenile

assessment center, and family adolescent team. Wayne documented several

conversations with lawyers. He wrote "probation," circled it, and added,

"take any chances for reformation or diversion."

Wayne checked out half a dozen candidates for therapist. Their rates

varied from $100 to $150 per hour. He settled on Dr. Kevin Albert, a

psychiatrist, and made an appointment for February 16.

Wayne logged page after page of calls to cops, lawyers, and prosecutors,

working through their options. The juvenile Diversion program sounded

ideal: a year of counseling and community service, along with fines, fees,

and restitution. If Eric completed it successfully and kept clean for an

additional year, the robbery would be expunged from his record. But the

DA's office had to accept him.

Eric told Dr. Albert he had anger problems. Depression was an issue. He

had contemplated suicide. He apparently did not mention the bombs he took

to the park the previous evening. Dr. Albert started him on Zoloft, a

prescription antidepressant. Eric continued meeting with him biweekly, and

Wayne and Kathy began occasional sessions as well.

At home, the boys received similar punishments. Each was grounded for

a month, and forbidden contact with the other. Eric also had his computer

access revoked. He went to work on his pipe bombs. He lost one--or

perhaps left it as a warning or clue. On February 15, the day before Eric's

first appointment with Dr. Albert, someone in the neighborhood stumbled

upon his work: a duct-taped PVC pipe in the grass with a red fuse

protruding. Kind of an odd sight for a suburban park in Jeffco. The Jeffco

cops sent out an investigator from the bomb squad. Sure enough, it was a

homemade pipe bomb. Officers didn't find a whole lot of those around here.

The investigator defused the bomb and filed a report.


Eric and Dylan hid their arrest from friends. They made excuses about their

restrictions. Finally they began to come clean. Eric fessed up to a girl at

Blackjack, and word traveled to Nate Dykeman. Nate couldn't believe

Dylan had been hiding it from him.

"Is this the reason you can't go out?" Nate asked. Dylan turned red.

"He didn't want to talk about it," Nate said later.

After word leaked, Eric told friends it was the most embarrassing

moment of his life.

Both boys were humiliated. And Eric was raging mad. Dylan's response

was more complex. Three days after his arrest, Dylan pictured himself on

the road to happiness with Harriet. He sketched it out in his journal as a two

lane highway with a road sign off one shoulder and a dashed stripe down

the center. His road led off to a majestic row of mountains, with a giant

heart guiding him onward. "Its so great to love," he wrote. He was a felon

now, but he was ecstatic. He filled half the page with drawings and

exclamations: "I love her, & she loves me."

Anger boiled up with the ecstasy. Dylan was beginning to see it Eric's

way: "the real people (gods) are slaves to the majority of zombies, but we

know & love being superior.... either ill commit suicide, or ill get w Harriet

& it will be NBK for us. My happiness. her happiness. NOTHING else


Suicide or murder? The pattern solidified: homicidal thoughts

occasionally, self-destruction on every page. "If, by love's choice, Harriet

didn't love me id slit my wrist & blow up Atlanta strapped to my neck," he

wrote. Eric had named one of his pipe bombs Atlanta.


Wayne Harris kept working the phones. By early March, he secured an

evaluation with Andrea Sanchez, a counselor with the juvenile Diversion

program. Sanchez placed calls to Eric and Dylan to prescreen them. They

passed. She sent a dozen forms and set up appointments. Each boy would

come to her office with a parent and the stack of paperwork. Both intake

sessions would take place on March 19.

For two months, Wayne Harris worked to get his son into Diversion, to

keep his record clean. Eric was busy, too. He was detonating his first pipe

bombs. He boldly posted the breakthrough on his Web site: "Mother fucker

blew BIG. Flipping thing was heart-pounding gut-wrenching braintwitching ground-moving insanely cool! His brothers haven't found a target

yet though."

This time, Eric was producing to kill. Contempt had been the

undercurrent in his "I HATE" rants; now he made it explicit. Morons had

nerve to judge him, he said. To call him crazy just for envisioning mass

murder? Empty, vacuous morons standing in judgment? "if you got a

problem with my thoughts, come tell me and ill kill you," he posted.



As Eric embraced murder, Dylan retreated. After the arrest, he had the one

brief outburst in his journal, and then he dropped all mention of it for nearly

a year. Dylan still fretted about "this toilet earth," but his focus shifted

dramatically toward love. Love. It had been prominent from the first page

of his journal, but now, a year in, it grew overwhelming. He emblazoned

entire pages with ten-inch hearts, surrounded by choirs of smaller, fluttering


Eric had no use for love. Sex, maybe. He shared none of Dylan's desires

for truth, beauty, or ethereal love. Eric's only internal struggle concerned

which stupid bastard was more deserving of his wrath.

Eric's dreams changed after his arrest. Human extinction was still his

aim, but for the first time he made the leap from observer to enforcer. "I

will rig up explosives all over a town and detonate each one of them at will

after I mow down a whole fucking area full of you snotty ass rich mother

fucking high strung godlike attitude having worthless pieces of shit

whores," he wrote. He posted this openly on his Web site. "i dont care if I

live or die in the shootout," he wrote. "all I want to do is kill and injure as

many of you pricks as I can!"


It was too much for Dylan. Kill? Everything? Apparently not. He made a

stunning move behind Eric's back. He told. He told the worst possible

person: Brooks Brown. Brooks knew about the petty vandalism, and his

parents saw Eric as a young criminal, but they had no idea how serious it


On the way to class, Dylan handed Brooks a scrap of paper. Just one line

was written on it: a Web address.

"I think you should take a look at this tonight," Dylan said.

"OK. Anything special?"

"It's Eric's Web site. You need to see it. And you can't tell Eric I gave it to


Brooks pulled up the site that night. Eric was threatening to kill people.

He threatened to kill Brooks personally, in three different places.

Dylan leaked the URL to Brooks the day before their admission

interviews for the Diversion program. If Brooks told his parents--and Dylan

knew he told Judy everything--the Browns would go straight to the cops,

and Eric would be rejected and imprisoned for a felony. Dylan probably

would be, too. He took that chance.

Brooks did tell his mom. Randy and Judy called the cops. Jeffco

investigators came out that night. They followed up, they filed reports, but

they did not alert the DA's office. Eric and Dylan proceeded into Diversion.


Only one parent was required at the Diversion intake meeting. Tom and Sue

Klebold both attended. They considered it important. They filled out an

eight-page questionnaire about Dylan, he did the same, and then Andrea

Sanchez walked them through the results. The Klebolds were in for a few

surprises. Dylan copped to five or six drunken bouts, starting at age fifteen.

"Was not aware of it at all--until Andrea Sanchez asked the question a few

moments ago," his parents wrote. Apparently they were unaware his

nickname was VoDKa.

Dylan claimed he had quit drinking. He didn't like the taste and said it

"wasn't worth it." He had tried pot, too, and rejected it for the same reasons.

His parents were stunned about marijuana, too.

Tom and Sue were candid; it was the only ethical course. "Dylan is

introverted and has grown up isolated," they wrote. "He is often angry or

sullen, and behaviors seem disrespectful to and intolerant of others." They

wrote a line about disrespecting authority figures, crossed it out, and then

said that teachers had reported that he didn't listen or take correction well.

Eric was more cautious. He revealed just enough to appear confessional.

He said he had tasted alcohol three times, had never gotten drunk, and had

given it up for good. Exactly what a parent wanted to hear. It was vintage

Eric--more believable than abstinence and reassuring to boot: he had faced

the temptation already and the danger had passed. He understood how his

parents thought, and in no time he'd read Andrea Sanchez. In their first

meeting, he turned an admission into a virtue. He lied about pot, too. He

claimed he had no interest. The alcohol admission gave the claim credence.

Wayne and Kathy both attended their session as well. Their surprise came

in the mental health section. On a checklist of thirty potential problem

areas, they marked three boxes: anger, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Eric had told them about those three, and he discussed them with Dr.

Albert. He was getting help. Everyone agreed the Zoloft was helping, too. It

was common for an adolescent to check several boxes. Eric picked

fourteen. He marked virtually everything related to distrust or aggression.

He checked jealousy, anxiety, suspiciousness, authority figures, temper,

racing thoughts, obsessive thoughts, mood swings, and disorganized

thoughts. He skipped suicidal thoughts, but he checked homicidal thoughts.

Wayne and Kathy worried about Eric suppressing his anger. They

admitted that he would blow up now and then--lashing out verbally or

hitting an object. He never tried it in front of his dad, but they'd gotten

reports back from work and school. It didn't happen often, but they were

concerned. Eric responded well to discipline. They had controlled his

behavior, but how could they contain his moods? When he really got mad,

Eric said, he would punch a wall. He had thought about suicide, but never

seriously, and mostly out of anger. He got angry all the time, he said, at

almost anything he didn't like.

Eric was seething as he scrawled out his answers, and he practically told

them so on the form. The nerve of these lowlifes judging him. He explained

how he hated fools telling him what to do. In the interview, he apparently

directed his anger at other fools. They fell for it.

Eric would howl about it later. The partial confession was his favorite

con of all. He could turn over half his cards and still pull off the bluff.

He posted his actual thoughts about the legal system on his Web site at

around this same time: "My belief is that if I say something, it goes. I am

the law. If you don't like it, you die." He described going to some random

downtown area in some big city and blowing up and shooting up everything

he could. He assured us he would feel no remorse, no sorrow, no shame. Yet

there he sat, submitting. He bent to their will; he filled out their degrading

form. Laughing on the inside was insufficient. He would make them pay.


Sanchez worried about the boys' failure to accept full responsibility. Eric

was sticking to his story that the break-in was Dylan's fault. Dylan thought

the whole thing was a little overblown. Sanchez noted her reservations but

recommended them for enrollment.

The final decision was up to the court. A week later, on March 25, Eric

and Dylan stood before Jeffco Magistrate John DeVita during a joint

hearing. Their fathers stood beside them. That impressed DeVita. Most of

the juveniles appeared alone, or with just a mom. Dads were a good sign.

And these dads appeared to be taking control of the situation. DeVita was

also impressed by the punishments they had imposed. "Good for you, Dad,"

he said. "It sounds to me like you got the circumstances under control."

"This has been a rather traumatic experience," Tom Klebold told him. "I

think it's probably good, a good experience, that they got caught the first


"He'd tell you if there were any more?"

"Yes, he would actually."

DeVita didn't buy it. "First time out of the box and you get caught?" he

asked Eric. "I don't believe it. It's a real rare occurrence when somebody

gets caught the first time."

But he was impressed by the way the boys presented themselves: dressed

up, well behaved, deferential. Yes, Your Honor and No, Your Honor. They

respected the court, and it showed.

DeVita pegged Dylan as well. The B's and C's on his report card were a

joke. "I bet you're an A student," DeVita said. "If you put the brainpower to

the paperwork."

DeVita gave them a lecture; then he approved them for Diversion. This

pair was going to do just fine, he thought.

Fourteen months later, after the murders, DeVita lamented how

convincing the boys had been. "What's mind-boggling is the amount of

deception," he said. "The ease of their deception. The coolness of their



Judy and Randy Brown kept calling the cops. They were sure Brooks was

in danger. Their other son was so scared he slept with a baseball bat. After

two weeks of their pestering, the case was bumped up to Investigator John

Hicks, who met with Judy. On March 31, he sat down with two other

investigators, Mike Guerra and Glenn Grove, to discuss it. The situation

looked pretty bad--bad enough for Investigator Guerra to type out a twopage affidavit for a search warrant, "duly sworn upon oath."

Guerra did good work. In the affidavit, he dramatically outlined all the

crucial elements of the case against this kid. He detailed the specificity of

Eric's plans, his methods, and his ordnance. He quoted liberally from Eric's

Web site to provide proof. But most important, Guerra drew the connection

to physical evidence: a bomb matching those in Eric's descriptions had

recently been discovered near his home. The Harris house was to be

searched for any literature, notes, or physical material related to the

construction of explosives, as well as all e-mail correspondence--

presumably to include the Web site.

The affidavit was convincing. It was filed. It was not signed or taken

before a judge. It was not acted upon in any way. A plausible explanation

for inaction was never provided. Years later, one official said Guerra was

drawn away to another case, and when he returned, the affidavit, as written,

lacked the timeliness required to take it to a judge.

The Browns said that Investigator Hicks also knew about Eric's arrest for

the van break-in. There was no indication that he or anyone from the

sheriff's department ever relayed their damning evidence about Eric to the

Diversion officers. Magistrate DeVita was provided no indication before he

approved them for the program.

Senior officials from the sheriff's department, the DA's office, and the

criminal court were unaware of one another's actions concerning Eric. But

Eric apparently knew what they were all up to. Eric got wind that the

Browns were on to him, so he took his Web site down for a while. There is

no indication he ever learned of Dylan's betrayal. There is no sign that he


Eric was getting serious about his plans now, and he would not risk

posting anything about them on the Web again. He pulled out a spiral

notebook and began a journal. For the next year, he would record his

progress toward the attack and thoroughly explain his motives.

38. Martyr

She's in the martyrs' hall of fame," Cassie's pastor proclaimed at her funeral.

That was not hyperbole. A noted religious scholar predicted Cassie could

become the first officially designated Protestant martyr since the sixteenth

century. "This is really quite extraordinary," he said. "The flames of

martyrdom are being fanned by these various preachers, who apparently

have embellished the story as they have told it. It takes on a life of its own."

In the Weekly Standard, J. Bottum compared her to the third-century

martyrs Perpetua and Felicity and "the tales of the thousands of early

Christians who went joyously to their deaths in the Roman coliseums." And

the response felt like the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century,

Bottum said. He foresaw a generation of kids rising up to recast our cultural

landscape. He later described a national change of heart, "trembling on the

cusp of breaking forth.... It's an ever-widening faith that the whole

pornographic, violent, anarchic disaster of popular American culture will

soon be swept away."

It was a great story. It gave Brad and Misty tremendous relief. They were

due. The Enemy had taken on their little girl before. And in the first round,

The Enemy had won.

It had been possession, pure and simple; that's how Misty saw it. The

Enemy had crept into her house a decade earlier, but remained hidden until

the winter of 1996. She discovered his presence just before Christmas. She

had just quit her job as a financial analyst at Lockheed Martin in order to be

a better, full-time mom. It was a tough transition, and Misty went looking

for a Bible for inspiration. She found one in Cassie's room, and she also

discovered a stack of letters. They were disturbing.

The letters documented a vigorous correspondence between Cassie and a

close friend. The friend bitched about a teacher and then suggested, "Want

to help me murder her?" The pages were filled with hard-core sex talk,

occult imagery, and magic spells. They hammered a persistent refrain: "Kill

your parents!... Make those scumbags pay for your suffering.... Murder is

the answer to all of your problems."

Misty found only the friend's letters, but they suggested a receptive

audience. Blood cocktails and vampires appeared throughout, in

descriptions and illustrations. A teacher was shown stabbed with butcher

knives, lying in her own blood. Figures labeled Ma and Pa were hung by

their intestines. Bloody daggers were lodged in their chests. A gravestone

was inscribed "Pa and Ma Bernall."

"My guts are hungry for that weird stuff," one letter said. "I fucking need

to kill myself, we need to murder your parents. School is a fucking bitch,

kill me with your parents, then kill yourself so you don't go to jail."

Misty called Brad, then the sheriff. They waited for Cassie to come

home. First, Cassie tried to downplay the letters. Then she got angry. She

hated them, she said. She admitted to writing letters in kind. She screamed.

She said she would run away. She threatened to kill herself.

Rev. Dave McPherson, the youth pastor at West Bowles, counseled Brad

and Misty to get tough. "Cut her phone, lock the door, pull her out of

school," he said. "Don't let her out of the house without supervision." That's

what they did. They transferred Cassie to a private school. They let her

leave the house only for youth group at the church.

A bitter struggle followed. "She despised us at first," Reverend

McPherson said. She would threaten to run away and launch into wild,

graphic screaming fits.

"I'm going to kill myself!" Brad recalled her yelling. "Do you want to

watch me? I'll do it, just watch. I'll kill myself. I'll put a knife right here,

right through my chest."

Cassie cut her wrists and bludgeoned her skull. She would lock herself in

the bathroom and bash her head against the sink counter. Alone in her

bedroom, she beat it against the wall. With her family, she was sullen and

spoke in monosyllables.

"There is no hope for that girl," Reverend McPherson thought. "Not our

kind of hope."

Cassie described the ordeal in a notebook her parents found after her


I cannot explain in words how much I hurt. I didn't know how to deal

with this hurt, so I physically hurt myself.... Thoughts of suicide

obsessed me for days, but I was too frightened to actually do it, so I

"compromised" by scratching my hands and wrists with a sharp metal

file until I bled. It only hurt for the first couple minutes, then I went

numb. Afterwards, however, it stung very badly, which I thought I

deserved anyway.

Suddenly, one night three months later, Cassie shook The Enemy free. It

was after sunset, at a youth group praise and worship service in the Rocky

Mountains. Cassie got caught up in the music and suddenly broke down

crying. She blubbered hysterically to a friend, who couldn't make out half

of what she said. When Misty picked her up from the retreat, Cassie rushed

up, hugged her, and said, "Mom, I've changed. I've totally changed."

Brad and Misty were skeptical, but the change took. "She left an angry,

vengeful, bitter young girl and came back brand-new," Reverend Kirsten


After the conversion, Cassie attended youth ministry enthusiastically,

sported a WWJD bracelet, and volunteered for a program that helped exconvicts in Denver. The following fall, Brad and Misty allowed her to

transfer to Columbine High. But she struggled with social pressures right up

to her last days. She did not attend prom that last weekend. She did not

believe that kids liked her. The day before Cassie was killed, the leaders of

her youth group gathered for a staff meeting. One of the items on the

agenda was "How do we get Cassie to fit in better?"

Brad and Misty Bernall were forthcoming about Cassie's history. A few

weeks after the massacre, it was widely reported in the media. By then, two

other martyr stories had surfaced. Valeen Schnurr's account was remarkably

similar to Cassie's, except for the chronology and the outcome. Val was shot

before her exchange about God. Dylan pointed his shotgun under her table

and fired several rapid bursts, killing Lauren Townsend and injuring Val and

another girl. Val was riddled with shotgun pellets up and down her arms and

torso. Dylan walked away.

Val dropped to her knees, then her hands. Blood was streaming out of

thirty-four separate wounds. "Oh my God, oh my God, don't let me die,"

she prayed.

Dylan turned around. This was too rich. "God? Do you believe in God?"

She wavered. Maybe she should keep her mouth shut. No. She would

rather say it. "Yes. I believe in God."


"Because I believe. And my parents brought me up that way."

Dylan reloaded, but something distracted him. He walked off. Val

crawled for shelter.

Once she made it out, Val was loaded into an ambulance, transported to

St. Anthony's, and rushed into surgery. Her parents, Mark and Shari, were

waiting for her when she came to. Val started blurting out what had

happened almost immediately. She made a full recovery, and her story

never varied. Numerous witnesses corroborated her account.

Val's story emerged at the same time as Cassie's--the afternoon of the

attack. It took a week longer to reach the media. It never caused much of a

ripple there.

If the timing had been different, Val might have been an Evangelical

hero: the brave girl who felt the brunt of a shotgun blast and still stood up

for her Redeemer. She proclaimed her faith, and He saved her. What a

message of hope that would have been. And the hero would have been alive

to spread the good news.

It didn't work out that way. Val was seen more often as a usurper. "People

thought I was a copycat," she said. "They thought I was just following the

bandwagon. A lot of people just didn't believe my story."

The bigger Cassie's fame grew, the more Val was rejected. An

Evangelical youth rally was particularly disturbing. She told her story to a

crowd gathered to honor Cassie and Rachel Scott. She got a very cold

reception. "No one really comes out and says that never happened," she

said. "They just skirt around the issue. Like they ask, 'Are you sure that's

how it happened?' Or, 'Could your faith really be that strong?'"

Val's parents were supportive, but it wore on her. "You know, it gets

frustrating," she said. "Because you know in your heart where you were and

what you said, and then people doubt you. And that's what bothers me the



Cassie's fame grew. Reverend Kirsten embarked on a national speaking tour

to spread the good news. "Pack as many onto the ark as possible," he said.

By summer's end, the local youth group Revival Generation had blossomed

from a few local chapters to an organization with offices in all fifty states.

The organizer put on national touring shows with Columbine High

survivors. Cassie's name sent teenage girls storming to the stage.

Fame could be intoxicating. Brad and Misty were already celebrities in

their world--blessed parents of the martyr. They resisted the temptation and

carried on as humbly as before. For some time, Brad Bernall had been a

greeter at Sunday worship services at West Bowles. He returned to the

volunteer role almost immediately after Cassie's funeral. He offered a smile

with each handshake. The smiles looked sincere, but his pain bled through.

In early May, the church brought in a grief expert and conducted a group

counseling session open to anyone in the struggling community.

Misty arrived first. Brad would be a little late, she said--he was having a

really bad day. He had not gone into Cassie's room since she'd died, but

tonight, he was going in there alone. Brad showed up, shaken. He

downplayed his trouble and offered to help. Misty did the same.


Emily Wyant watched in disbelief as the story mushroomed. "Why are they

saying that?" she asked her mother. Emily had been under the table with

Cassie. They were facing each other. Emily was looking into Cassie's eyes

when Eric fired his shotgun. Emily knew exactly what had happened.

Emily was supposed to be in science class when the shooting happened.

But they had a test scheduled, and because she had missed class the day

before, she wasn't ready. Her teacher sent her down to the library to look

over her notes. She pulled up a seat by the window, at a table with just one

girl--Cassie Bernall, who was studying Macbeth. They heard some

commotion outside, and some kids came to the window to check it out, but

it dissipated. Emily stood up for a look, saw a kid running across the soccer

field, and sat down, returning to her notes.

A few minutes later, Patti Nielson ran in screaming and ordered everyone

to get down. Cassie and Emily got under the table and tried to barricade

themselves in by pulling some chairs around their tiny perimeter. That made

them feel a little safer. Cassie crouched by the window side of the table,

looking in toward the room, and Emily got down at the other end, facing

Cassie two feet away. They could keep in contact with each other that way

and collectively maintain a view of the whole room. The chairs created a lot

of blind spots, but the girls were not about to move them. That was the only

protection they had.

Emily heard shots coming from down the hallway--one at a time, not in

bursts. They were getting closer. The doors opened; she heard them come

in. They were shooting, talking back and forth, and shouting stuff like

"Who wants to be killed next?" Emily looked over her shoulder to watch.

She saw a kid near the counter jump or go down. The killers walked around

a lot, taunting and shooting, and Emily got a good look at them. She had

never noticed them before--she was a sophomore--but was sure she could

pick them out again if she ever saw them again.

The girls whispered back and forth. "Dear God, dear God, why is this

happening?" Cassie asked. "I just want to go home."

"I know," Emily answered. "We all want to get out of here."

Between exchanges, Cassie prayed very quietly. Eric and Dylan passed

by several times, but Emily never expected one of them to "come under the

table" and shoot.

Eric stopped at their table, at Cassie's end. Emily could see his legs and

his boots, pointing directly at the right side of Cassie's face. Cassie didn't

turn. Emily didn't have to--she was facing perpendicular to Eric's stance, so

she could look straight at Cassie and see Eric just to her left at the same

time. Eric slammed his hand on table, then squatted halfway down for a

look. "Peekaboo," he said.

Eric poked his shotgun under the table rim as he came down. He didn't

pause long, or even stoop down far enough for Emily to see his face. She

saw the sawed-off gun barrel. The opening was huge. She looked into

Cassie's brown eyes. Cassie was still praying. There was no time for words

between them. Eric shot Cassie in the head.

Everything was muffled then. The blast was so loud, it temporarily blew

out most of Emily's hearing. The fire alarm had been unbearably loud, but

now she could barely hear it. She could see the light flashing out in the

hallway. Eric's legs turned.

Bree Pasquale was sitting there, right out in the open a few steps away,

beside the next table over. It had been jammed with kids when she got

there--she couldn't fit, so she sat down next to it on the floor.

Bree was a bit farther from Cassie than Emily--the next closest person--

but she had a wider view. She had also seen Eric walk up with the shotgun

in his right hand, slap Cassie's tabletop twice with his left, and say,

"Peekaboo." He squatted down, balancing on the balls of his feet, still

holding on to the tabletop with his free hand. Cassie looked desperate,

holding her hands up against the sides of her face. Eric poked the shotgun

under and fired. Not a word.

Eric was sloppy with that shot: a one-hander, in an awkward half squat.

The shotgun kicked back, and the butt nailed him in the face. He broke his

nose sometime during the attack, and that's the moment investigators

believe it happened. Eric had his back to Bree, so she couldn't see the gun

hit his nose. But she watched him yank back on the pump handle and eject a

red shell casing. It dropped to the floor. She looked under the table. Cassie

was down, blood soaking into the shoulder of her light green shirt. Emily

appeared unhurt.

Bree was exposed, just a few feet from Eric, but she couldn't take it

anymore. She lay down and asked the boy beside her, who was just barely

under the table, to hold her hand. He did. Bree was terrified. She did not

take her eyes off Eric. He stood up after ejecting the round and turned to

face her. He took a step or two toward her, squatted down again, and laid

the shotgun across his thighs. Blood was pouring out of his nostrils. "I hit

myself in the face!" he yelled. He was looking at her but calling out to


Eric took hold of the gun again and pointed it in Bree's direction. He

waved it back and forth in a sweeping motion--he could shoot anyone he

wanted--and it came to rest on her.

That's when Dylan's gun went off. Bree heard him laugh and make a joke

about what he had done. When she looked back at Eric, he was staring her

straight in the face.

"Do you want to die?" Eric asked.


He asked once more.

"No no no no no." She pleaded for him to spare her, and Eric seemed to

enjoy that: The exchange went on and on. He kept the gun right to her head

the whole time.

"Don't shoot me," she said. "I don't want to die."

Finally, Eric let out a big laugh. "Everyone is going to die," he told her.

"Shoot her!" Dylan yelled.

"No," Eric replied. "We're going to blow up the school anyway."

Then something distracted him. He walked away and continued killing.

Bree looked back at Cassie's table. The other girl, Emily, was on her

knees now, still facing Cassie's crumpled body, blood everywhere. She

looked scared as hell.

How could she tell? an investigator asked Bree later.

The girl was biting her hands, she said.

Bree kept an eye on that girl. When the explosions moved out into the

hallway, Bree figured the killers had gone, and she called out to the girl to

come join her group. Emily couldn't hear much, so Bree started waving her

hands. Emily saw her, finally, and crawled over. She was not about to stand

up. She sat next to Bree and leaned against some bookshelves. Time got

blurry for Emily then. Later, she couldn't recall how long she'd sat there.


Emily and Bree knew Cassie never got a chance to speak. They gave

detailed accounts to investigators. Bree's ran fifteen pages, single-spaced,

but their police reports would remain sealed for a year and a half. The 911

tape proved conclusively that they were correct. Audio of the murders was

played for families, but withheld from the public as too gruesome.

Emily and Bree waited for the truth to come out.


Emily Wyant was sad. She went to counseling every day. April 20 had been

horrible, and now she was saddled with a moral dilemma. She did not want

to hurt the Bernalls; nor did she want to embarrass herself by shattering

Cassie's myth. The whole thing had gotten so big so fast. But by keeping

quiet, Emily felt she was contributing to a lie.

"She was in a tough position," her mother, Cindie, said later. Emily had

told the cops, but they were not sharing much with the media anymore.

Definitely not that bombshell.

Emily wanted to go public. Her parents were afraid. The martyrdom had

turned into a religious movement--taking that on could be risky. "She didn't

know the ramifications that could come afterwards," Cindie said. "She was

just thinking about 'I want to tell the truth.'"

Her parents were torn, too. They wanted the truth to come out, but not at

the expense of their daughter. Emily had already faced more than any child

should. This might be too much. Don't do anything drastic, her parents

advised. "It's a wonderful memory for [Cassie's] family," Cindie told her.

"Let's not aggravate anything."

In early May, the phone rang. It was the Rocky Mountain News. Dan

Luzadder was one of the best investigative reporters in the city, and he was

sorting out exactly what happened in the library. They were tracking down

all the library survivors, and most were cooperating. Emily's parents were

wary. Her situation was different.

The reporters showed the Wyants some of the maps and timelines they

were building. The family was impressed. The team seemed conscientious,

and their work was thorough and detailed. The family agreed to talk. Emily

would tell her story, and the Rocky could quote her but not identify her by

name. "We didn't want her to be some national scoundrel," Cindie said.

After the interview, Emily was glad she had participated. What a relief to

get that off her chest. She waited for the story.

The Rocky editors felt they needed more. This could get ugly. They

wanted somebody on the record.

Emily kept waiting. Her frustration grew.

The Rocky Mountain News was waiting, too. They had conducted their

investigation and had an incredible story to tell. Much of the public

perception about Columbine was wrong. They had the truth. They were

going to debunk all myths, including jocks, Goths, the TCM, and Cassie's

murder. All they needed was a "news peg." The story would travel much

farther if they timed it right.

They were waiting for Jeffco to finish its final report. A week or two

before the release, the Rocky planned to stun the public with surprising

revelations. It was a good strategy.


Misty Bernall had been hit hard. Telling Cassie's story made it more

bearable. Someone suggested a book. Reverend McPherson introduced her

to an editor at the tiny Christian publisher Plough. Plough had published the

book Cassie had been reading before she died, and Misty liked what she

had seen of the company.

Misty was apprehensive at first. Profiting off Cassie was the last thing on

her mind. But she had two terrific stories to tell: Cassie's long fight for

spiritual survival would be the primary focus, and her gunpoint

proclamation would provide the hook.

A deal was struck in late May. It would be called She Said Yes: The

Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall.

The family had no idea the Rocky had discovered that title was untrue.

Misty, who had gone back to work at Lockheed Martin as a statistician,

would take a leave of absence to write the story. To reduce expenses, Misty

agreed to forgo an advance in lieu of a higher royalty rate. Plough also

agreed to set up a charity in Cassie's name for some of its proceeds.

Plough Publishing foresaw its first bestseller. It planned a first printing of

100,000 copies, more than seven times larger than its previous record.


On May 25, something unexpected happened. Police opened the school up

so families of the library victims could walk through the scene. This served

two functions: victims could face the crime scene with their loved ones, and

revisiting the room might jar loose memories or clarify confusion. Three

senior investigators stood by to answer questions and observe. Craig Scott,

who had initiated the Cassie story, came through with several family

members. He stopped where he had hidden, and retold his story to his dad.

A senior detective listened. Craig had sat extremely close to Cassie, just one

table away, facing hers. But when he described her murder, he pointed in

the opposite direction. It happened at one of the two tables near the interior,

he said--which was exactly where Val had been. When a detective said

Cassie had not been in that area, Craig insisted. He pointed to the closest

tables to Val's and said, "Well, she was up there then!" No, the detective

said. Craig got agitated. "She was somewhere over there," he said. He

pointed again toward Val's table. "I know that for a fact."

Detectives explained the mistake. Craig got sick. The detective walked

him out and Craig sat down in the empty corridor to collect himself. He

apologized for getting ill. He was OK now, but he would wait for his family

out there. He was not going back into that library.


Friends of the Bernalls said Brad was struggling much more than his wife.

It was visible in the way he carried himself into worship on Sunday

mornings. Brad looked broken. Misty took great solace in the book she was

writing. It gave her purpose. It gave meaning to Cassie's death. Misty had

put herself in God's hands, and He had handed her a mission. She would

bring His message to a whole new audience. Her book would glorify her

daughter and her God.

Investigators heard about the book deal. They decided that they owed it

to Misty to alert her to the truth. In June, lead investigator Kate Battan and

another detective went to see her. Misty described the meeting this way:

"They said, 'Don't stop doing the book. We just wanted to let you know that

there are differing accounts coming out of the library.'"

Battan said she encouraged Misty to continue with the book, but without

the martyr incident. Cassie's transformational story sounded wonderful.

Battan said she made the details of Cassie's murder clear, and later played

the 911 tape for Brad and Misty.

Misty and her Plough editor, Chris Zimmerman, were concerned. They

went back to their witnesses. Three witnesses stuck by the story that it was

Cassie. Good enough. The martyr scene was going to be a small part of the

book anyway. Misty wanted to focus on Cassie overcoming her own

demons. "We wanted people to know Cassie was an average teenager who

struggled with her weight and worried about boys and wasn't ever a living

saint," she said.

Misty lived up to her word. That was the book she wrote. She described

Cassie as selfish and stubborn on occasion, known to behave "like a spoiled

two-year old." Misty also agreed to run a disclaimer opposite the table of

contents. It referred to "varying recollections" and stated that "the precise

chronology... including the exact details of Cassie's death... may never be


Emily Wyant was getting more apprehensive. Her parents continued

urging caution.

They had a dinner with the Bernalls. Brad and Misty asked Emily if she'd

heard the exchange. Emily was a bit sheepish about answering, but she said

no. Cindie Wyant felt that Emily had made herself clear, but afterward the

Bernalls recalled no revelation. Cindie later surmised that they'd taken

Emily's response to mean she didn't remember anything.

Val Schnurr's family was uneasy, too. Investigators had briefed them on

the evidence and told them about Craig Scott's discovery in the library. Val

and her parents wondered which was worse: hurting the Bernalls or keeping

quiet. They also went to dinner with the Bernalls. Everyone felt better after

that. Brad and Misty seemed sincere, and utterly distraught with pain. "So

much sadness," Mark Schnurr said. Clearly, the book was Misty's way of


The Schnurrs were less understanding with the publisher. The editor

attended the dinner, and Shari asked him to slow down. Her husband

followed up with an e-mail. "If you go ahead and publish the book, just be

careful," he wrote. "There's a lot of conflicting information out there." He

suggested that Plough delay publication until the authorities issued their

report. Plough declined.


In July, the Wall Street Journal ran a prominent story titled "Marketing a

Columbine Martyr." The publishing house was obscure, but Zimmerman

had called in a team of heavy hitters. For public relations, the firm hired the

New York team that had handled Monica Lewinsky's book. Publication was

two months away, and Misty had already been booked for The Today Show

and 20/20. The William Morris Agency was shopping the film rights

around. (A movie was never made.) An agent there had sold book club

rights to a unit of Random House. He said he was marketing "virtually

everything you can exploit--and I mean that in a positive way."

39. The Book of God

The screws were tightening. Eric met with Andrea Sanchez to receive his

Diversion contract. He looked ahead to senior year. It would be consumed

writing an apology letter, providing restitution, working off fines, meeting a

Diversion counselor twice a month, seeing his own shrink, attending

bullshit classes like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, maintaining good

grades, problem-free employment, and forty-five hours of community

service. They would periodically hand him a Dixie cup and direct him to a

urinal. No more alcohol. No more freedom.

Eric's first counseling session and his first drug screening would

commence in eight days. He met with Sanchez on a Wednesday. Thursday,

he stewed. Friday, April 10, 1998, he opened a letter sized spiral notebook

and scribbled, "I hate the fucking world." In one year and ten days, he

would attack. Eric wrote furiously, filling two vicious pages: people are

STUPID, I'm not respected, everyone has their own god damn opinions on

every god damn thing.

At first glance, the journal sounds like the Web site, but Fuselier found

answers in it. The Web site was pure rage, no explanation. The journal was

explicit. Eric fleshed out his ideas on paper, as well as his personality. Eric

had a preposterously grand superiority complex, a revulsion for authority,

and an excruciating need for control.

"I feel like God," Eric announced. "I am higher than almost anyone in the

fucking world in terms of universal intelligence." In time, his superiority

would be revealed. In the interim, Eric dubbed his journal "The Book of

God." The breadth of his hostility was equally melodramatic.

Humans were pathetic fuckheads too dense to perceive their lifeless

existence. We frittered our lives away like automatons, following orders

rather than realizing our potential: "ever wonder why we go to school?" he

asked. "its not to obvious to most of you stupid fucks but for those who

think a little more and deeper you should realize it is societies way of

turning all the young people into good little robots." Human nature was

smothered by society; healthy instincts were smothered by laws. They were

training us to be assembly-line robots; that's why they lined the school

desks up in rows and trained kids to respond to opening and closing bells.

The monotonous human assembly line squelched the life out of individual

experience. As Eric put it, "more of your human nature blown out your ass."

Philosophically, the robotic conception was a rare point of agreement

between the killers. Dylan referred often to zombies, too. Both boys

described their uniqueness as self-awareness. They could see through the

human haze. But Dylan saw his distinction as a lonely curse. And he looked

on the zombies compassionately; Dylan yearned for the poor little creatures

to break out of their boxes.

The problem, as Eric saw it, was natural selection. He had alluded to the

concept on his Web site; here he explained--relentlessly. Natural selection

had failed. Man had intervened. Medicines, vaccines, and special ed

programs had conspired to keep the rejects in the human herd. So Eric was

surrounded by inferiors--who would not shut their freaking mouths! How

could he tolerate all the miserable chatter?

He had lots of ideas. Nuclear holocaust, biological warfare, imprisoning

the species in a giant Ultimate Doom game.

But Eric was also realistic. He couldn't restore the natural order, but he

could impose some selection of his own. He would sacrifice himself to

accomplish it. "I know I will die soon," he wrote; "so will you and everyone


By soon, he meant a year. Eric had a remarkably long time horizon for a

seventeen-year-old contemplating his own death.

The lies jumped out at Fuselier. Eric took giddy pleasure in his

deceptions. "I lie a lot," he wrote. "Almost constant. and to everybody. just

to keep my own ass out of the water. lets see, what are some big lies I have

told; 'yeah I stopped smoking' 'for doing it not for getting caught,' 'no I

haven't been making more bombs.'"

Eric did not believe in God, but he enjoyed comparing himself to Him.

Like Dylan, he did so frequently but not delusionally--they were like God:

superior in insight, intelligence, and awareness. Like Zeus, Eric created new

rules, angered easily, and punished people in unusual ways. Eric had

conviction. Eric had a plan. Eric would get the guns and build the

explosives and maim and kill and so much more. They would terrify way

beyond their gun blasts. The ultimate weapon was TV. Eric saw past the

Columbine commons. He might kill hundreds, but the dead and

dismembered meant nothing to him. Bit players--who cared? The

performance was not about them. Eric's one-day-only production was about

the audience.

The irony was, his attack was too good for his victims--it would sail right

over their heads. "the majority of the audience wont even understand," Eric

lamented. Too bad. They would feel the power of his hand: "if we have

figured out the art of time bombs before hand, we will set hundreds of them

around houses, roads, bridges, buildings and gas stations." "it'll be like the

LA riots, the oklahoma bombing, WWII, vietnam, duke and doom all mixed

together. maybe we will even start a little rebellion or revolution to fuck

things up as much as we can. i want to leave a lasting impression on the



Dr. Fuselier set down the journal. It had taken him about an hour to read,

that first time, in the noisy Columbine band room, two or three days after

the murders. Now he had a pretty good hunch about what he was dealing

with: a psychopath.



40. Psychopath

I will choose to kill," Eric wrote. Why? His explanations didn't add up.

Because we were morons? How would that make a kid kill? To most

readers, Eric's rants just sounded nuts.

Dr. Fuselier had the opposite reaction. Insanity was marked by mental

confusion. Eric Harris expressed cold, rational calculation. Fuselier ticked

off Eric's personality traits: charming, callous, cunning, manipulative,

comically grandiose, and egocentric, with an appalling failure of empathy.

It was like reciting the Psychopathy Checklist.

Fuselier spent the next twelve weeks contesting his theory. That's how he

approached a problem: develop a hypothesis and then search for every scrap

of evidence to refute it. Test it against alternate explanations, build the

strongest possible case to support them, and see if the hypothesis fails. If it

withstands that, it's solid. Psychopathy held.

Diagnosis didn't solve the crime, but it laid the foundation. Ten years

afterward, Eric still baffled the public, which insisted on assessing his

motives through a "normal" lens. Eric was neither normal nor insane.

Psychopathy (si-COP-uh-thee) represents a third category. Psychopathic

brains don't function like those in either of the other groups, but they are

consistently similar to one another. Eric killed for two reasons: to

demonstrate his superiority and to enjoy it.

To a psychopath, both motives make sense. "Psychopaths are capable of

behavior that normal people find not only horrific but baffling," wrote Dr.

Robert Hare, the leading authority on psychopaths. "They can torture and

mutilate their victims with about the same sense of concern that we feel

when we carve a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner."

Eric saw humans as chemical compounds with an inflated sense of their

own worth. "its just all nature, chemistry, and math," he wrote. "you die.

burn, melt, evaporate, decay."

Psychopaths have likely plagued mankind since the beginning, but they

are still poorly understood. In the 1800s, as the fledgling field of

psychology began classifying mental disorders, one group refused to fit.

Every known psychosis was marked by a failure of reasoning or a

debilitating ailment: paralyzing fear, hallucinations, voices, phobias, and so

on. In 1885, the term psychopath was introduced to describe vicious human

predators who were not deranged, delusional, or depressed. They just

enjoyed being bad.

Psychopaths are distinguished by two characteristics. The first is a

ruthless disregard for others: they will defraud, maim, or kill for the most

trivial personal gain. The second is an astonishing gift for disguising the

first. It's the deception that makes them so dangerous. You never see him

coming. (It's usually a him--more than 80 percent are male.) Don't look for

the oddball creeping you out. Psychopaths don't act like Hannibal Lecter or

Norman Bates. They come off like Hugh Grant, in his most adorable role.

In 1941, Dr. Hervey Cleckley revolutionized the understanding of

psychopathy with his book The Mask of Sanity. Egocentrism and failure of

empathy were the underlying drivers, but Cleckley chose his title to reflect

the element that trumped those. If psychopaths were merely evil, they

would not be a major threat. They wreak so much havoc that they should be

obvious. Yet the majority have consistently eluded the law.

Cleckley worried about his title metaphor: psychopathy is not a twodimensional cover that can be lifted off the face like a Halloween mask. It

permeates the offender's personality. Joy, grief, anxiety, or amusement--he

can mimic any on cue. He knows the facial expressions, the voice

modulation, and the body language. He's not just conning you with a

scheme, he's conning you with his life. His entire personality is a

fabrication, with the purpose of deceiving suckers like you.

Psychopaths take great personal pride in their deceptions and extract

tremendous joy from them. Lies become the psychopath's occupation, and

when the truth will work, they lie for sport. "I like to con people," one of

Hare's subjects told a researcher during an extended interview. "I'm conning

you right now."

Lying for amusement is so profound in psychopaths, it stands out as their

signature characteristic. "Duping delight," psychologist Paul Ekman dubbed


Cleckley spent five decades refining his research and publishing four

further editions of The Mask of Sanity. It wasn't until the 1970s that Robert

Hare isolated twenty characteristics of the condition and created the

Psychopathy Checklist, the basis for virtually all contemporary research. He

also wrote the definitive book on the malady, Without Conscience.

The terminology got muckier. Sociopath was in introduced in the 1930s,

initially as a broader term for antisocial behavior. Eventually, psychopath

and sociopath became virtually synonymous. (Varying definitions for the

latter have led to distinctions by some experts, but these are not uniformly

accepted.) The primary reason for the competing terms is that each was

adopted in different fields: criminologists and law enforcement personnel

prefer psychopath; sociologists tend toward sociopath. Psychologists and

psychiatrists are split, but most experts on the condition use psychopath,

and the bulk of the research is based on Hare's checklist. A third term,

antisocial personality disorder, or APD, was introduced in the 1970s and

remains the only diagnosis included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic

and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV). However, it covers a

much broader range of disorders than does psychopath and has been

roundly rejected by leading researchers.

So where do psychopaths come from? Researchers are divided, with the

majority suggesting a mixed role: nature leading, nurture following. Dr.

Hare believes psychopaths are born with a powerful predisposition, which

can be exacerbated by abuse or neglect. A correlation exists between

psychopaths and unstable homes--and violent upbringings seem to turn

fledgling psychopaths more vicious. But current data suggests those

conditions do not cause the psychopathy; they only make a bad situation

worse. It also appears that even the best parenting may be no match for a

child born to be bad.

Symptoms appear so early, and so often in stable homes with normal

siblings, that the condition seems to be inborn. Most parents report having

been aware of disturbing signs before the child entered kindergarten. Dr.

Hare described a five-year old girl repeatedly attempting to flush her kitten

down the toilet. "I caught her just as she was about to try again," the mother

said. "She seemed quite unconcerned, maybe a bit angry--about being found

out." When the woman told her husband, the girl calmly denied the whole

thing. Shame did not register; neither did fear. Psychopaths are not

individuals losing touch with those emotions. They never developed them

from the start.

Hare created a separate screening device for juveniles and identified

hallmarks that appear during the school years: gratuitous lying, indifference

to the pain of others, defiance of authority figures, unresponsiveness to

reprimands or threatened punishment, petty theft, persistent aggression,

cutting classes and breaking curfew, cruelty to animals, early

experimentation with sex, and vandalism and setting fires. Eric bragged

about nine of the ten hallmarks in his journal and on his Web site--for most

of them, relentlessly. Only animal cruelty is missing.

At some point--as either a cause or an effect of psychopathy--the

psychopath's brain begins processing emotional responses differently. Early

in his career, Dr. Hare recognized the anatomical difference. He submitted a

paper analyzing the unusual brain waves of psychopaths to a scientific

journal, which rejected it with a dismissive letter. "Those EEGs couldn't

have come from real people," the editor wrote.

Exactly! Hare thought. Psychopaths are that different. Eric Harris baffled

the public because we could not conceive of a human with his motives.

Even Kate Battan would describe him as a teenager trying to act like an

adult. But the angst we associate with teenagers was the least of Eric's

drives. His brain was never scanned, but it probably would have shown

activity unrecognizable as human to most neurologists.

The fundamental nature of a psychopath is a failure to feel. A

psychopath's grasp of fear and suffering is particularly weak. Dr. Hare's

research team spent decades studying psychopaths in prison populations.

They asked one psychopath to describe fear. "When I rob a bank, I notice

that the teller shakes or becomes tongue-tied," he said. "One barfed all over

the money." He found that puzzling. The researcher pushed him to describe

his own fear. How would he feel with the gun pointed at him? The convict

said he might hand over the money, get the hell out, or find a way to turn

the tables. Those were responses, the researcher said. How would you feel?

Feel? Why would he feel?

Researchers often compare psychopaths to robots or rogue computers,

like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey-- programmed only to satisfy their

own objectives. That's the closest approximation of their behavior, but the

metaphor lacks nuance. Psychopaths feel something; Eric seemed to show

sadness when his dog was sick, and he occasionally felt twinges of regret

toward humans. But the signals come through dimly.

Cleckley described this as a poverty of emotional range. That's a tricky

concept, because psychopaths develop a handful of primitive emotions

closely related to their own welfare. Three have been identified: anger,

frustration, and rage. Psychopaths erupt with ferocious bouts of anger,

which can get them labeled "emotional." Look more closely, Cleckley

advised: "The conviction dawns on those who observe him carefully that

here we deal with a readiness of expression rather than a strength of

feeling." No love. No grief. Not even sorrow, really, or hope or despair

about his own future. Psychopaths feel nothing deep, complex, or sustained.

The psychopath was prone to "vexation, spite, quick and labile flashes of

quasi-affection, peevish resentment, shallow moods of self-pity, puerile

attitudes of vanity, absurd and showy poses of indignation."

Cleckley could have been describing Eric Harris's journal. "how dare you

think that I and you are part of the same species when we are sooooooooo

different," Eric wrote. "you arent human. you are a robot.... and if you

pissed me off in the past, you will die if I see you."

Indignation runs strong in the psychopath. It springs from a staggering

ego and sense of superiority. Psychopaths do not feel much, but when they

lose patience with inferiors, they can really let it rip. It doesn't go any

deeper. Even an earthworm will recoil if you poke it with a stick. A squirrel

will exhibit frustration if you tease it by offering a peanut, then repeatedly

snatching it back. Psychopaths make it that far up the emotional ladder, but

they fall far short of the average golden retriever, which will demonstrate

affection, joy, compassion, and empathy for a human in pain.

Researchers are still just beginning to understand psychopaths, but they

believe psychopaths crave the emotional responses they lack. They are

nearly always thrill seekers. They love roller coasters and hang gliding, and

they seek out high-anxiety occupations, like ER tech, bond trader, or

Marine. Crime, danger, impoverishment, death--any sort of risk will help.

They chase new sources of excitement because it is so difficult for them to


They rarely stick with a career; they get bored. Even as career criminals,

psychopaths underperform. They "lack clear goals and objectives, getting

involved in a wide variety of opportunistic offenses, rather than specializing

the way typical career criminals do," Cleckley wrote. They make careless

mistakes and pass up stunning opportunities, because they lose interest.

They perform spectacularly in short bursts--a few weeks, a few months, a

yearlong big con--then walk away.

Eric spent his young life that way: he should have been a 4.0 student, but

collected A's, B's, and C's. He made one yearlong commitment, to NBK,

but he had no ambition, zero plans for his life. He was one of the smartest

kids in his high school, but apparently never bothered to apply to college.

No job prospects either, beyond Blackjack. Despite a childhood of soldier

fantasies, a military father, and a stated desire for a career in the Marines,

Eric made no attempt to enlist. When a recruiter cold-called him during the

last week of his life, he met the guy, but never returned the call to find out

whether he had been accepted.

Rare killer psychopaths nearly always get bored with murder, too. When

they slit a throat, their pulse races, but it falls just as fast. It stays down--no

more joy from cutting throats for a while; that thrill has already been spent.

A second, less common approach to the banality of murder seems to be

the dyad: murderous pairs who feed off each other. Criminologists have

been aware of the dyad phenomenon for decades: Leopold and Loeb,

Bonnie and Clyde, the Beltway snipers of 2002. Because dyads account for

only a fraction of mass murderers, little research has been conducted on

them. We know that the partnerships tend to be asymmetrical. An angry,

erratic depressive and a sadistic psychopath make a combustible pair. The

psychopath is in control, of course, but the hotheaded sidekick can sustain

his excitement leading up to the big kill. "It takes heat and cold to make a

tornado," Dr. Fuselier is fond of saying. Eric craved heat, but he couldn't

sustain it. Dylan was a volcano. You could never tell when he might erupt.

Day after day, for more than a year, Dylan juiced Eric with erratic jolts of

excitement. They played the killing out again and again: the cries, the

screams, the smell of burning flesh...

Eric savored the anticipation.


Dr. Hare's EEGs suggested the psychopathic brain operates differently, but

he could not be sure how or why. After Eric's death, a colleague advanced

our understanding with a new technology. Functional magnetic resonance

imaging tests (fMRIs) create a picture of the brain, with light indicating

active regions. Dr. Kent Kiehl wired subjects up and showed them a series

of flash cards. Half contained emotionally charged words like rape, murder,

and cancer; the others were neutral, like rock or doorknob. Normal people

found the disturbing words disturbing: the brain's emotional nerve center,

called the amygdala, lit up. The psychopathic amygdalae were dark. The

emotional flavors that color our days are invisible to psychopaths.

Dr. Kiehl repeated the experiment with pictures, including graphic shots

of homicides. Again, psychopaths' amygdalae were unaffected; but the

language center activated. They seemed to be analyzing the emotions

instead of experiencing them.

"He responds to events that others find arousing, repulsive, or scary with

the words interesting and fascinating," Dr. Hare said. For psychopaths,

horror is purely intellectual. Their brains search for words to describe what

the rest of us would feel. That fits the profile: psychopaths react to pain or

tragedy by assessing how they can use the situation to manipulate others.

So what's the treatment for psychopathy? Dr. Hare summarized the

research on a century of attempts in two words: nothing works. It is the only

major mental affliction to elude treatment. And therapy often makes it

worse. "Unfortunately, programs of this sort merely provide the psychopath

with better ways of manipulating, deceiving, and using people," Hare wrote.

Individual therapy can be a bonanza: one-on-one training, to perfect the

performance. "These programs are like a finishing school," a psychopath

boasted to Dr. Hare's team. "They teach you how to put the squeeze on


Eric was blessed with at least two unintentional coaches: Bob

Kriegshauser, in the juvenile Diversion program, and his psychiatrist, Dr.

Albert. Eric was a quick study. The notes in his Diversion file document a

steady improvement, session by session.

Oddly, a large number of psychopaths spontaneously improve around

middle age. The phenomenon has been observed for decades, but not

explained. Otherwise, psychopaths appear to be lost causes. Within the

psychiatric community, that has drawn stiff resistance to diagnosing minors

with the condition. But clearly, many juveniles are well on their way.

Dr. Kiehl has a mobile fMRI lab and a research team funded by the

University of New Mexico. He mapped about five hundred brains at three

prison systems in 2008. Because of the skewed sample pool, about 20

percent met the criteria for psychopathy. He believes that answers about the

causes and treatment of psychopathy are coming within reach.

While Eric was devising his attack, Dr. Hare was working on a regimen

to address his kind. Hare began by reexamining the data on those

spontaneous improvers. From adolescence to their fifties, psychopaths

showed virtually no change in emotional characteristics but improved

dramatically in antisocial behavior. The inner drives did not change, but

their behavior did.

Hare believes that these psychopaths might simply be adapting. Fiercely

rational, they figured out that prison was not working for them. So Hare

proposed using their self-interest to the public advantage. The program he

developed accepts that psychopaths will remain egocentric and uncaring for

life but will adhere to rules if it's in their own interest. "Convincing them

that there are ways they can get what they want without harming others" is

the key, Hare said. "You say to them, 'Most people think with their hearts,

not with their heads, and your problem is you think too much with your

head. So let's change the problem into an asset.' They understand that."

While Eric was in high school, a juvenile treatment center in Wisconsin

began a program developed independently but based on that approach. It

also addressed the psychopathic drives for instant gratification and control:

subjects were rated every night on adherence to rules and rewarded with

extended privileges the next day. The program was not designed

specifically for fledgling psychopaths, but it produced significant

improvements in that population. A four-year study published in 2006

concluded that they were 2.7 times less likely to become violent than kids

with similar psychopathy scores in other programs.

For the first time in the history of psychopathy, a treatment appears to

have worked. It awaits replication.

Psychopathy experts are cautiously optimistic about coming advances. "I

believe that within ten years we will have a much better perspective on

psychopathy than we do now," Dr. Kiehl said. "Ideally we will be able to

help effectively manage the condition. I would not say that there is a cure

on the horizon, but I do hope that we can implement effective management


41. The Parents Group

Fuselier was sure Eric was a psychopath. But the kid had been sixteen when

he'd hatched the plot, seventeen for most of the planning, and barely

eighteen when he opened fire. There would be resistance to writing Eric off

at those ages.

Three months after Columbine, the FBI organized a major summit on

school shooters in Leesburg, Virginia. The Bureau assembled some of the

world's leading psychologists, including Dr. Hare. Near the end of the

conference, Dr. Fuselier stepped up to the microphone and gave a thorough

briefing on the minds of the two killers. "It looks like Eric Harris was a

budding young psychopath," he concluded.

The room stirred. A renowned psychiatrist in the front row moved to

speak. Here it comes, Fuselier thought. This guy is going to nitpick the

assessment to death.

"I don't think he was a budding young psychopath," the psychiatrist said.

"What's your objection?"

"I think he was a full-blown psychopath."

His colleagues agreed. Eric Harris was textbook.

Several of the experts continued studying the Columbine shooters after

the summit. Michigan State University psychiatrist Frank Ochberg flew in

several times to help guide the mental health team, and every trip doubled

as a fact-finding mission. Dr. Ochberg interviewed an assortment of people

close to the killers and studied the boys' writings.

The problem for the community, and ultimately for Jeffco officials, too,

was that Fuselier was not permitted to talk to the public. Early on, both

local and federal officials were concerned about Jeffco getting

overshadowed by the FBI. The Bureau firmly prohibited any of its agents

from discussing the case with the media. Jeffco commanders had decided

the killers' motives should not be discussed, and the FBI respected that


Failure to address the obvious intensified suspicion toward Jeffco. It

exacerbated a credibility problem already hovering over the sheriff's

department. In addition to why, the public had two pressing questions:

Should authorities have seen Columbine coming? And should they have

stopped it sooner once the gunfire began? On both those controversial

questions, Jeffco had obvious conflicts of interest. And yet they charged


It was a staggering lapse of judgment. Jeffco could have simply isolated

the two explosive issues into an independent investigation. It would have

been easy enough; they had nearly a hundred detectives at their disposal,

few of whom worked for Jeffco.

The independent investigation didn't seem so obvious in 1999. The

commanders were essentially honest men. Not one had a reputation as a

dirty cop. John Kiekbusch was deeply respected inside and outside the

force. They believed they were innocent, and that the public would see that.

And many of them were. Stone and his undersheriff had been sworn in only

three months earlier--they bore no responsibility for missing any warning

signs from Eric Harris. Most of the team had no role in command decisions

on April 20. Kate Battan was running the day-to-day operations; she was


But some good cops made really bad decisions after April 20. Survivors

were right to suspect a cover-up. Jeffco commanders were lying about the

Browns' warnings about Eric, and Randy and Judy made sure everyone

knew. Inside the department, someone was attempting to destroy the

Browns' paper trail. Shortly after the massacre, Investigator Mike Guerra

noticed that the physical copy of the file he had put together on Eric a year

earlier disappeared from his desk. A few days later, it reappeared just as

mysteriously. Later that summer, he tried to call up the computer record and

found it had been purged.

The physical file again disappeared and has never been recovered.

Over the next several months, division chief John Kiekbusch's assistant

took part in several activities she later found disturbing.


Each day Patrick tried to lift his leg again. Concentrate, they instructed him.

Each time Patrick concentrated, electrons dispersed through the gray matter

of his brain. Each time, those electrons sought fresh routes through the

lacerated left hemisphere. Once they established a signal--faint, almost

imperceptible--they laid the mental equivalent of fresh power lines. The

signal grew stronger.

People were always in and out of his room. In the first week of May, a

friend from waterskiing and some aunts and uncles were visiting. Patrick

lay on his bed, the useless leg up on a pillow. The brace was wrapped

around it, so it was extra heavy, but he bore down anyway. Slowly, barely,

the thigh rose. "Hey!" he shouted. "Check out what I can do!"

They couldn't see anything. He had raised it just enough to expand the

pillow below his brace. But he could feel it. The pillow wasn't supporting it,

he was.

Patrick made steady progress once he reestablished contact with his

limbs. Every morning, he could feel some change. The strength returned to

the center of his body first, beginning in his torso, then radiating out

through his hips and his shoulders and down toward his right elbow and

knee. In a few more weeks, they had him on his feet. They started him off

standing between a set of hip-high parallel bars. He had sort of a towrope

around his waist that a therapist held on to, to steady him and guide him the

short distance through the bars. That was a good day. The bars were tough,

because his right arm was as feeble as his leg. But together, he gathered the

strength for each step.

Later, he progressed to a walker and then a forearm crutch with a cuff

that straps over the arm below the elbow. The wheelchair was always there

for long trips, or any time he grew tired. Dexterity with his fingers and his

toes would be the hardest thing to regain completely. It would take him

months to hold a pen without shaking. His walk would be hindered by all

sorts of fine adjustments we never notice our toes making.


Anne Marie Hochhalter progressed more slowly. She had barely made it

through the attack. Her spinal cord was ruptured, causing unbearable nerve

pain. She spent weeks lying delirious on morphine, with a ventilator and a

feeding tube keeping her alive. She couldn't talk with the tubes, and through

the fog, she didn't understand what had happened or what was ahead.

Eventually, she grew more lucid and asked whether she would walk


"Well, no," a nurse told her.

"I just cried," she said later. "The nurse had to go get my parents because

I was crying so hard."

After six weeks, she joined Patrick at Craig. Danny Rohrbough's friend

Sean Graves was there, too, partially paralyzed below the spine. He

managed a few steps with braces over the summer. Lance Kirklin's face was

reconstructed with titanium implants and skin grafts. Scarring was severe,

but he made light of it. "It's cool being five percent metal," he said.


In the weeks just after the murders, nearly all the families of the library

victims walked the crime scene with investigators. They needed to see it. It

might be horrible--they had to find out. Dawn Anna stopped at the spot

where her daughter Lauren Townsend had been killed. First table on the

left. Nothing had been changed, except for the removal of the backpacks

and personal effects, which had been photographed, inventoried, and

returned to the families. "The emotional impact, I don't even know that I

can adequately describe it," Anna said. But she could not avoid it. "I needed

that connection, as did all of us, to get back and identify, in part, with what

had happened there."

The thought of sending any schoolkid back inside was unthinkable. The

library had to go. Independently, and collectively, most of the thirteen

families came to that conclusion quickly.

Students reached the opposite consensus. They spent the spring battling

for the idea of Columbine, as well as the proper noun: the name of a high

school, not a tragedy. They were repulsed by phrases bandied about like

"since Columbine" or "prevent another Columbine." That was one day in

the life of Columbine High School, they insisted.

Then the tourists arrived. Just weeks after the tragedy, even before

students returned, tour buses started rolling up to the school. Columbine

High had leapt to second place, behind the Rocky Mountains, as Colorado's

most famous landmark, and tour operators were quick to capitalize. The

buses would pull up in front of the school, and tourists would pile out and

start snapping pictures: the school, the grounds, the kids practicing on the

athletic fields or milling about in the park. They captured a lot of angry

expressions. The students felt like zoo specimens. Everyone still needed to

know constantly, How do you feel?

Brian Fuselier was heading into his sophomore year at Columbine.

Weeks under the microscope had been miserable; the tourists were too

much. "I just want to walk up and punch them in the nose!" he told his dad.

On June 2, most of the student body finally reconnected with the physical

Columbine. It was an emotional day. Students had two hours to go back

inside and retrieve their backpacks and cell phones and everything else they

had abandoned when they ran for it. Their parents were allowed in as well.

It gave everyone a chance to face their fears. Hundreds of kids stumbled out

in tears. Useful tears. Most found the experience stressful but cathartic.

They were kicked out again for two months, while construction crews

renovated the interior. The students had mixed feelings about anything

changing, but they were taking that one on faith. The district had open

enrollment, so everyone expected a big drop in Columbine's student body

the next fall. Students reacted the opposite way: transfers out were minimal.

Fall enrollment actually went up. Students felt they had lost so much

already, that surrendering an inch of corridor or a single classroom would

feel like defeat. They wanted their school back. All of it!

Mr. D and the faculty were focused on the kids: getting them into therapy

and watching out for trauma symptoms. School officials formed a design

review board to address the library. It included students, parents, and

faculty. Consensus came readily: gut the room and rebuild it. Redesign the

layout, replace and reconfigure the furniture, change the wall color, the

carpet, even the ceiling tiles. It was a drastic version of the plan put together

for the entire school. Trauma experts advised the board to balance two

objectives: make the kids feel their school had survived and surround them

with changes too subtle to identify. The library was the exception: it would

feel completely different.

Renovation of the school would cost $1.2 million, and would be tough to

complete before school resumed in August. The design board moved

quickly, and the school board adopted its proposal in early June. The

parents of the murdered kids were aghast. Rearrange the furniture? Slap on

some paint and recarpet? The design team saw their plan as a complete

overhaul. Their adversaries called it "cosmetic."


Initially, the students and the victims' families assumed they were all in this

together. It took them several weeks to realize they were about to battle

each other. Parents of the Thirteen saw that they were outnumbered; they

formed the Parents Group to fight back. On May 27, just as they were

organizing, a notorious lawyer and media hound flew to Denver for a

boisterous press conference. Geoffrey Fieger had become a cable news

staple via splashy media trials, like that of Dr. Kevorkian, the assistedsuicide doctor. Fieger teamed with Isaiah Shoels's family to make an

ostentatious demand sure to return Columbine to national headlines in the

worst possible light: a wrongful death suit against the killers' parents, for a

quarter of a billion dollars.

"This is not about money!" Isaiah's stepfather declared. "This lawsuit is

about change! That's the only way you get change, if you go rattling their

pocketbooks." He was right, but the public was skeptical about motives.

Fieger insisted he would spend more money mounting the case than he

could hope to recover. Colorado law limited awards from individuals to

$250,000, and governmental entities were capped at $150,000. "This

lawsuit is a symbol," he said. "There will be cynics who would chalk the

lawsuit up to greed."

Lawsuits had been anticipated, but nobody had foreseen one so garish, or

so soon. Colorado law gave victims a year to file and six months to declare

intent. It had only been five weeks. Families had been talking about

lawsuits as means of leverage, and a last resort.

The lawsuit served as a trial balloon that sank. The survivors were

particularly repulsed. Many of them had dedicated the next phase of their

lives to some form of justice: anti-bullying, gun control, prayer in schools,

SWAT protocols, warning signs, or just reclaiming their school or

destroying the library. Lawsuits threatened to taint all that. They also shed a

bad light on the next big battle, which was already developing when the

Shoelses conducted their press conference. That fight revolved around

money, too. The public donations had been astonishing, but the good

fortune came at a price.

More than $2 million rolled in the first month. A month later, the total

was $3.5 million. Forty different funds sprouted up. The local United Way

set up the Healing Fund to coordinate the distribution of monies. Robin

Finegan was a veteran therapist and victim's advocate who had worked

closely with Oklahoma City survivors. "It is predictable that this will

become a very difficult, painful process," she told NPR. There were too

many competing interests. "We're going to leave people, some people, not

feeling great about this." That was an understatement.

When a pair of teachers were collectively granted $5,000 for anxiety

treatment, Brian Rohrbough blew his stack. "That's criminal," he said. He

wanted the money divided equally between the families of the injured and

the dead. But was equality fair? Lance Kirklin's father estimated his

medical bills at $1 to $2 million; the family was uninsured. Mark Taylor

needed surgery for four gunshots to the chest; his mom couldn't afford

groceries or pay the rent. The process was humiliating, she said. She felt

like a beggar. "My son's in the hospital. I can't work. We're broke and they

have millions of dollars in donations. I'm disgusted."

The attorney for the Taylors and Kirklins suggested that some families

needed compensation more than others. Brian Rohrbough erupted again.

That implied that Danny's life had no value, he told the Rocky Mountain

News. For Brian, the money was symbolic: the ultimate valuation of each

life. For others it was purely practical.

In early July, the Healing Fund announced its distribution plan: 40

percent of the $3.8 million would go to direct victims. A clever compromise

was reached for that money: the four kids with critical injuries got $150,000

each; $50,000 went to each of the Thirteen. That totaled $650,000 for the

dead versus $600,000 for the critically injured, giving the Thirteen the

appearance of preeminence. Twenty-one injured students got $10,000 each,

a fraction of the medical bills for many. Most of the remainder went to

trauma counseling and tolerance programs. Roughly $750,000 was

earmarked for contingencies, a compromise to cover unpaid medical bills

without appearing to favor the injured over the dead.

Brian Rohrbough backed off once he felt heard.


Tom Klebold was dealing with a lot of anger. "Who gave my son these

guns?" he asked Reverend Marxhausen. He also felt betrayed by the school

culture that picked on kids outside the mainstream.

Tom did his best to shut out the angry world. His job allowed him to

hunker down at home, and he took full advantage. Sue was not wired that

way. "She has to get out," Marxhausen said.


May 28, Kathy Harris wrote condolence letters to the Thirteen. Many of the

addresses were unpublished, so she sealed each one in an envelope with the

family's name, put them all in a manila envelope, and mailed it to an

address the school district had set up as a clearinghouse for correspondence

to victims. A week later, Kathy sent a second batch for the families of

twenty-three injured. The school district turned them all over to the sheriff's

department as potential evidence. It sat on them. Officials decided not to

read them or deliver them.

In mid-July, the media discovered the snafu. "It's really not our job" to

distribute them, Sergeant Randy West said. The letters had no postage or

addresses, so commanders decided to return to sender. West complained

about the family's refusal to meet without immunity, and said his team had

trouble reaching their attorneys. "They're busy, we're busy and we can't

seem to connect with them," Sergeant West said. "I guess if you want to

make things easier you could just talk to us."

The Harrises broke their three-month silence to issue a statement

disputing "misstatements" on the letters. Their attorney insisted Jeffco had

never tried to contact him about them.

The letters were eventually returned.

Sue Klebold also wrote apologies in May. She mailed them directly to the

Thirteen. Brad and Misty received this handwritten card:

Dear Bernall family,

It is with great difficulty and humility that we write to express our

profound sorrow over the loss of your beautiful daughter, Cassie. She

brought joy and love to the world, and she was taken in a moment of

madness. We wish we had had the opportunity to know her and be

uplifted by her loving spirit.

We will never understand why this tragedy happened, or what we

might have done to prevent it. We apologize for the role our son had in

your Cassie's death. We never saw anger or hatred in Dylan until the

last moments of his life when we watched in helpless horror with the

rest of the world. The reality that our son shared in the responsibility

for this tragedy is still incredibly difficult for us to comprehend.

May God comfort you and your loved ones. May He bring peace

and understanding to all of our wounded hearts.


Sue and Tom Klebold

Misty was moved--enough to publish the full text in the memoir she was

drafting. She generously described the act as courageous. Tom and Sue lost

a son in the same disaster, she wrote. At least Cassie had died nobly. What

comfort did the Klebolds have? Misty also addressed the charges against

the killers' parents. Should they have known? Were they negligent? "How

do we know?"

42. Diversion

A year before the attack, the boys settled on the time and place: April 1999,

in the commons. That gave Eric time to plan, build his arsenal, and

convince his partner it was for real.

Shortly after starting Diversion, Eric and Dylan received their junior

yearbooks. They swapped and filled page after page with drawings,

descriptions, and rants. "We, the gods, will have so much fun w NBK!!"

Dylan wrote in Eric's. "My wrath for january's incident will be godlike. Not

to mention our revenge in the commons."

January's incident was their arrest. Eric was pissed about it, too. "Jan 31

sux," he wrote in Dylan's. "I hate white vans!!"

The arrest was a critical moment--the yearbooks confirmed Fuselier's

tentative conclusion on that score. Eventually, Fuselier would see it as the

single most important event in Eric's progression to murder. The arrest was

followed, in rapid succession, by Eric detonating his first pipe bombs,

threatening mass murder on his Web site, confiding worse visions to his

journal, and settling on the outlines of his attack. But Eric was already

headed that way. He did not "snap." Fuselier saw fallout from the crime as

accelerant to murder rather than cause.

Eric was an injustice collector. The cops, judge, and Diversion officers

were merely the latest additions to a comically comprehensive enemies list,

which included Tiger Woods, every girl who had rejected him, all of

Western culture, and the human species. What was different about the

arrest, in Fuselier's eyes, was that it was the first dramatic rein-in on the

boys' ability to control their own lives--"the screws are tightening," as

Dylan put it. They were juniors in high school now, a time when personal

freedom expanded faster than ever before. They had just gotten their

driver's licenses, they had jobs with paychecks and their first rush of

disposable income, their curfews were getting later, parental oversight was

easing, Eric was dating... their universe of possibilities was expanding.

They had suffered setbacks before, but those were mild and short-lived.

This time, it was a felony. A felony, for the smallest trifle: some moron's

van--so what? All freedom was lost. Eric's twenty-three-year-old was

dumping him because he was grounded all the time and could never see her.

He kept working Brenda, but it didn't look good.

Eric filled Dylan's yearbook with drawings: swastikas, robokillers, and

splattered bodies. The dead outnumbered the living. An illustration in the

margin suggested hundreds of tiny corpses piling up to the horizon, until

they all blended together in an ocean of human waste.

Eric went through his own book, marking up the faces of kids he didn't

like. He labeled them "worthless," said they would die, or just made an X

over their pictures. Eric had two thousand photos to deface, and eventually

he got to almost all of them.

Eric had it in for a couple of traitorous assholes: "God I cant wait till they

die," he wrote in Dylan's book. "I can taste the blood now."

Psychopaths want to enjoy their exploits. That's why the sadistic ones

tend to choose serial killing: they enjoy the cruelty as it plays out. Eric went

a different route: the big kill, which he would relish in anticipation for a full

year. He loved control--he couldn't wait to hold lives in his hand. When his

day finally arrived, he took his time in the library and enjoyed every minute

of it. He killed some kids on a whim, let others go just as easily.

He also used his Web site to enjoy a certain notoriety in his lifetime. He

loved the irony of his online world, where all the other kids were posing but

his fantasy was real.

One contradiction to Eric's control fetish is apparent in his willingness to

entrust power to Dylan. The yearbook exchange represented a huge leap of

faith for each of them. They had been talking about murder for months now,

and corresponding catchphrases in both journals suggest they had been

riffing on these ideas regularly. Eric had gone semipublic with his threats

already, posting them on his Web site, but no one seemed to notice or take it

seriously. This time, he scrawled out incriminating evidence of his plot in

his own handwriting and turned it over to Dylan.

They hinted about plans in a few friends' yearbooks, but it all sounded

like jokes. Dylan said he would like to kill Puff Daddy or Hanson, while

Eric went with irony: don't follow your dreams, follow your animal

instincts--"if it moves kill it, if it doesn't, burn it. kein mitleid!!!" Kein

mitleid is German for "no mercy," and a common shorthand for his favorite

band, KMFDM. This was just the kind of move that delighted Eric: warn

the world, in writing, to show us how stupid we all are.

In each other's books, they took a real gamble, particularly Dylan. He

wrote page after page of specific murder plans. They were at each other's

mercy now. Exposure of the yearbooks could end their participation in

Diversion and bring them back on felony charges. For the final year, each

boy knew his buddy could get him imprisoned at any time, though they

would both go down together. Mutually assured destruction.


Dr. Fuselier considered the yearbook passages. Both boys fantasized about

murder, but Dylan focused on the single attack. Eric had a grander vision.

All his writing alluded to a wider slaughter: killing everything, destroying

the human race. In a passionate journal entry a month later, he would cite

the Nazis' Final Solution: "kill them all. well in case you haven't figured it

out yet, I say 'KILL MANKIND.'"

It's unclear whether Eric and Dylan were aware of the discrepancy--

neither one addressed it in writing. It's hard to imagine that Eric failed to

notice Dylan's focus on a more limited attack. Was he including Dylan in

the full dream? Perhaps Dylan just didn't find it plausible. Blowing up the

high school, that could actually happen--killing mankind... maybe that just

sounded like science fiction to Dylan.

Despite the press's obsession with bullying and misfits, that's not how the

boys presented themselves. Dylan laughed about picking on the new

freshmen and "fags." Neither one complained about bullies picking on

them--they boasted about doing it themselves.


The boys changed dramatically after they began Diversion--in reverse

directions, once again. Eric launched a new charm offensive. Andrea

Sanchez became the second most important person in his life. Snowing her

was the best way to appease the first, his dad. It also kept the program from

diverting Eric from his goal. Eric had a plan now. He was on a mission and

he was revved. His grades dropped briefly after the arrest, but they

rebounded to his best ever once he had his attack plan. It was a lot of work,

which he complained bitterly about in his journal; but he worked his ass off

to excel.

Dylan didn't even try to impress Andrea. He missed appointments, fell

behind in community service, and let his grades plummet. He was actually

getting two D's.

NBK was nothing but a diversion to Dylan--fantasy chats with his buddy

about what they would like to do. Dylan didn't believe it; he didn't plan to

go through with it. All he knew was that he was a felon now. His miserable

life had grown pathetically worse.

Eric was the star performer in the program, at work and at school. He

even earned a raise, and when school let out for his last summer, he got a

second job at Tortilla Wraps, where his buddy Nate Dykeman worked. Eric

started putting away more money to build his arsenal. His cover story was

that he was saving up for a new computer. He worked both jobs, in addition

to the forty-five hours of community service the judge had ordered for the

summer. That was boring, menial crap, like sweeping and picking up trash

at a rec center. He despised it but pasted on a smile. It was all for a good


Dylan did not appear to contribute much to the attack, financially or

otherwise. He quit Blackjack and didn't bother with a regular job over the

summer; he just did some yard work for a neighbor.

Eric kept both his employers and the rec supervisors satisfied. "He was a

real nice kid," his Tortilla boss said. "He would come in every day with nice

T-shirts, khaki shorts, sandals. He was kind of quiet but everyone got along

with him." Nate liked to wear his trench coat to work, but Eric didn't feel

that was professional.

The boys were required to write apology letters to the van owner. Eric's

exuded contrition. He acknowledged he was writing partly because he'd

been ordered to "but mostly because I strongly feel that I owe you an

apology." Eric said he was sorry repeatedly, and outlined his legal and

parental punishments so the victim would understand that he was paying a

price for his actions.

Eric knew exactly what empathy looked like. His most convincing

moment in the letter came when he put himself in the owner's position. If

his car had been robbed, he said, the sense of invasion would have haunted

him. It would have been hard for him to drive it again. Every time he got in

the car, he would have pictured someone rummaging through it. God, he

felt violated just imagining it. He was so disappointed in himself. "I realized

very soon afterwards what I had done and how utterly stupid it was," Eric

wrote. "I let the stupid side of me take over."

"But he wrote that strictly for effect," Fuselier said. "That was complete

manipulation. At almost the exact same time, he wrote down his real

feelings in his journal: 'Isnt America supposed to be the land of the free?

how come if im free, I cant deprive a stupid fucking dumbshit from his

possessions. If he leaves them sitting in the front seat of his fucking van out

in plain sight and in the middle of fucking nowhere on a Frifucking day

night. NATURAL SELECTION. fucker should be shot.'"

Eric betrayed no signs of contempt to Andrea Sanchez. In her notes, she

remarked on Eric's deep remorse.

Few angry boys can hide their feelings or sling the bullshit so

convincingly. Habitual liars hate sucking up like that. Not psychopaths.

That was the best part of the performance: Eric's joy came from watching

Andrea and the van owner and Wayne Harris and everyone who caught

sight of the letter fall for his ridiculous con.

Eric never complained about those lies. He bragged about them.

Eric could be a procrastinator--a common affliction among psychopaths--

and Andrea suggested he work on time management. So Eric bought a

Rebel Pride day planner, filled a week in, and brought it to his biweekly

counseling session to show off. He gushed about what a great idea it was. It

was really helping, he said. Andrea was impressed. She praised him for it in

his file. Then he quit. He used the book to vent his real feelings. It had

come packed with motivational slogans and tips for better living. Eric went

through hundreds of pages rewriting selected words and phrases: "A

person's mind is always splattered.... Cut old people and other losers into

rags.... Ninth graders are required to burn and die." He altered the Denver

entry on a population chart to show forty-seven inhabitants once he was


Andrea Sanchez was delighted with Eric. She worked with the boys

directly for a few months and then transitioned them over to a new

counselor. In Eric's file, Andrea ended her last entry with "Muy facile

hombre"--very easy man.

Dylan got no affectionate sign-off. And why wouldn't Andrea Sanchez

like Eric more? Everyone did. He was funny and clever, and that smile,

man--he knew just when to flash it, too; just how long to hang back, tease

you with it, make you work for it, and then lay it on.

Dylan was a gloom factory. The misery was self-fulfilling: who wanted

to hang around under that cloud all day?

Inside, he was a dynamo of wild energy, hurtling in eight directions at

once, jamming music in his head, thinking clever thoughts, bursting with

joy and sadness and regret and hope and excitement... but he was scared to

show it. Dylan kept it behind a veneer--you could see him silently

simmering sometimes, but he mostly came across as sheepish and

embarrassed. Anger was the one thing that would boil over sometimes. The

loving part, that stuff could be singing inside from the highest mountain,

only he wasn't about to let it show. The anger would just erupt. That would

freak people out. You never would have expected it out of that kid.


Eric complained about his medication. Before he transitioned from Andrea

Sanchez, he told her the Zoloft wasn't doing enough. He felt restless and

couldn't concentrate. Dr. Albert switched him to Luvox. The change

required two weeks unmedicated, to metabolize the Zoloft out of his

system. Eric told Andrea he was worried about going without. He told a

different story in his journal. Dr. Albert wanted to medicate him to eradicate

bad thoughts and quell his anger, he wrote. That was craziness. He would

not accept the human assembly line. "NO, NO NO God Fucking damit

NO!" he wrote. "I will sooner die than betray my own thoughts. but before I

leave this worthless place, I will kill whoever I deem unfit."

It's not clear exactly what Eric was up to with Dr. Albert. He might have

actually complained about the Zoloft because it was too effective. Every

patient reacts differently. The maneuver definitely solidified the facade of

Eric working to control his anger.

"I would be very surprised if Eric was being honest and straightforward

with his doctor," Fuselier said. "Psychopaths attempt to, and often succeed,

in manipulating mental health professionals, too."


Wayne Harris was the hardest person for Eric to fool. He had seen Eric's

boy scout act. It never lasted. Wayne made one undated entry in his journal

sometime after the orientation meeting for Diversion in April. He was

frustrated. He listed bulleted points for a lecture for Eric:

* Unwilling to control sleep habits.

* Unwilling to control study habits.

* Unmotivated to succeed in school.

* We can deal with 1 and 2: TV, phone, computer, lights out, job,


* You must deal with 3.

* Prove to us your desire to succeed by succeeding, showing good

judgment, giving extra effort, pursuing interests, seeking help, advice.

He put Eric on restriction again: a 10:00 P.M. curfew except for studying,

no phone during study time, and possibly another four weeks away from his


The crackdown was the last entry Wayne Harris would record--and

nearly the last words the public would get from him. The search warrant

exercised on his home a year later was specific to Eric's writings. Nothing

else from Wayne or Kathy or Eric's brother was confiscated. In the ten years

since the attack, they have issued a few brief statements through attorneys,

met with police briefly, and with parents of the victims once. They have

never spoken to the press. The outlines of Eric's relationship to his father

came through in their journals, and from testimony of outsiders. Kathy

Harris is murkier, and a full picture of the family dynamic remains elusive.


With Eric, Dylan paid lip service to NBK. Privately, he was juggling two

options: suicide or true love. He wrote Harriet a love letter, confessing all.

"You don't consciously know who I am," he started, bluntly. "I, who write

this, love you beyond infinince." He thought about her all the time, he said.

"Fate put me in need of you, yet this earth blocked that with uncertainties."

He was actually a lot like her: pensive, quiet, an observer. Like him, she

seemed uninterested in the physical world. Life, school, it was all

meaningless--how wonderful that she understood. Dylan caught a glimpse

of sadness in her: she was lonely, just like him.

He wondered if she had a boyfriend. Odd that he'd never checked that

out. He hardly saw her anymore. He realized this might be a bit much: "I

know what you're thinking: '(some psycho wrote me this harassing letter.)'"

But he had to take the chance. He was sure she had noticed him a few

times--none of her gazes had gone unnoticed. Dylan confessed his scariest

intentions--just like Zack, who had found a soul mate in whom to confide

his suicidal desires. At first Dylan was a little coy: "I will go away soon...

please don't feel any guilt about my soon-to-be 'absence' of this world."

Finally he conceded that she would hate him if she knew the whole truth,

but he confessed it anyway: "I am a criminal, I have done things that almost

nobody would even think about condoning." He had been caught for most

of his crimes, he said, and wanted a new existence. He was confident she

knew what he meant. "Suicide? I have nothing to live for, & I won't be able

to survive in this world after this legal conviction." But if she loved him as

strongly as he loved her, he would find a way to survive.

If she thought he was crazy, please don't tell anyone, he pleaded. Please

accept his apologies. But if she felt something for him, too, she should

leave a note in his locker--No. 837, near the library.

He signed his name. He did not deliver it. Did he ever intend to? Or was

it just for him?

Eric, meanwhile, was upset. He lashed out at Brooks Brown by e-mail. "I

know you're an enemy of Eric's," it said. "I know where you live and what

cars you drive."

Psychopaths do not attempt to fool everyone. They save their

performances for people with power over them or with something they

need. If you saw the ugly side of Eric Harris, you meant nothing to him.

Brooks told his mom; Judy called the cops. A deputy wrote up yet

another suspicious incident report and added it to the ongoing investigation

of Eric. It said the Browns were worried. They'd requested an extra patrol

for the night.


The threesome was over. Zack was not included in NBK, and Eric froze

him out completely. Eric went cold on him that summer, Zack said--he

never figured out why. Open hostilities erupted that fall. Dylan kept clear of

it. He stayed close to Zack, away from Eric, chatting away by phone every


Randy Brown called the cops again. Somebody had tagged his garage

with a paintball gun. He was sure it was that same old little criminal, Eric

Harris. A deputy interviewed Randy and wrote up a report. "No suspects--

no leads," he wrote.

"Eric is doing well," his new counselor, Bob Kriegshauser, wrote in Eric's

file at that time. Eric was exceeding expectations and covering his mistakes.

He got into a bit of a procrastination jam on his last four hours of

community service. He waited until the last day, and he wasn't going to get

to complete his full forty-five hours. So he sweet-talked the stranger in

charge at the rec center that day, who was impressed enough to lie for him.

As far as Bob Kriegshauser knew, Eric completed his service on time. Eric

used the work for brownie points with a teacher that fall. He boasted about

the summer he'd dedicated to the community.

The boys continued diverging philosophically: Eric held mastery over

man and nature; Dylan was a slave to fate. And Dylan had a big surprise.

He had no intention of inflicting Eric's massacre. He enjoyed the banter, but

privately said good-bye. He expected his August 10 entry to be his last.

Dylan was planning to kill himself long before NBK.


Senior year started for the killers. Eric and Dylan began a video production

class. That was fun. They got to make movies. The fictional vignettes were

mostly variations on a formula: aloof tough guys protecting misfits from

hulking jocks. Eric and Dylan outwitted the bullies, but saved the real

contempt for their clients. They bled the losers financially, then killed them

just because they could. The victims deserved it; they were inferior. The

story lines spilled right out of Eric's journal.

What an opportunity. Eric was guiding his unsteady partner: fantasy to

reality, one step at a time. Dylan ate it up. He came alive on camera. His

eyes bulged. You could sense true rage smoldering beneath his skin. The

boys had riffed on NBK for months, but now they were acting out bits on

film. They were celluloid heroes, screening their exploits for classmates and

adults. Eric loved that. Hilarious to reveal his plans that way. He was right

in the open, and they still couldn't guess. And he had Dylan out there with



Eric was gobbling up literature: Macbeth, King Lear, Tess of the

d'Urbervilles. He could never get enough Nietzsche or Hobbes. Once a

week, he wrote a short essay for English class on one of the stories or

sometimes on a random topic. These essays reached Dr. Fuselier weeks

after the murders. He found them revealing, particularly for what they


In September, Eric titled one of his short essays, "Is Murder or Breaking

the Law Ever Justified?" Yes, he responded--in extreme situations. He

described holding pets and humans hostage, threatening to blow up

busloads of people. The irony of masking grisly murder fantasies in

moralistic essays amused him. A police sniper could save many by killing

one, Eric argued. The law must bend. Eric made the same case in his

journal but took it a step further: moral imperatives are situational,

absolutes are imaginary; therefore, he could kill anyone he wanted.

It's revealing that Eric took on a provocative issue and gauged exactly

how far he could run with it. Fuselier saw no moral confusion, clearly no

mental illness--Eric demonstrated his sanity by his ability to navigate such

tricky terrain. He got the satisfaction of warning us in yet another way

without giving himself away.


Dylan expected to be dead soon. What was the point of school? He had a

light schedule and was still pulling two D's. He was sleeping in class. He

missed the first calculus test and didn't bother making it up. Those grades

are not acceptable, Bob Kriegshauser, his Diversion officer, said. He could

get them up ASAP or do his homework at the Diversion office every

afternoon. Kriegshauser was thrilled with Eric's progress. Eric was working

on a speech about foreign music and memorizing "Der Erlkyoethe's darkly

operatic poem. He'd taken a road trip to Boulder to catch a University of

Colorado football game. He was making a batch of doughnuts for

Octoberfest, and soaking up everything he could find on the Nazis. He

pored through books such as The Nazi Party,Secrets of the SS, and The

Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism. He cited a dozen scholarly books

for his paper "The Nazi Culture." It was a strong piece of work: vivid,

comprehensive, and detailed.

The paper let Eric indulge in depravity right in the open. It began by

asking the reader to imagine a stadium packed with murdered men, women,

and children--not just filling the seats but piled high into the air above it.

That would still represent just a fraction of the people exterminated by the

Nazis, he said. Six million Jews they did away with, and five million others

besides. Eleven million--now, there was a body count. Eric fantasized about

topping it.

He described Nazi officers lining up prisoners and firing into the first

man to see how many rib cages the bullet would penetrate. "Wow," his

teacher responded in the margin. "This is scary.... Incredible."

Eric photocopied a passage from Heinrich Himmler's infamous speech to

SS group leaders and kept it in his room. "Whether or not 10,000 Russian

women collapse from exhaustion while digging a tank ditch interests me

only in so far as the tank ditch is completed for Germany," Himmler said. "

[Germans] will also adopt a decent attitude to these human animals, but it is

a crime against our own blood to worry about them and to bring them

ideals." Here was someone who got it! The Nazis used human animals for

labor; Eric only needed his to explode. Five or six hundred

dismemberments ought to be enough for one awesome afternoon of TV.

Eric was feeling rambunctious. He started wearing T-shirts with German

phrases, he littered his papers with swastikas, and he yelled "Sieg Heil"

when he landed a strike at Rock'n' Bowl. For Eric's buddy Chris Morris, all

the damn Nazi shit was wearing a little thin. Eric was quoting Hitler,

spouting off about concentration camps... enough.

In October, Eric faced a setback. A speeding ticket. His parents were

strict, and it cost him: they made him pay the fine, attend Defensive

Driving, cover any increase in insurance premiums; plus, he was grounded

for three weeks.

All the open Nazi lust was beginning to paint Eric into a corner. Four

days after turning his paper in, Eric confided to his journal that he was

showing too much. "I might need to put on one helluva mask here to fool

you all some more," he wrote. "fuck fuck fuck. it'll be hard to hold out until


He tried a new tactic: recast what he had already revealed. He wrote a

deeply personal essay for government class and turned it in to Mr. Tonelli--

they called him T-dog. Eric admitted he was a felon. He had faced the

horror of the police station as a criminal. But he was a changed man. He'd

spent four hours in custody, and it had been a nightmare. When they put

him in a prison-style bathroom, he had broken down. "I cried, I hurt, and I

felt like hell," he wrote.

He was still trying to earn back the respect of his parents, he said. That

was the biggest blow. Thank God he and Dylan never drank or did any

drugs. In the closing lines, he made a classic psychopathic move:

"Personally, I think that whole entire night was enough punishment for me,"

he wrote, explaining that it forced him to face a whole new world of

experiences. "So all in all," he concluded, "I guess it was a worth while

punishment after all."

T-dog fell for every move. What chance did he have against a clever

young psychopath? Few teachers even know the meaning of the term.

Tonelli typed up a response to Eric: "Wow what a way to learn a lesson. I

agree that night was enough punishment for you. Still, I am proud of you

and the way you have reacted.... You have really learned from this and it

has changed the way you think.... I would trust you in a heartbeat. Thanks

for letting me read this and for being in my class."

Fuselier compared the dates of the public and private confessions: just

two days between them. It was remarkable how often Eric addressed the

same ideas in both venues, and how craftily he obscured his true intent.

Months after the attack, following a briefing on the killers, Tonelli went

to see Fuselier.

"I have to talk to you," he said. Fuselier sat down with him. Tonelli was

racked with guilt. "What did I miss here?" he asked.

Nothing, Fuselier said. Eric was convincing. He told you exactly what

you wanted to hear. He didn't play innocent; he confessed to guilt and

pleaded for forgiveness. Civilians always believe a good psychopath.

Eric bragged about his performances again in his journal, and then took a

turn: "goddammit I would have been a fucking great marine, It would have

given me a reason to be good." That was unusual for Eric. He usually

reveled in his "bad" choice, but just for a moment there he toyed with the

other road: "and I would never drink and drive, either," he added. "It will be

weird when we actually go on the rampage."

Dr. Fuselier read the passage with only mild surprise. Even extreme

psychopaths show flickers of empathy now and then. Eric was extreme but

not absolute. This was the closest he would come to betraying reservations,

and it was a logical pass. The plan was becoming real now. Eric finally had

the means to kill. He felt the power; he had to make a decision--keep it

fantasy or make it real?

Eric's reflection lasted two lines. The sentences run together as if he was

writing rapidly, and the next one envisioned a massive attack. A jumbo

ammo cartridge would be great: "just think, 100 rounds without reloading,

hell yeah!"

43. Who Owns the Tragedy

There is a house, outside of Laramie. It's a rugged Wyoming town on the

fringe of the Rockies. That's where Dave and Linda Sanders were going to

retire. A quiet college town, Laramie may appear desolate to most eyes, but

it teems with youthful energy and is the intellectual capital of the state.

Dave's Ford Escort could get them there in under three hours, and they

made several trips a year.

They were closing in on it now--two years away, maybe three. They were

looking forward to it. They called it retirement, but it was a work addict's

version: off with one career, on to the next. Dave would move up to a

college position; Linda had her eye on an antiques store. After twenty-five

years at Columbine, Dave had qualified for his teaching pension. It was just

a matter of an opening. University of Wyoming was a good bet: he had been

scouting for them for years and coaching the summer camp, and was great

friends with the head basketball coach.

They would watch their retirement home glide by from the highway

every time they approached town. It was a gray ranch house with a wide

porch running all the way around. They would add rocking chairs, and a

porch swing for the grandkids.

Linda Sanders thought about that house in Laramie a lot after Dave died.

She thought about how different her struggle was from all the other victims.

All the attention was on the students and their parents.


Kathy Ireland had wanted to save her boy. Now she wanted to get her hands

on the kids who did this to him. She looked into Patrick's eyes. Serene. Like

hers, before this horror struck. Kathy had breathed tranquillity into her

family, but it took all of her effort to stay calm around Patrick.

Kathy stood by Patrick's bed and asked if he understood who'd done this

to him.

It didn't matter, he said. They were confused. Just forgive them. Please

forgive them.

"It took my breath away," Kathy said later. At first she assumed Patrick

was confused. He was not. He had too much work to do. He was going to

walk again, and talk again, like a normal person. And he insisted he would

still be valedictorian. Anger would eat him up inside. He couldn't afford


OK, Kathy said. She had been praying incessantly that Patrick would

come through this with a sense of happiness--that in time he would find a

way to let it go. This, she had not expected. She feared that it was more than

she could do, but she would try to forgive, too. It would take her years to let

go, and she never shook the anger completely, but she kept looking to

Patrick leading the way.


Patrick Ireland was struggling. His days at Craig Hospital that first summer

were exhausting. Speech therapy, muscle therapy, testing, prodding, poking,

and the endless efforts just to communicate. Retrieving the right word often

eluded him. At night Patrick would lie quietly in his room, winding down

before settling off to sleep. John or Kathy would stay with him. They took

turns each night; one of them would sleep on a fold-out chair beside his

bed. Just in case.

They would turn the lights off around eleven or twelve and just sit there

in the dark with him, quietly at first; then he would begin to ask questions.

He needed to know everything. What exactly happened in the library? How

did he respond? What was going to happen now? Patrick wanted to know

about the other victims, too, and the killers sometimes--what could make

them do something like that?

"There were certainly times that I was mad," Patrick said later. "But I

think a lot of those were more for realizations of what was taken from me,

rather than actually what transpired. My life was going be completely

changed." Patrick tried not to stay angry on the basketball court. Make a

mistake, brush it off. "Keep your eye on the ball," he could hear his dad say.

Patrick focused on the present.

His speech was returning slowly. Short-term memory was a struggle.

There were exercises for everything. A therapist would recite a list of

twenty things, and he'd have to repeat them in the same order. It was hard.

Patrick shed his anger toward the killers early, but his condition could be

infuriating. Outbursts are typical with head wounds. Anger and frustration

commonly last several months. The blue period, they call it. His therapists

were tracking that as well. When Patrick shook his fist at them, they would

note it in his chart.


Patrick stayed at Craig Hospital for nine and a half weeks. He walked out

on July 2, using a forearm crutch to support himself. He wore a plastic

brace on his right leg. His doctors sent him home with a wheelchair for

when he needed to cover long distances. A banner signed by friends

welcomed him back.

The summer went quickly. Patrick wasn't ready for school to start. He

was overbooked already: occupational, physical, and speech therapy, and

neuropsychology. They were exhausting days. But he was walking more

steadily. His speech was pretty intelligible, and the extended pauses while

he searched for words grew briefer. A sentence might be interrupted only

once now, or sometimes not at all. The blue period passed.

As he continued working, Patrick thought more about the lake. He knew

he couldn't get on the water. He could hear the buzz of the boat, smell the

water lapping the pier. Eventually, Patrick convinced his father to take him

out to watch his sister make some practice runs. He loved waterskiing. John

started the boat. As the engine sputtered, Patrick smelled the fumes, closed

his eyes, and he was out there riding the surface again. He sat on the dock

reliving it all. Then he began to cry. He shook violently. He swore. John

rushed over to comfort him. He was inconsolable. He wasn't angry at his

parents or himself or Eric or Dylan--he was just angry. He wanted his life

back. He was never going to get it. John assured him they would get

through this. Then he held on to Patrick and let him cry.


Four months after the police tape went up, Columbine was set to reopen.

August 16 was the target date. The atmosphere that morning would mean

everything. If students came home feeling like they had made a clean break

over the summer and moved on, then they would have. The first few

minutes of that morning would set the tone for the entire year.

Administrators had gathered students, faculty, victims, and other

stakeholders and brainstormed all summer. They'd consulted psychologists

and cultural anthropologists and grief experts and had come up with an

elaborate ritual. It would be called Take Back the School.

For the ceremony to have impact, they needed an adversary to overcome.

And the more tangible and odious the adversary, the better. It was an easy

choice: the media. The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News were

still running Columbine stories every day--several a day. As the fall

semester beckoned, coverage shot back up: ten stories a day between the

two papers. And the national outlets were back. How do you feel? everyone

constantly wanted to know. Students started sporting bite me T-shirts, and

quite a few faculty members did, too.

The media had made their lives hell. And reporters could be counted on

to appear in record numbers. The rally would include speeches and cheers

and rock music and a ribbon cutting, but the heart of the event was a public

rebuke of the media and a ceremonial reclaiming of the school--from them.

Thousands of parents and neighbors would be recruited to form a human

shield to rebuke the press. The shield would function both symbolically and

practically. It would prevent reporters from performing their despicable job.

They literally would not be able to see what was going on. The rally could

have easily been planned for inside--virtually every school rally was. This

event would be held outside specifically to stick it to the media. No doors or

locks or walls would keep out the media; they would be blocked by a

human wall of shame. And the school would dare them to try to cross it.


Reporters were kept in the dark about the agenda until seven days before

the rally. On August 9, the school convened a Media Guidelines Summit.

Forty news organizations attended, local and national. The invitation was

filled with conciliatory phrases like "exchange ideas" and "balance the

interests." The district lined up a group of trauma experts. A professor

outlined bereavement: these kids were still in the early stages, and many

were suffering from PTSD. Mental repetition of the trauma trapped them

there. The TV stations kept recycling the same stock footage: SWAT teams,

bloody victims, hugging survivors, kids running out with hands on their


Reporters did not like where this was going. Then victim's advocate

Robin Finegan introduced the larger idea: kids felt as if their identities had

been stolen. "Columbine" was the name of a tragedy now. Their school was

a symbol of mass murder. They had been cast as bullies or snotty rich brats.

"There comes a point where victims need to have ownership of their

tragedy," Finegan said. So far, the media owned the Columbine tragedy.

That was about to change, the district said--or good luck getting your

precious "Columbine returns" stories. Administrators outlined the gist of the


"What's the human chain for?" a reporter asked.

"To shield the students from you folk," district spokesman Rick Kaufman


Most media would be excluded. A small pool would be escorted in.

Reporters were incredulous. One print reporter? The White House didn't

limit its pool that tightly. Reporters for the big national papers huddled in

the back of the room, discussing options to "lawyer up."

The district wouldn't back down, Kaufman said. In fact, the pool would

come only with major concessions: no helicopters, no rooftop

photographers, and no breach of school grounds. "If we can't get agreement,

then there's no pool," he said.

Try it, reporters threatened; it will backfire. "As long as parents

understand that by saying no to everything, again it's going to be a situation

where we're coming out of rocks and stuff in order to get sound and

pictures," a TV executive said. "And I wonder if the parents really

understand, if they think they control us by just saying no, they're really not;

they're forcing us to go in other directions."

Kaufman said his back was to the wall. Angry parents had objected to

any pool at all. "Parents and faculty, they have really hit the wall with you

folks. They're saying, 'We're done! Enough is enough.'"

Later that week, a compromise was reached. The pool was expanded

slightly, and a "bullpen" was added within the shield, where interested

students could approach cordoned-off reporters. The press agreed to all

previous demands and two new ones: no kid would be approached on the

way to school that morning, and no photographs of any of the injured

survivors would be used. The kids finally felt a sense of victory.


Mr. D was excited about the rally. But he was also worried about the new

kids. It was a principal's thing--the incoming freshmen always commanded

his thoughts this time of year. Kids would either assimilate quickly or spend

four years struggling to fit in. The first two weeks were crucial.

Mr. D chose to combat the chasm by highlighting it. He met with the

academic and sports teams and the student senate over the summer, and he

gave every kid and every teacher the same mission: These kids will never

understand you. They will never endure your pain, never bridge the gap

between social classes that you did. So help them.

By and large, they went for it. Kids thought they were overwhelmed by

their own struggle, but what they really needed was someone else to look

out for. They had to salve a different sort of pain to comprehend how to heal

their own.

Mr. D's team brainstormed up a slew of activities to grease the transition.

The wall tile project seemed like an easy one. For three years, kids had been

painting four-inch ceramic tiles in art class. Five hundred had been

plastered above the lockers to brighten the Columbine corridors. Fifteen

hundred new tiles would be added before school resumed, representing the

single most noticeable change to the interior. For one morning, kids could

express their grief or hope or desires visually and abstractly, without the

intervention of words that wouldn't come.


Brian Fuselier didn't want his parents standing in the human shield. "The

more you do that, the more you make it unnatural," he told his dad. Brian

was doing OK with the trauma; he just wanted his life back, and his school

back, the way it had been.

"That's just not going to happen," his father said.

Agent Fuselier took Monday morning off from the investigation to join

the chain. Mimi stood beside him. By seven A.M. kids were streaming in with

their parents. By 7:30, the shield was five hundred strong. It would grow

much larger. The parents applauded each student's arrival.

Most of the kids wore matching white T-shirts emblazoned with their

rallying cry: WE ARE on the front and COLUMBINE on the back. Small contingents had

opted for their own messages: YES, I BELIEVE IN GOD OR VICTORS NOT VICTIMS.

Frank DeAngelis took the microphone and a group of kids screamed,

"We love you, Mr. D!"

He teared up at the welcome, then delivered a touching speech. "You may

be feeling a little anxious," he said. "But you need to know that you are not

in this alone."

The school's American flags were raised from half-mast for the first time

since April 20, symbolically ending the period of mourning. A ribbon

across the entrance was cut, and Patrick Ireland led the student body in.

44. Bombs Are Hard

Eric was counting on a slow recovery. He was less concerned about killing

hundreds of people on April 20 than about tormenting millions for years.

His audience was the target. He wanted everyone to agonize: the student

body, residents of Jeffco, the American public, the human race.

Eric amused himself with the idea of coming back as a ghost to haunt

survivors. He would make noises to trigger flashbacks, and drive them all

insane. Anticipation satiated Eric for months. Then it was time to act.

Senior year, just before Halloween, he began assembling his arsenal. Eric

sat down in his room with a stack of fireworks, split each one down the

side, and tapped the shiny black powder into a coffee can. Once he had a

sufficient volume, he tipped the can and guided a fine little trickle into a

carbon dioxide cartridge. He measured it out carefully, almost to the rim.

Then he applied a wick, sealed it off, and set it aside. One cricket, ready for

detonation. He was pleased with his work. He assembled nine more.

The pipe bombs required a lot more gunpowder, as well as a PVC pipe to

house each one. Eric assembled four of those that day. The first three he

designated the Alpha batch. Not bad, but he could do better. He set them

aside and tried a different approach. He built just one bomb for the Beta

batch. Better. Still room for improvement. That was enough for one day.

Eric drew up a chart to record his production data. He set up columns to

log each batch by name, size, quantity, shrapnel content, and power load.

Then he rated his work. Six of his eight batches would earn an "excellent"

assessment. His worst performance was "O.K."

The next day, Eric got right back to it, producing six more pipe bombs--

the rest of the Beta batch. Later, he would create Charlie, Delta, Echo, and

Foxtrot, using military lingo for all of the batches, except that soldiers use

Bravo, not Beta.

Eric penned nearly a dozen new journal entries in the next two months. "I

have a goal to destroy as much as possible," he wrote, "so I must not be

sidetracked by my feelings of sympathy, mercy, or any of that."

It was a mark of Eric's ruthlessness that he comprehended the pain and

consciously fought the urge to spare it. "I will force myself to believe that

everyone is just another monster from Doom," he wrote. "I have to turn off

my feelings."

Keep one thing in mind, he said: he wanted to burn the world. That

would be hard. He had begun producing the explosives, and it was a lot of

work. Ten pipe bombs and ten puny crickets after two days' effort. Those

would not destroy much. "God I want to torch and level everything in this

whole fucking area," he said, "but bombs of that size are hard to make."

Eric took a few moments to enjoy the dream. He envisioned half of

Denver on fire: napalm streams eating the skin off skyscrapers, explosive

gas tanks ripping through residential garages. Napalm recipes were

available online. The ingredients were readily attainable. But he had to be

realistic. "It will be very tricky getting all of our supplies, explosives,

weaponry, ammo, and then hiding it all and then actually planting it all," he

said. A lot could go wrong in the next six months, and if they did get

busted, "we start killing then and there. I aint going out without a fight."

Eric repeated that last line almost verbatim in an English essay. The

assignment was to react to a quote from literature, and Eric had chosen this

line from Euripides' tragedy Medea: "No, like some yellow-eyed beast that

has killed its hunters let me lie down on the hounds' bodies and the broken

spears." Medea was declaring that she would die fighting, Eric wrote. They

would never take her without a struggle. He repeated that sentiment seven

times in a page and a quarter. He described Medea as brave and courageous,

tough and strong and hard as stone. It is one of the most impassioned public

essays Eric left behind.

For years after his death, Eric would be seen as a bundle of

contradictions. But the threads come together in "I aint going out without a

fight." Eric dreamed big but settled for reality. Unfortunately, that passage

remained hidden from the public for years. Scattered quotes from his

writings would leak out, and viewed as fragments, they could seem

contradictory. Was Eric planning a gun battle or a plane crash or a terrorist

attack bigger than Oklahoma City's? If he was so intent on mass murder,

why did he kill only thirteen? Trying to understand Eric from the

information available was like reading every fifth page of a novel and

concluding that none of it made sense.

Dr. Fuselier had the advantage of reading Eric's journal from start to

finish. Without the holes, the thrust was obvious: humans meant nothing;

Eric was superior and determined to prove it. Watching us suffer would be

enjoyable. Every week he devised colorful new scenarios: crashing planes

into buildings, igniting blocks of skyscrapers, ejecting people into outer

space. But the objective never wavered: kill as many as possible, as

dramatically as imaginable.

In a perfect world, Eric would extinguish the species. Eric was a practical

kid, though. The planet was beyond him; even a block of Denver high-rises

was out of reach. But he could pull off a high school.


A high school was pragmatic, but the choice was not arbitrary. If jocks had

been his target, he would not just have hit the gym. He could have killed the

few thousand packing the bleachers at a Columbine football game. If he'd

been after the social elites, he could have taken out prom just three days

before. Eric attacked the symbol of his oppression: the robot factory and the

hub of adolescent existence.

For Eric, Columbine was a performance. Homicidal art. He actually

referred to his audience in his journal: "the majority of the audience wont

even understand my motives," he complained. He scripted Columbine as

made-for-TV murder, and his chief concern was that we would be too

stupid to see the point. Fear was Eric's ultimate weapon. He wanted to

maximize the terror. He didn't want kids to fear isolated events like a

sporting event or a dance; he wanted them to fear their daily lives. It

worked. Parents across the country were afraid to send their kids to school.

Eric didn't have the political agenda of a terrorist, but he had adopted

terrorist tactics. Sociology professor Mark Juergensmeyer identified the

central characteristic of terrorism as "performance violence." Terrorists

design events "to be spectacular in their viciousness and awesome in their

destructive power. Such instances of exaggerated violence are constructed

events: they are mind-numbing, mesmerizing theater."

The audience--for Timothy McVeigh, Eric Harris, or the Palestine

Liberation Organization--was always miles away, watching on TV.

Terrorists rarely settle for just shooting; that limits the damage to

individuals. They prefer to blow up things--buildings, usually, and the smart

ones choose carefully.

"During that brief dramatic moment when a terrorist act levels a building

or damages some entity that a society regards as central to its existence, the

perpetrators of the act assert that they--and not the secular government--

have ultimate control over that entity and its centrality," Juergensmeyer

wrote. He pointed out that during the same day as the first attack on the

World Trade Center, in 1993, a deadlier attack was leveled against a coffee

shop in Cairo. The attacks were presumably coordinated by the same group.

The body count was worse in Egypt, yet the explosion was barely reported

outside that country. "A coffeehouse is not the World Trade Center," he


Most terrorists target symbols of the system they abhor--generally, iconic

government buildings. Eric followed the same logic. He understood that the

cornerstone of his plan was the explosives. When all his bombs fizzled,

everything about his attack was misread. He didn't just fail to top Timothy

McVeigh's record--he wasn't even recognized for trying. He was never

categorized with his peer group. We lumped him in with the pathetic loners

who shot people.


Eric miscalculated again. It was about drinking this time. He and Dylan

talked a friend's mom into buying lots of liquor. She took requests. Eric

ordered tequila and Baileys Irish Cream. Dylan asked for vodka, of course.

There was also beer, whiskey, schnapps, and Scotch. The group had a little

boozefest that weekend. Eric made off with the leftovers and stashed them

in the spare-tire compartment of his car. He was pretty proud of himself. He

had all the booze he needed for a long time. He bought himself a flask and

loaded it up with smooth, potent Scotch. Eric didn't actually like alcohol,

but he loved the idea. He took only three sips in the month he owned the

flask, but he could sip Scotch whenever he wanted--how cool was that? He

got a little cocky and bragged to a friend. The jerk ratted him out to Eric's


There was one hell of a fight at the Harris house that night. Wayne was

livid. When are you going to get on track? What are you going to do with

your life?

Eric spun a fresh batch of lies. He had been keeping up his grades just to

maintain his cover story, setting the stage for a fresh round of bullshit. Man,

he was good that night. He even quoted lines out of his favorite movies and

delivered them like he was totally in the moment. "I should have won a

freaking Oscar," he wrote in his journal.

Despite the fighting, Eric convinced his Diversion officer that everything

was great with his parents. Kriegshauser noted the happy home life in his

notes for every session from that period. Eric had an instinct for when the

truth would placate an adult, how much to reveal, and to whom. When he

attended anger management class for Diversion, he wrote the required

response paper, dutifully sucking up about how helpful it was. In person, he

sensed Bob Kriegshauser would respond to a different tack. Eric admitted

that the class was a waste of time. Bob was proud of him for coming clean.

In his session notes, he praised Eric's honesty.

Dr. Fuselier found Eric's paper interesting for another reason. Eric really

had learned something from the session. He'd listed the four stages of anger

and several triggers: quick breathing, tunnel vision, tightened muscles, and

clenched teeth. The triggers served as warning signs or symptoms of anger,

Eric wrote. Just the kind of information he could use. Eric was a prodigy at

masking his true emotions and simulating the desired effect, but prodigy

was a long way from pro. Clarifying tiny giveaways where an expert might

see through his act--that kind of data was invaluable. Eric described himself

as a sponge, and mimicry of agreeable behavior was his number one skill.


Eric's grades were up, and his teachers were happy. He would end the fall

semester with glowing comments on his report card about a positive attitude

and cooperation. Dylan was still tanking. On November 3, he brought

Kriegshauser another progress report. Calculus was no better, and now he

had a D in gym, too. It was just tardiness, he explained.

You will get there on time, meaning not one minute late, Kriegshauser

demanded. That better be a passing grade by next session.

By their next session, the grade had dropped to an F. Kriegshauser

confronted Dylan on the situation, and Dylan tried to weasel out. There was

a pattern, Kriegshauser said. Dylan wasn't even trying. The comments from

his calculus teacher showed a bad attitude. He wasn't making use of his

class time effectively. What was going on there? Dylan said he'd been

reading a book in class. Kriegshauser was incredulous. Dylan wasn't much

of a smooth talker. Listen to yourself, Kriegshauser told him. Think about

what you're saying. You are minimizing everything. You're full of excuses.

You sound like you think you're the victim.

Kriegshauser said there would be consequences if Dylan's efforts didn't

change. That could include termination. Termination would translate to

multiple felony convictions. Dylan could find himself in prison.


Eric manufactured three more pipe bombs: the Charlie batch. Then he

halted production until December. What he needed was guns. And that was

becoming a problem.

Eric had been looking into the Brady Bill. Congress had passed the law

restricting the purchase of most popular semiautomatic machine guns in

1993. A federal system of instant background checks would soon go into

effect. Eric was going to have a hard time getting around that.

"Fuck you Brady!" Eric wrote in his journal. All he wanted was a couple

of guns--"and thanks to your fucking bill I will probably not get any!" He

wanted them only for personal protection, he joked: "Its not like I'm some

psycho who would go on a shooting spree. fuckers."

Eric frequently made his research do double duty for both schoolwork

and his master plan. He wrote up a short research assignment on the Brady

Bill that week. It was a good idea in theory, he said, aside from the

loopholes. The biggest problem was that checks applied only to licensed

dealers, not private dealers. So two-thirds of the licensed dealers had just

gone private. "The FBI just shot themselves in the foot," he concluded.

Eric was rational about his firepower. "As of this date I have enough

explosives to kill about 100 people," he wrote. With axes, bayonets, and

assorted blades, he could maybe take out ten more. That was as far as handto-hand combat would get him. A hundred and ten people. "that just isn't


"Guns!" the entry concluded. "I need guns! Give me some fucking


45. Aftershocks

Milestones were hard. First day of school, first snowfall, first Christmas,

first anything. All the ugly memories, all the feelings of helplessness

swelled back to the surface.

The six-month anniversary was unnerving. Surveillance video of the

killers roaming the cafeteria had just been leaked to CBS. The network led

its national news broadcast with the first of footage inside the building

during the attack. Eric and Dylan strolled around brandishing their

weapons. They picked up abandoned cups from the tables and casually

enjoyed a few sips. They shot at the big bombs, and terrified kids scurried


"It's one thing to hear or read about it, and another thing to see it," Sean

Graves's mother said. She cried while she watched. She made herself sit

through it--she needed to know. She was coming to terms with inevitability.

"I wish it wasn't out," she said. "But I knew that it was going to come out. It

was just a matter of time."

Her son took a pass. Sean did his homework in the other room.

Sean was semiparalyzed--one of the critically injured kids. Everyone was

watching their progress. Anne Marie Hochhalter was struggling. She went

to school for physics class, and a tutor taught her the rest at home. Her

family had just moved into a new house, outfitted by volunteers to

accommodate her wheelchair. Anne Marie was fighting her way toward

walking again. A few days before the six-month anniversary, she finally

moved her legs--one at a time, three to four inches high. It was "a

tremendous, tremendous achievement," her dad, Ted, said. But the pain was

still excruciating.

The six-month anniversary jitters made it harder. Rumors were rampant:

Eric and Dylan couldn't have done it alone. The TCM is still active--they

could strike again at any moment.

October 20, the six-month mark, seemed like the perfect moment. On

October 18, a fresh rumor surfaced: a friend of Eric and Dylan's who had

worked on their school videos told someone he was going to "finish the


The next day, police raided his house, searched the premises, and arrested

him. His parents cooperated. He was charged with a felony and held on a

$500,000 bond. He was put on suicide watch. He was seventeen.

The kid made a brief appearance in juvenile court on Wednesday, in leg

shackles and a green prison uniform. He faced Magistrate John DeVita, the

same man who'd sentenced Eric and Dylan a year and a half earlier.

Because the suspect was a minor, his name was withheld and the record

sealed. But DeVita confirmed the police had found an incriminating journal.

"That was the basis for the allegation," he said. A diagram of the school was

also recovered, but no signs of activity to carry anything out. In the twelvepage diary, the boy lamented his failure to help Eric and Dylan with their

troubles. He contemplated suicide. He wrote about it. He talked about it

when they came to arrest him.

That same day, the six-month anniversary, 450 kids called in sick. Why

set foot in that deadly school? More drifted out all day. By the closing bell,

half the student body was gone. Three of the critically injured kids, Richard

Castaldo, Anne Marie Hochhalter, and Patrick Ireland, stuck it out. Sean

Graves stayed home and baked chocolate chip cookies with friends. "I

didn't want to risk it," he said.

Thursday, 14 percent were still out. The normal absentee rate was 5


The tension subsided. On Friday, attendance was back near normal. Anne

Marie Hochhalter and her dad went to Leawood Elementary that morning to

thank fund-raisers and accept donations raised on her behalf. Around ten A.M.,

Anne Marie's mother walked into an Alpha Pawn Shop south of Denver.

She asked to see a handgun. The clerk offered several options; she looked at

them through the glass case. She settled on a .38-caliber revolver. That one.

While he got started on the background check, she turned her back to the

counter and loaded. She had brought the ammo with her. First she fired at

the wall. The second shot entered through her right temple.

Paramedics rushed Carla June to Swedish Medical Center, the same

hospital that had treated Anne Marie. Carla June died a few minutes later. A

counselor who had worked with the family came by the house to notify the

family. Anne Marie answered the door, and the counselor asked to talk to

Ted. "I started to breathe really fast," Anne Marie said later. "I just had an

ominous feeling."

"I hate to be the bearer of bad news," the counselor said. "Carla's dead."

Ted Hochhalter crumpled.

"No!" Anne Marie said. "No! No! No!" Her dad pulled up and hugged

her. It took him a few minutes to compose himself, and the counselor

explained how it had happened.

"We just broke down again," Anne Marie said. "The look on my dad's

face will be etched in my memory forever. It was just a look of sorrow and



Columbine's mental health hotline was flooded with calls on Saturday.

Several distraught messages were cued up on the machine when counselors

arrived. They added an extra weekend shift. "It's been a hard week," a

Jeffco official said. "They're sad and depressed and they want to talk."

Parents had watched their kids sputtering on the brink for months.

Especially this month. Other parents had no idea what their kids were

thinking. Were they getting that desperate, too? Would Carla's choice seem

like a way out? Some kids fought the same thoughts about their parents.

"I just can't take it," Steve Cohn told the Associated Press. "I can't

believe someone killed themselves over those idiots."

Steve's boy Aaron had made it out of the library unscathed physically, but

the stress was wrenching the family apart. "I drive by the school and I'm

looking behind every tree," Steve said. "I feel like a cop. I want to prevent it

before it happens again."

Steve and his son had both gone to counseling, but that was useless while

Aaron was shut down. "Until he opens up, there's nothing we can do," his

dad said.

Connie Michalik was especially rattled. She'd spent months beside Carla

at Swedish Medical Center, watching their children recover. Connie was

Richard Castaldo's mom. Neither child was expected to walk again. "This

just destroyed her," Connie said. "You'd look in her eyes and see she was

lost. It didn't seem like she was there anymore. She was sweet and loving

and kind, but it was too much for her."

Connie had felt herself waver, too. "When it first happened, [Carla] was

just like any other parent," she said. "We were all depressed and devastated.

There was a time where I thought I had nothing to live for. She was no

different from us."

Connie worked past it; Carla could not. "We kind of saw her slipping,"

Connie said. "I saw her slide downhill." But Connie never foresaw that deep

a plunge. She assumed Carla would pull out of it, especially when Anne

Marie moved her legs.

What most people in the community did not know was that Carla was at

the end of a long struggle with mental illness.

The Hochhalter family wanted the public to understand that. After her

death, they released a statement saying she had been battling clinical

depression for three years. She had been suicidal in the past. She had been

on medication. A month earlier, Ted had called the authorities at three A.M. to

report her missing. She walked into a local emergency room the next day,

seeking treatment for depression. She was hospitalized for a month. Eight

days before her suicide, she was transferred to an outpatient program.

The family later revealed that Carla had been diagnosed as bipolar.

Columbine aggravated Carla's depression horribly. She may or may not

have gone over the edge without it, but the Columbine tragedy was not the

underlying cause.


The school suspended the boy who'd made the anniversary threat, pending

expulsion. That made eight expulsion proceedings in Jeffco since April, for

a variety of gun threats and bomb scares. Everything was zero tolerance

now. No one was taking chances.

The boy spent seven weeks in jail, through Thanksgiving. It was during

this period that the community learned of his plan. He'd intended to fill his

car with gasoline canisters and plow into the school as a suicide bomber. In

December, he pleaded down to two minor charges and was sentenced to a

one-year juvenile Diversion program, just as Eric and Dylan had been.

Other charges were dropped, including theft. He had stolen a hundred

dollars from the video store he worked at, to run away to Texas. He had

begun seeing a psychiatrist and taking medication. The sentence required

both to continue. "This is a troubled young man, and he will be getting the

help he needs," the prosecutor said.


The half-year anniversary also brought a deadline. Colorado law requires

that anyone who wants to sue a government agency for negligence must file

an intent notice within 180 days. Twenty families filed. Notices came from

families of the dead, families of the injured, and the Klebolds.

Tom and Sue Klebold charged Stone's department with "reckless, willful

and wanton" misconduct for failing to alert them about its 1998

investigation into Eric's behavior, particularly his death threats. That

warning "would more likely than not have caused the Klebolds to become

aware of dangers of which they were not aware and demand that their son,

Dylan, be excluded from all contacts with Eric Harris," the filing read. The

failure "caused the Klebolds to be subject to substantial damage claims,

vilification, grief and loss of enjoyment of life." The notice said the family

expected to be sued by victims, and sought damages from Jeffco equal to

those eventual settlements.

The Klebolds had cause for concern. The two families still topped most

blame lists.

The filing took the community by surprise. No one had heard from the

Harrises or Klebolds in months.

The harshest rebuke came from Sheriff Stone. "I think it's outrageous,"

he said. "It's their parenting thing, not our fault for their kid doing this


He also lamented the tragedy degenerating to "an ugly stage."

Brian Rohrbough took the Klebolds' move in stride. It surprised him at

first, he said, but on reflection, "it seems reasonable." He directed his

outrage at Sheriff Stone's response. "We felt that it was really ugly April

20th," Brian said.


Wayne and Kathy finally agreed to meet with investigators without

immunity, October 25. It was a brief session led by Sheriff Stone. There is

no record of it being documented in a police report.


Only two people would be charged with a crime: Mark Manes, who'd sold

the TEC 9, and Phil Duran, who'd brokered the deal. Months earlier, Agent

Fuselier had predicted that the two would be savaged--with both legitimate

and displaced anger.

"Those two guys stepped in front of a freight train," he said.

He was right. Manes was up first. He copped to a plea agreement and

was sentenced on November 11. It was ugly. Nine families spoke at the

hearing. Every one of them demanded the maximum.

"I ask you clearly to make a statement," Tom Mauser, one of the

Thirteen, implored.

"If we had our way, the defendant would never be allowed on the streets

again," the Shoels family said.

The testimony lasted for two hours. Manes hung his head. Videos made

by two families hit especially hard. The court reporter passed boxes of

Kleenex around the gallery.

Manes's lawyer described a rough childhood: his client had gotten in

trouble, then mended his ways. Manes had gotten off drugs, gone to college,

and obtained a steady job in the computer field. "His character today is

exemplary," he said.

That infuriated the relatives. "Having that attorney talk about how

wonderful Mark Manes is, that was tough," Dave Sanders's daughter Coni

said. "He wasn't misunderstood. He was in the wrong."

Manes spoke last. He faced the judge and assured him that he'd had no

idea what Eric and Dylan were planning. "I was horrified," he said. "I told

my parents I never want to see a gun for the rest of my life. There is no way

I can adequately explain my sorrow to the families. It is something I will

regret for the rest of my life."

Manes was eligible for eighteen years in prison, but his plea agreement

knocked that down to a maximum of nine. Judge Henry Nieto said he had

no choice. "The conduct of this defendant was the first step in what became

an earthquake. All of us have a moral duty when we see the potential for

harm to intervene." Nine years. But he would assign them concurrently, so

Manes would serve only six--with parole, maybe as little as three. Nieto

warned the families not to expect comfort from the sentence.

Manes looked calm, but he took it hard. His lawyer put his hand on

Manes's neck and whispered that he loved him. Manes was led away in

handcuffs. The families applauded.

Manes's lawyer described his client as a scapegoat. "There's no one else

to be angry at," he told NBC. "These people have all this understandable

anger. It has to go somewhere."


Christian martyr Cassie Bernall offered hope. In September, Misty went on

a national book tour. She Said Yes leapt onto the New York Times best seller

list in its first week. The Rocky Mountain News editors had a dilemma.

They knew Cassie had never said yes. They had expected to shatter the

myth by now, but they were still waiting for the sheriff's report. They had to

cover the book's release. The editors decided to run two pieces on

publication day, affirming Cassie's myth.

A few weeks later, another publication broke the news. The Rocky

followed up with Emily Wyant's testimony. With the story out, Emily

agreed to allow her name to be used. The Bernalls' publisher lashed out at

Emily. The news made front pages as far away as London. Brad and Misty

were caught by surprise. They felt humiliated and betrayed--by Emily, by

the cops, and by the secular press.

The evidence against martyrdom was overwhelming, but Cassie's youth

pastor saw stronger forces at play. "You will never change the story of

Cassie," Reverend Dave McPherson said. "The church is going to stick to

the martyr story. You can say it didn't happen that way, but the church won't

accept it."

He didn't mean just his church. He meant the vast Evangelical

community worldwide. And to a large extent, he was right. Book sales

continued briskly. A vast array of Web sites sprang up to defend the story.

Others just repeated it, without even mentioning that it had been debunked.


Jeffco also faced a series of embarrassing leaks. Investigators had let the

video get loose to CBS and had revealed the truth about Cassie Bernall;

lead investigator Kate Battan had broken her silence and spoken to one

reporter; and the first passages from Eric's journal had slipped out. And yet

the department maintained its official silence. It delayed the report again.

The victims' families were furious. The sheriff's department's credibility

plummeted. Its officers had done a thorough job of detective work on the

case, but the public had no way to see that. Jeffco expressed shock and

bewilderment at the leaks; officials offered flimsy excuses and assurances.

A spokesman insisted that only two copies of Eric's journal existed, when in

fact it had been run through photocopiers repeatedly, and no one had a clue

how many copies were floating around.

Then the undersheriff let a Time reporter watch the Basement Tapes. He

had assured the families repeatedly they would be the first to see the videos.

The magazine ran an expose cover story shortly before Christmas. Stone

and Undersheriff John Dunaway posed in their dress blues with white

gloves, armed with the killers' semiautomatics.

Many families were aghast. Several called for Stone to resign. Charges of

cowardice against the SWAT teams resurfaced. Prominent law enforcement

officials joined the chorus. Stone insisted that his department would be

exonerated by the final report--which was delayed again.


Turbulence was expected that fall. Everyone knew they would face

anniversaries and hearings. No one foresaw the string of aftershocks. The

school was sued over a craft project gone awry--the Rohrboughs charged

infringement of their religious expression. Brian Rohrbough repeated the

crosses incident at a memorial garden created at Cassie's church: his group

picketed Sunday services and then chopped down two of the fifteen trees in

front of the horrified youth group that had planted them. They inadvertently

chose the tree symbolizing Cassie.

Bomb threats were a regular occurrence, but one gained traction in the

wake of the Time story. The school was shut down until after Christmas.

Finals were canceled. Legal battles over the Basement Tapes began.

"When will it end?" a local pastor asked. "Why us? What is happening in

our community?"

The new year began, and it got worse. A young boy was found dead in a

Dumpster a few blocks from Columbine High. On Valentine's Day, two

students were shot dead in a Subway shop two blocks from the school. The

star of the basketball team committed suicide.

"Two weeks ago they found the kid in the Dumpster," a friend of the

Subway victims told reporters. "Now--I kind of want to move. This is worse

than Columbine." Students had grudgingly come to adopt their school's

name as the title of a tragedy.

Some events were unrelated to the massacre or even the school. But

much of the community had lost the ability to distinguish. Perspective was

impossible. A fight with your girlfriend, a car crash, a drought... it was all

"Columbine." It was a curse. Kids were calling it the Columbine Curse.

Appointments at the mental health facility set up for Columbine

survivors rose sharply through the fall. "Many come in after they've tried

everything they know how to do," a psychologist on the team said.

Utilization peaked about nine months after the tragedy and held steady until

a year and a half out. At any given time during that period, case managers

were following about fifteen kids on suicide watch. Gradually, each one

came down from the brink, but another took that kid's place. Substance

abuse spiked. The area experienced a marked increase in traffic accidents

and DUIs.

"By definition, PTSD is a triad of change for the worse, lasting at least a

month, occurring anytime after a genuine trauma," wrote PTSD pioneer Dr.

Frank Ochberg. "The triad of disabling responses is: 1) recurring intrusive

recollections; 2) emotional numbing and a constriction of life activity; and

3) a physiological shift in the fear threshold, affecting sleep, concentration,

and sense of security."

Response to PTSD varies dramatically. Some people feel too much,

others too little. The over-feelers often suffer flashbacks. Nothing can drive

away the terror. They awake each morning knowing it may be April 20 all

over again. They can go hours, weeks, or months without an episode and

then a trigger--often a sight, sound, or smell--will take them right back. It's

not like a bad memory of the event; it feels like it is the event. Others

protect themselves by shutting down altogether. Pleasant feelings and joy

get eliminated with the bad. They often describe feeling numb.


It was a rough year. The football team offered a respite. Matthew Kechter

had been a sophomore when he was killed in the library. He had played JV

on the defensive line in the 1998 season and had hoped to make varsity this

fall. At his parents' request the team dedicated the season to Matt. Each

player wore Matt's number on his helmet and Matt's initials, MJK, on his

cap. They finished the season 12-1. They came from 17 behind in the fourth

quarter to win the first playoff game. The players wept on the field. They

chanted MJK! MJK!

They were heavy underdogs for the state championship. Denver

powerhouse Cherry Creek High had taken five of the last ten titles.

Columbine had made it to the big game only once: a loss two decades back.

Supporters flew in from around the world. Eight thousand people packed

the stadium. The media were everywhere. The New York Times covered the

game. The temperature dropped below freezing. Patrick Ireland sat in the

front row, trying to keep warm.

Cherry Creek went ahead early. Columbine tied it up at the half, and then

their defense came on strong. They allowed just two first downs in the

second half, and a third touchdown put it away. Columbine won 21-14.

Fans rushed the field. The familiar chant thundered through the stands. We

are... COL-um-BINE! We are... COL-um-BINE!

The school held a victory rally. A highlight reel of the game was

projected, ending with a picture of Matt. "This one's for you," it said. A

moment of silence was held for all thirteen.


Some kids seemed immune to the gloom. Others fought private battles on

completely different chronologies. Patrick Ireland made steady

improvements, kept his 4.0 average that fall, and made sure valedictorian

was still in sight. But a more significant problem loomed.

Patrick had had his life pretty well figured out junior year. Before he got

shot, he was going to be an architect. His grandfather had been a builder,

and Patrick had taken to drawing in his junior high drafting class. He lined

up that T-square against the drafting table and he could feel it. He liked the

precision. He enjoyed the artistry. At Columbine, he worked with

sophisticated computer-aided design software. While Eric and Dylan

finalized their plot, Patrick was deep into research on college programs and

had started investigating internships.

He was still going to be an architect. Patrick clung to the dream straight

through outpatient therapy. He took breaks for three out-of-state campus

visits, at schools with leading architecture programs. They all accepted him.

But they stressed how rigorous the work would be. Architecture programs

are known for their massive workloads: five years of relentless all-nighters.

All night was not an option for Patrick. He could cheat himself out of a

couple hours' sleep, but his brain would take years to recover. He would

slow his progress by taxing it too hard, and possibly even bring on seizures.

In March, he took a school trip to England. The jet lag was tough. Kathy

went with him, and Friday night she noticed his face went blank and his

eyeball fluttered for a few seconds. "Did you do that on purpose?" she


"Do what?"

Kathy believes it was a precursor to the event two days later. Patrick was

walking through London and collapsed in the middle of a street. He shook

violently, made it almost to the curb, and called out to a friend for help.

A London doctor prescribed antiseizure medication. The family

confirmed the treatment back home, and Patrick will be on it for life.

Architecture school wasn't going to work. John and Kathy understood

that from the start, but they waited for Patrick to accept the situation. He

opted for Colorado State, just over an hour away. He would try business

school for a year. CSU had an architecture program, too. If, a year later, he

felt he could handle it, he could transfer.

Despite the cloud over his future, Patrick regained his bearing through

the year. Socially, he was having the time of his life. Patrick had always

been a catch. He'd been bright, charming, handsome, and athletic. He had

been a little short on confidence, from time to time. Laura would have given

anything to go to the prom with Patrick. She might have become his

girlfriend if he had asked. The shotgun blasts had robbed him of some of his

best assets, but he was a star. He was the most celebrated figure to live

through the tragedy. And he had put up an incredible fight. Girls flirted


But Patrick wanted Laura. That first summer, he told her how much he

wanted her--how deeply and how long.

God, me too, she said.

What a relief. Finally, after all this time, it was out in the open.

Laura confessed everything: all those nights flirting on the phone, hinting

her heart out for him to ask. If only he had asked her to the prom.

OK, Patrick said: I like you, you like me, let's do something about it. Too

late. She was dating the prom dude.

That didn't seem like an obstacle. Do you want to be with me? Yes. Then

break up with him. She said she would do it.

He gave her time. He asked again. When are you going to do it? She said

it would be soon. But nothing happened.

Girls were fighting for the chance to date him, so he got tired of waiting

and asked one out. Then he asked another one. And another--this was fun!

Things grew strained with Laura. They never went out. They began

avoiding each other. It was fourth grade all over again.

46. Guns

Eric named his shotgun Arlene. He acquired her on November 22, 1998,

and declared it an important date in the history of Reb. "we.......have........

GUNS!" he wrote. "We fucking got em you sons of bitches! HA!!"

Eric and Dylan had driven into Denver for the Tanner Gun Show the day

before. They'd found some sweet-ass weapons. A 9mm carbine rifle and a

pair of 12-gauge shotguns: one double-barreled and one pump-action

single. They'd tried to buy them, and that was a great big no go. Eric's

charm was not getting them over this hurdle. No ID, no guns. They drove

back to the suburbs.

Eric would be eighteen shortly before their attack date in April. They

could have just waited, but Eric wanted real firepower to keep the plan on

track. There was one more day in the gun show. Who did they know who

was eighteen? Plenty of people. Who would do it for them, who could they

trust? Robyn! Sweet little church girl Robyn. She was nuts about Dylan; she

would do anything for him. Wouldn't she?

The following day, it was done.

In his journal, Eric labeled this "the point of no return." Then he waxed

nostalgic about his dad. He'd had a lot of fun at the gun show, he wrote: "I

would have loved it if you were there, dad. we would have done some

major bonding. would have been great. Oh wait. But, alas, I fucked up and

told [my friend] about the flask." That had been the end of good relations

with Wayne for a while. Now his parents were on his ass more than ever

about his future. What do you want to do with your life? That was easy.

NBK. "THIS is what I am motivated for," he wrote. "THIS is my goal.

THIS 'is what I want to do with my life.'"


Eric and Dylan sawed the barrels off their new shotguns--cut them way

below the legal limit. The first week in December, they took the rifle out

and fired it. A bullet erupted in the chamber, and the butt slammed into

Eric's bony shoulder. Wow! That thing packed a lot of power. This wasn't a

pipe bomb in his hands. This could kill somebody.


Psychopaths generally turn to murder only when their callousness combines

with a powerful sadistic streak. Psychologist Theodore Millon identified ten

basic subtypes of the psychopath. Only two are characterized by brutality or

murder: the malevolent psychopath and the tyrannical. In these rare

subtypes, the psychopath is driven less by a greed for material gain than by

desire for his own aggrandizement and the brutal punishment of inferiors.

Eric fit both categories. His sadistic streak permeated the journal, but a

late autumn entry suggests the life Eric might have led had Columbine not

ended it. He described tricking girls to come to his room, raping them, and

then proceeding to the real fun.

"I want to tear a throat out with my own teeth like a pop can," he wrote.

"I want to grab some weak little freshman and just tear them apart like a

fucking wolf. strangle them, squish their head, rip off their jaw, break their

arms in half, show them who is god."


Eric had not given up on the twenty-three-year-old. For months, he kept

calling Brenda. She told him she had a new boyfriend, but he persisted.

Late in the year, she met him at a Macaroni Grill. "He was really bummed

out," she said. She thought he was bummed because she'd dumped him. He

denied it, but offered no explanation. She never saw him again.


Just before Christmas, Eric celebrated his last final, ever. He laughed at his

classmates, who assumed they had another batch ahead.

The next day, Eric ordered several ten-round magazines for his carbine

rifle. Those would do some damage. He could peel off 130 rounds in rapid


There was a problem. Eric gave Green Mountain Guns his home number.

They called just before New Year's, and his dad answered.

"Your clips are in," the clerk told him.

Clips? He didn't order any gun clips.

Eric overheard the conversation. Oh God. He described the incident in

his journal: "jesus Christ that was fucking close. fucking shitheads at the

gunshop almost dropped the whole project." Luckily, Wayne never stopped

to ask the guy if he had the right number. And the guy never asked any

questions either. That could have been the end of it right there. If either one

of them had handled that phone call a little differently, the entire plan might

have come crashing down, Eric said. But they didn't.

But Wayne was suspicious.

"thank god I can BS so fucking well," Eric wrote.


Once they got the guns, Eric lost interest in "The Book of God." It was on

to implementation. After New Year's, he would leave just one final

installment, a few weeks before they did the deed.

Eric was raring to go; Dylan continued to waver. "Existences" had been

silent for five months, since he said good-bye. But on January 20, Bob

Kriegshauser called Dylan in for an important meeting. Dylan resumed his

journal the same day.

"This shit again," he began. He didn't want to be writing this again, he

wanted to be "free," meaning dead. "I thought it would have been time by

now," he wrote. "The pain multiplies infinitely. never stops." Eric's plan

offered the solace of suicide: "maybe Going 'NBK' (gawd) w. eric is the

best way to be free. i hate this." Then more hearts and love. He hardly

seemed committed to the plan. But he appeared to be putting up a good

front to Eric. Neither boy ever recorded a suggestion of Dylan's resistance,

but Eric seemed to be doing most of the work.

Eric was also working hard to get laid. He made a final stab with Brenda,

leaving a string of messages on her answering machine. "I'm sorry I lied to

you," he said. "There's something we need to talk about. I'm seventeen." He

was through lying, he said--he wanted to take their relationship to the next

level. And she could keep the Rammstein CDs he'd left at her house. He

wouldn't be needing them anymore.

The last part made her nervous. She called back to make sure he was all

right. And she reiterated one more time that they were just friends.

Eric wasn't bothered. He was working another chick. Kristi was the girl

he had passed notes with in German class. Lately she seemed interested in

more. So they tried a sort of informal group date to Rock'n' Bowl night at

Belleview Lanes.

Kristi liked him, but she was conflicted. There was this other guy, a

friend of Eric's, Nate Dykeman. Bastard!

Eric turned on the charm, and Kristi went for it--just not enough. It was

sex he really wanted; he had no interest in a real relationship, and maybe

Kristi picked up on that.

Nate moved in on Kristi fast. They started dating, got serious, and Eric

turned on Nate.


As Eric wrapped up plans for April 20, Dylan was laying into his journal in

a frenzy. They were short entries and erratic, tossing aside all his

conventions. Several ran half a page or less. He was expressing himself

more and more in pictures, all his old icons returning, linked together in

wild, feverish strokes. Fluttering hearts were everywhere, filling up entire

pages, blasting out the road to happiness, bursting with stars and powered

by an engine shaped like the symbol for infinity. Dylan was focused on one

topic now: love. Up until his final week, Dylan wrote privately of almost

nothing else.

47. Lawsuits

Ten days before the first anniversary, Brian Rohrbough threw a Hail Mary.

The cops had been stonewalling, and litigation looked like the only answer.

Families could sue for negligence or wrongful death, and use the process to

force out information. The verdict would be less important than discovery.

Should they sue? How could they know? It all rested on Jeffco's final

report. If Jeffco released all the evidence, most families would be satisfied.

If Jeffco held back, they were going to court. No one had anticipated that

the report would take this long. Way back in the summer of 1999, Jeffco

had said its report was six to eight weeks away. It was April now, and

officials were still saying they had six to eight weeks to go.

The investigators had wrapped up most of their work in the first four

months, but Jeffco was skittish about presenting the information. Yet the

longer they waited, the more leaks they risked, the more rebukes, and the

higher the stakes to get every sentence right.

Even the school administration was frustrated. "We keep getting ready,"

Mr. D told a magazine in April. "I keep telling the community, 'OK, we're

about two weeks away, we're two weeks away.' There's only so many times

you can get so wound up saying, 'Oh, I'm ready now, I'm ready,' and then all

of a sudden, 'No!' There's a level of frustration."

The delays were maddening, but a practical problem was also arising.

The first anniversary coincided with the statute of limitations. By delaying

the report past April 20, 2000, Jeffco forced the families to trust them or

sue. That was an easy choice. On April 10, the Rohrboughs and the

Flemings filed an open records request demanding to see the report

immediately--one last option to avoid a lawsuit. Since they were filing, they

asked for everything, including the Basement Tapes, the killers' journals,

the 911 calls, and surveillance videos. Rohrbough wanted to compare the

raw data to the narrative under construction by Jeffco. He predicted a


"They lie as a practice," he said.

District Judge R. Brooke Jackson read the request. He said yes. Over

furious objections from Jeffco, three days before the anniversary, he

allowed the plaintiffs to read the draft report. He also granted them access

to hundreds of hours of 911 tapes and some video footage. He agreed to

begin reading the two hundred binders of evidence himself, but noted that

would take months.

The ruling stunned everyone. But it was too little, too late. Fifteen

families filed suits against the sheriff's department that week. They would

add additional defendants later.

The Klebolds chose not to sue. Instead they issued another apology letter.

The Harrises did the same.

The lawsuits were expected to fail. The legal thresholds were too high. In

federal court, negligence was insufficient; families needed to prove officers

had actually made the students worse off. And that was only the first hurdle.

But the main strategy was to flush out information.

The one suit with a plausible chance came from Dave Sanders's daughter

Angela. She was represented by Peter Grenier, a powerhouse Washington,

D.C., lawyer. They charged that Jeffco officials went beyond neglecting

Dave Sanders for three hours: they impeded his movement and prohibited

others from getting him out of there. They deceived volunteer rescuers with

false claims about an imminent arrival, to discourage them from busting out

a window or taking him down the stairs. By doing so, the suit argued, Jeffco

accepted responsibility for Dave and then let him die. In legal terms, they'd

denied his civil rights by cutting off all opportunities to save him when they

were not prepared to do it themselves.

The Rohrboughs and others followed similar logic. The library kids could

have escaped easily, they said, unencumbered by police "help." It looked

ugly. But legal analysts were skeptical about any case holding up. "It's

going to be tough to ask a jury to say we know better than a SWAT team

how to handle this situation," said Sam Kamin, law professor at the

University of Denver.

In legal circles, the lawsuits had been expected, but their ferocity shook

the community. The anniversary was overwhelmed by animosity again, and

media were everywhere. Many of the Thirteen left town. The school closed

for the day and conducted a private memorial. A public service was held in

Clement Park.


A few days after the anniversary, Judge Jackson ordered the sheriff's

department to release its report to the public by May 15. He also released

more evidence, including a video that drew a lot of heat. For months, Jeffco

had referred to it as a "training video" created by the Littleton Fire

Department. It was based on footage shot in the library shortly after the

bodies were removed. It would be the families' first look at the gruesome

scene. It would be "difficult" to watch, Jackson's ruling stated, but that was

no reason to suppress it.

"There is no compelling public interest consideration that requires that

the video or any part of it not be disclosed under the Open Records Act,"

Jackson wrote.

The next day, Jeffco began duplicating the tape and selling copies for

$25. Spokesmen said the fee was to defray copying costs. The families were

aghast. Then they saw the tape. There was no instruction, no narration, no

attempt at "training." It was someone's ghastly attempt at commemoration:

grisly crime scene footage set to pop music, Sarah McLachlan's "I Will

Remember You." McLachlan's record company threatened to sue for

copyright infringement. Jeffco removed the music. Sales remained strong.


Brian Rohrbough had broken through Jeffco's armor. Judge Jackson kept

ordering releases. In May, he unleashed all the 911 tapes and a ballistics

report. For a while, everything he read, he released. The killers' families

tried to stop him. On May 1, they filed a joint motion to keep materials

seized from their homes private. That would include the most vital

evidence: the journals and the Basement Tapes.

Jeffco released its report on May 15, as ordered. The focus of the

package was a minute-by minute timeline of April 20, 1999, in great detail.

It dramatically illustrated how fast everything happened: just seven and a

half minutes in the library, all the deaths and injuries in the first sixteen

minutes. How convenient, critics said. The cops' report was dedicated to

illustrating that the cops had never had a chance.

As expected, the report ducked the central question of why. Instead, it

provided about seven hundred pages of what,how, and when. The logistics

were useful, but they were hardly what people had been waiting for.

There were three paragraphs about advance warning by the Browns: one

paragraph summarizing and two defending. The department claimed it had

been unable to access Eric's Web site, despite the fact that officials had

printed the pages, filed them, and retrieved them within minutes of the

attack on April 20, and had cited them at length in the search warrants

issued before the bodies were found. But a year after the murders, Jeffco

was still suppressing the file and the search warrants. So the families

suspected a lie, but they couldn't prove it.

Jeffco was ridiculed for its report. Officials seemed truly bewildered by

the response. Privately, they insisted they were just acting the way they

always did: building a case internally, keeping their conclusions to

themselves. Communicating the results was the prosecutors' role. It wasn't

their job. They still couldn't grasp that this was not any normal case.


As the battles intensified, compassion fatigue set in. Hardly anyone said it

out loud.

Chuck Green, a Denver Post columnist and one of Denver's nastier

personalities, broke the ice. He stunned the families with a pair of columns,

charging them with "milking" the tragedy.

They had gotten millions, he wrote. "It has been an avalanche of anguish

never before witnessed, yet the Columbine victims still have their hands out

for more."

The Parents Group was caught unaware. They'd had no idea. They were

more stunned by the support for Green's ideas. "All of us are sick and tired

of the continued whining," a reader responded. Another said those

sentiments had been circulating for quite a while--"whispering in small

circles, amongst clouds of guilt."

It was out in the open now.


The anniversary also offered a window of political opportunity. Tom

Mauser had been energized at the NRA protest and devoted himself to the

cause. "I am not a natural leader, but speaking out helps me because it

carries on Daniel's life," he said. Tom took a one-year leave of absence to

serve as chief lobbyist for SAFE Colorado (Sane Alternatives to the

Firearms Epidemic). They supported several bills in the Colorado

legislature to limit access to guns for minors and criminals. Prospects

looked good, especially for the flagship proposal to close the gun-show

loophole. It was narrowly defeated in February. A similar measure bogged

down in Congress.

So a week before the anniversary, President Clinton returned to Denver

to encourage survivors and support SAFE's new strategy: to pass the same

measure in Colorado with a ballot initiative.

Colorado Republican leaders rebuked the president and refused to appear

with him. Republican Governor Bill Owens supported the ballot initiative

but refused to attend an MSNBC town hall meeting hosted by Tom Brokaw

until President Clinton left the stage, midway through the show.

The visit appeared to force a little movement in Washington. Just before

the meeting with Brokaw, House leaders announced a bipartisan

compromise on gun-show legislation. But it had been a year already, and

there was still a long way to go.

Tom Mauser kept fighting. At a rally the same week, SAFE spread 4,223

pairs of shoes across the state capitol steps--one for each minor killed by a

gun in 1997. Tom took the sneakers off his feet and held them up to the

crowd. They had been Daniel's. Tom took to wearing them to rallies. He

needed a tangible link to his son. And they helped the shy man connect

Daniel to his audience.

May 2, the governor and attorney general--the state's most prominent

Republican and Democrat--put the first two signatures on the petition for

the Colorado ballot initiative. It required 62,438 signatures. They gathered

nearly twice that many.

The measure would pass by a two-to-one margin. The gun show loophole

was closed in Colorado.

It was defeated in Congress. No significant national gun-control

legislation was enacted in response to Columbine.


The season ended well. On May 20, the second class of survivors

graduated. Nine of the injured crossed the stage, two in wheelchairs. Patrick

Ireland limped to the podium to give the valedictory address.

It had been a rough year, he said. "The shooting made the country aware

of the unexpected level of hate and rage that had been hidden in high

schools." But he was convinced the world was inherently good at heart. He

had spent the year thinking about what had gotten him across the library

floor. At first he assumed hope--not quite; it was trust. "When I fell out the

window, I knew somebody would catch me," he said. "That's what I need to

tell you: that I knew the loving world was there all the time."



48. An Emotion of God

Eric had work to do. Napalm was hard. It's an inherently unstable

substance. Eric found lots of recipes online, but they never seemed to

produce what the instructions predicted. The first batch was awful. He tried

again. Just as bad. He kept varying the ingredients and the heating process,

but it was one failure after another. Multiple batches were no easy feat,

either. Eric didn't specify how or when he conducted his experiments;

presumably he carried them out in the same place he did everything else:

his house, when his parents were out. Each batch was a chore, timeconsuming and risky. It involved mixing gasoline with other substances and

then heating it on the stove, trying to make it congeal into a slushy syrup

that would ignite with just a spark but burn continuously for some time

when shot with force through a projectile tube.

Eric had to construct the flamethrowers, too. He drew out detailed

sketches of his weaponry in the back of his journal notebook; some were

quite practical, others pure fantasy. Dylan seemed to be no help with any of

it. Each killer left hundreds of pages of writings and drawings and

schedules in their day planners, and Eric's are riddled with plans, logs, and

results of experiments; Dylan shows virtually no effort. Eric acquired the

guns, the ammo, and apparently the material for the bombs, and did the

planning and construction.

Figuring out how to sneak the huge bombs into the crowded cafeteria

was another big problem. Each contraption would bulge out of a three-foot

duffel bag and weigh about fifty pounds. They couldn't just trot them into

the middle of the lunchroom, plop them down in front of six hundred

people, and walk out without notice. Or could they? At some point, the

boys gave up scheming. They decided to just walk right in with the bombs.

It was a bold move, but textbook psychopath. Perpetrators of complex

attacks tend to focus on weak links and minimize risk. Psychopaths are

reckless. They have supreme confidence in their work. Eric planned

meticulously for a year, only to open with a blunder that neutralized 95

percent of the attack. He showed no hint that he had even considered the

gaping flaw.

Now he had to concentrate on getting Dylan a second gun. And Eric had

a whole lot of production work. If only he had a little more cash, he could

move the experiments along. Oh well. You could fund only so many bombs

at a pizza factory. And he needed his brakes checked, and he'd just had to

buy winter wiper blades, and he had a whole bunch of new CDs to pick up.


They also had Diversion to put behind them. Eric was a star in the program.

His sterling performance earned him a rare early release--something only 5

percent of kids achieve. Kriegshauser decided to let Dylan out with him,

despite Dylan's failure to raise his D in calculus. Kriegshauser advised

Dylan to be careful about his future choices. His exit report said Dylan

struggled with motivation in school, but the summary was all rosy:

"Prognosis: Good. Dylan is a bright young man who has a great deal of

potential. If he is able to tap his potential and become self-motivated he

should do well in life.... Recommendations: Successful Termination. Dylan

has earned the right for an early termination. He needs to strive to selfmotivate himself so he can remain on a positive path. He is intelligent

enough to make any dream a reality, but he needs to understand hard work

is part of it."

Dylan responded with a bleak "Existences" entry. This was the meeting

that drove him back to the journal. He wrote the same day, but failed to

mention the good news. He insisted life was getting worse. In one sense it

was. Release from Diversion was a painful sign. Dylan had not planned on

leaving the program alive.

Eric earned a glowing report, start to finish: "Prognosis: Good. Eric is a

very bright young man who is likely to succeed in life. He is intelligent

enough to achieve lofty goals as long as he stays on task and remains

motivated.... Recommendations: Successful Termination. Eric should seek

out more education at higher levels. He impressed me as being very

articulate and intelligent. These are skills that he should grow and use as

frequently as possible."


Both boys arrived at murder gradually, but one event pushed each of them

over the hump. Eric's occurred January 30, 1998, when Deputy Walsh

shackled his wrists. From that night on, the boy was set on murder. Dylan's

turn came a full year later and was more gradual, but the turning point

seems clear. It was February 1999. They had agreed on April a year in

advance, and it was almost here. Eric was serious. He was really going

through with it. Dylan was conflicted, as always, still leaning against,

heavily against. Dylan wanted to be a good boy. He had three choices: give

in, back out, or perform a hasty suicide.

Those three choices had been hanging there for a year or more. He could

not decide.

Then Dylan wrote a short story. It revolved around an angry man in black

methodically gunning down a dozen "preps." The man did it for vengeance

and amusement, and to demonstrate he could.

Dylan lifted most of the details right out of the NBK plan. He armed and

outfitted his killer the way they planned to dress themselves. The story

included a duffel bag, the diversion bombs, and reconnoitering the victims'

habits. The smallest details match. The killer is a blend. His height matches

Dylan's, but he behaves exactly like Eric: callous and methodical, viciously

angry yet detached.

It was easy to imagine how Eric would react to pulling the trigger on

April 20, but Dylan seemed baffled about his own response. He set Eric in

motion on paper, with himself as narrator to observe. How would murder


It felt wonderful. "If I could face an emotion of god, it would have

looked like the man," he wrote. "I not only saw in his face, but also felt

eminating from him power, complacence, closure, and godliness. The man

smiled, and in that instant, thru no endeavor of my own, I understood his


The story ended there: not with the murders but with the impact on the

man behind them.

Nobody observed Dylan typing the story, but he appears to have spilled it

all onto the screen in one great rush. He didn't stop to spell-check or fix

errors or hit Return. It's all run together in a single paragraph that would

have filled five pages in a normal font.

Dylan turned the story in as a creative writing assignment on February 7.

His instructor, Judy Kelly, read it and shuddered. It was an astounding piece

of writing for a seventeen-year-old, but she was deeply disturbed. Dylan

wasn't the first kid to write a violent story--Eric had been writing combat

scenes about heroic Marines all semester. Eric was obsessed with warfare;

he mimed machine-gun fire in class all the time. But war stories were

different; Dylan's protagonist was killing civilians, ruthlessly, and enjoying

it. Kelly wrote a note at the bottom instructing Dylan to come see her. She

wanted to talk to him before assigning a grade. "You are an excellent writer

and storyteller, but I have some problems with this one," she wrote.

Dylan came to see her. The story was grossly violent and offensive, she


Submitting the story was probably an intentional leak. Dylan chickened

out. "It's just a story," he said. This was creative writing class. He had been


Creative was fine, Kelly said, but where was all this cruelty coming

from? Just reading the thing was unnerving.

Dylan maintained it was just a story.

Kelly didn't buy it. She called Tom and Sue Klebold and discussed it with

them at length. They did not seem too worried, she told police later. They

made a comment about how understanding kids could be a real challenge.

Even after the murders, one of Dylan's classmates agreed. "It's a creativewriting class," she told the Rocky Mountain News. "You write about what

you want. Shakespeare wrote all about death." The girl was not a friend of

the killers'.

But Kelly knew she had picked up on something different. She had seen

boys captivated by violence. She had read innumerable accounts of murder.

She had never been confronted with a story this sadistic. It was not just a

question of the events in the story but the attitude of the author conveying

them. Dylan had a gift for bringing a scene to life: he conveyed action,

thought, and feeling. A creepy, merciless feeling. Kelly described the story

as "literary and ghastly--the most vicious story I ever read."

Kelly brought it to Dylan's school counselor, Brad Butts. He talked to

Dylan, who downplayed it again. Good enough.

Kelly had done the right thing: she'd contacted the three people most

likely to have other information about Dylan: his guidance counselor and

his parents. If the counselor or parents knew Dylan had been setting off pipe

bombs and showing them around at Blackjack Pizza, they could have

connected fantasy with reality and NBK might have come to an end. They

did not. Jeffco investigators had most of the pieces. Most of the adults close

to the killers were in the dark.


In his journal, Dylan returned to his love obsession. He wanted to get to

godliness, but he had been seeking for two horrible years now and none of

his dreams had come true. Eric offered hope. Eric offered the very feelings

Dylan was searching for. Eric offered reality, of all things.

Maybe seeking was a sham.

Dylan wasn't quite ready to embrace murder. He would fight it almost

until the end. But from here on, he was close.

He would take the short story with him on April 20. It was found in

Dylan's car, alongside the failed explosives, to be torn to bits in his final act.

The car was slated for destruction, so Dylan didn't bring the story for our

benefit. Perhaps he needed a little courage that day. Perhaps he wanted to

read it one last time.


It was time for target practice. They picked a beautiful spot. The place was

called Rampart Range: a winding network of unpaved roads through rugged

national forest in the Rockies, not too far from Dylan's house. For their first

extended gunplay, they picked an area set aside for dirt bikers and joyriding

on ATVs. An off-roading Web site urged readers to experience the vistas

slowly: "let your imagination run wild as the boulders take on everchanging faces."

Three friends went with them on March 6: Mark Manes and Phil Duran,

who had teamed up to get Dylan the TEC-9, and Mark's girlfriend, Jessica.

They brought the guns acquired for the attack, and their friends had a

couple more. They packed bowling pins stolen from Belleview Lanes to use

as targets. And they took a camcorder. It was important to document

historic events.

It was cold up there, still plenty of snow on the ground. They dressed

sensibly, in layers. Eric and Dylan started with their trench coats on, but

worked up a sweat and shed them. They had ear protection and eye gear.

Some of the time they wore it.

They shot a bowling pin full of lead, and then Eric had another idea. He

aimed his shotgun at an imposing pine five feet away. He missed. And it

hurt. The gun had a vicious recoil, which his arm had to absorb. Every inch

you cut a shotgun back magnifies the kick. Eric and Dylan had cut theirs

back ridiculously short, almost to the chamber, and now they were going to


He directed Dylan to follow. "Try to hit a tree," he said. "I want to see

what a slug does to the tree."

Dylan punched a two-inch wide hole in the trunk. They rushed forward to

inspect the damage. Eric dug his finger around and produced a pellet.

"That's a fucking slug!" Dylan squealed.

Eric's voice was subdued. "Imagine that in someone's fucking brain."

"It hurt my wrist, the son of a bitch!" Dylan said.

"I bet so."

Dylan was laughing now. "Look at that! I've got blood now!" He loved it.

Eric kept working the human metaphor. He picked up a bowling pin with

a small hole drilled through the front and a crater out the back. He showed

off each side to the camera: "Entry wound, exit wound." His buddy

laughed, but he didn't understand. He got the little joke, missed the big one.

The battle was already under way around him. Eric loved foreshadowing.

Everyone there was implicated. Only two could see.

Most of the time they worked methodically to improve their skills. One

kid would fire while another stood beside him, calling out results to make

real-time adjustments: "High to the right... low to the left... left again..."

Single-barrel shotguns require a reload every round, and that would

seriously impact the body count. Eric prepared by drilling himself in a rapid

shoot-and-load technique. Every shot was punishing. The blast would tear

the barrel out of his left hand and whip his gun arm back like a rubber band.

But he learned quickly. Soon he was riding out the recoil to catch the barrelstub as it swung around, snap it open, feed a shell, lock it down, squeeze a

round, and repeat the process in one fluid, continuous motion. He pounded

out four shots in five seconds. He was pleased.

It had all been theoretical up to that point: How much damage could they

really do with that gun? They had their answer now. Eric was a killing


Eric and Dylan approached the camera to show off their war wounds:

large patches of skin scraped off between thumb and forefinger, where they

needed to work on tightening their grip.

"When high school kids use guns," somebody said. Everybody laughed.

Manes tried Eric's gun, and winced at that handgrip. "You should round

that out," he advised.

"Yeah," Eric said. "I'm gonna work on that."

They fired more and showed the wounds again: bloodier, more severe.

"Guns are bad," Manes said. "When you saw them off and make them

illegal, bad things happen to you." That got lots more laughs. "Just say no to

sawed-off shotguns."

They were on a roll now. Eric grabbed hold of his gun barrel and mugged

for the camera. He spanked the firing assembly several times. "Bad!"

Dylan waved his index finger at it. "No! No! No!"

Dr. Fuselier watched the Rampart video a few days after the massacre. It

showed the final progression from fantasy to fact. It had been a two-year

evolution from frivolous prankster missions to a series of esclating thefts.

Eric was turning into a professional criminal. He had crossed the mental

hurdle from imagining crimes to committing them. This was how it would



The boys continued training. They made three target-practice trips with


Dylan leaked again. He had been excited about his weapons, and

sometime in February, he told Zack he had gotten something "really cool."

Like what?

Something in Desperado, Dylan said--a violent film they thought

Quentin Tarantino directed.

Zack confronted him: It was a gun, wasn't it?

Yeah, a double-barreled shotgun, Dylan said, just like the piece in

Desperado. Eric had gotten one, too. And they had fired them. Freaking


They never spoke about it again, Zack told the FBI later.

49. Ready to Be Done

Mr. D knew the date his mission would wrap: May 18, 2002. He had one

objective after the massacre: to shepherd nearly two thousand kids to

emotional high ground. The last class of freshmen would graduate that May.

Frank had no idea what he might do afterward. He could not plan yet--his

hands were full. He had three school years to get through. He had seriously

underestimated the turmoil of the first. Nobody had foreseen that torrent of

aftershocks. He would not make that mistake again. The second summer

offered a respite, just like the first, but when the doors reopened in August

2000, the faculty braced for the next onslaught. It never came. There was

never a year like that first one--never anything close.

The second school year got off on a high note. An addition had been

constructed over the summer, with a new library. The old one was

demolished, converting the commons into a two-story atrium. Most of the

Parents Group attended the opening. Sue Petrone glowed. For the past

sixteen months, she had felt physically weak every time she'd stepped

inside the school. "Like you're underwater and can't breathe," she'd said. All

that was lifted away. She had been fighting for more than a year, and she

was done. Nearly all the parents were.

Sue's ex-husband was the exception. Brian Rohrbough and Frank

DeAngelis dominated the ceremony, standing thirty feet apart in the

cafeteria with a cluster of reporters around each, talking about each other.

Mr. D was diplomatic and tried to avoid the feud altogether. But reporters

kept shuttling over from Rohrbough, with fresh accusations for Mr. D to

respond to. Brian was brutal and direct. The school caused these murders,

he said. The administration must pay.


Mr. D developed a heart condition. It appeared the first autumn after the

shootings. Stress, the doctors said. No kidding.

Frank was riddled with symptoms of PTSD: numbness, anxiety attacks,

inability to concentrate, and reclusiveness. Therapy helped him sort them

out. Immediately after the murders, he had trouble making eye contact. It

got worse. What was that about? "Guilt," he discovered. "I had never heard

of survivor guilt. I felt guilty that Dave and the kids died and I lived."

His wife wanted to help. It was eating him up, but he couldn't express it

to her. He was just like his students. "Don't shut your parents out," he

begged them. He could cry in front of them. But his wife... she didn't

understand. And he didn't particularly want her to. He just wanted solace at


The years after the tragedy were tumultuous. He got to Columbine at 6

A.M., left at 8 or 9 in the evening. Weekends he came in for shorter stints--

quiet time to catch up. At any given time he had a dozen kids on suicide

watch. Breakdowns were a daily occurrence among the students and the

staff. He got tremendous satisfaction out of helping the kids, but it was a

terrible drain. He had a couple of hours every night to forget it all. "I needed

that time to regenerate," he said. "The last thing I wanted to do when I got

home was talk about it."

His wife implored him to open up. His son and daughter were concerned.

His parents and siblings seemed to call constantly. Are you eating? Should

you be driving? "I think I know when to eat," he would say. Everyone had

to know how he was feeling. How are you doing? How are you doing?

"Enough!" he would say. "Please stop!"

Mr. D struggled with some of the staff, too. A therapist complained that

she spent years in his school after the tragedy and he never learned her

name. He could name all two thousand students. He had a strong team of

administrators who were great at heading off problems, but some of them

needed support themselves. One was brilliant but chatty--she had to talk out

all her pain. Frank wouldn't do it. He confessed to his staff that he knew he

wasn't there for them. He just didn't have the juice. He had so much in him,

and it was all going to the kids. It got the kids through.

Frank sought out avenues for relaxation. He joined a Sunday night

bowling league with his wife. Strangers would approach every frame. How

are you doing? How are the students? "Once again, it was Columbine," he

said. Out to dinner, same thing. "People would come right up to the booth.

It got to the point where I didn't want to do anything. I just wanted to stay


Home was just as bad. "I would go down to my basement, to avoid my

wife and kids," he said. His golden retriever followed. That was nice.

His family resented him. "They could not understand why I was acting

that way," he said. He felt awful, too. "I wasn't the person I wanted to be."

He started counseling immediately after the attack, and he credits it with

saving him. If he could do one thing over, it would be to include his family

in the therapy. "They had no idea what PTSD was," he said. "If they had

just understood what I was going through, it would have been all right."

His marriage didn't make it. Early in 2002, he and his wife agreed to

divorce. He said Columbine had not been the sole reason, but it was a big


As he prepared to move out, Frank came upon four thousand letters he'd

received in 1999. Most were supportive, some angry, a few threatened his

life. He had tried to read twenty-five a day; that proved traumatic. Now he

was ready to face them. He read through a big stack, and one name caught

him off guard. Diane Meyer had been his old high school sweetheart. They

had broken up before graduation and lost touch for thirty years. He looked

her up. Her mom was in the same house. He called Diane and she was so

understanding. They spoke several times, never in person, but long

comforting chats. She helped him through the divorce and the emotional

upheaval ahead of him in May. He had one more thing he had to do.

Columbine was a cathartic experience for much of the faculty. They

reevaluated their lives. Many started over on new careers. By the spring of

2002, most of them had moved on. Every other administrator but Frank was

gone. As May approached, Mr. D considered what had made him happiest.

How did he really want to invest his remaining years?

No compromises, he decided; he would follow his dream. He chose to

remain principal at Columbine. He loved that job. Some of the families

hated him; they were disgusted by his announcement. Others were pleased.

His kids were ecstatic.


Rohrbough was furious. But he was having success with the cops. His Hail

Mary pass had broken the dam: Judge Jackson continued releasing

evidence. Eventually, Jeffco was ordered to release almost everything,

except the supposedly incendiary items: the killers' journals and the

Basement Tapes. The mother lode came in November 2000: 11,000 pages

of police reports, including virtually every witness account. Jeffco said that

was everything.

It was still hiding more than half. Reporters and families kept chipping

away, demanding known items. Jeffco acted comically in its attempts to

suppress. It numbered all the pages and then eliminated thousands,

releasing the documents with numbered gaps. One release indicated nearly

3,000 missing pages.

Jeffco was forced to cough up half a dozen more releases over the next

year; in November 2001, officials described a huge stack as "the last batch."

More than 5,000 pages more came by the end of 2002, and 10,000 in 2003--

in January, February, March, June, and three separate times in October.

Halfway through all that, in April 2001, district attorney Dave Thomas

inadvertently mentioned the smoking gun: the affidavit to search Eric's

house more than a year before the massacre. Jeffco had vigorously denied

its existence for two years. Judge Jackson ordered it released.

The affidavit was more damning than expected. Investigator Guerra had

astutely pulled together the threads of Eric's early plotting, and had

documented mass murder threats and the bomb production to begin

realizing them. The purpose of the cover-up was out in the open. Yet it

continued for several more years.

Finally, in June 2003, the search warrant Kate Battan had composed on

the afternoon of the massacre came out. It demonstrated conclusively that

Jeffco officials had been lying about the Browns all along--that they knew

about the warnings from the beginning, and the "missing" Web pages were

so accessible they'd found them in the first minutes of the attack.

Anger and contempt kept rising. A federal judge finally had enough. He

ruled that Jeffco could not be trusted even to warehouse valuable evidence.

He ordered the county to hand over key material such as the Basement

Tapes to be secured in the federal courthouse in Denver.


Agent Fuselier beat Mr. D to retirement. Six months after the massacre, the

investigation was largely complete. Fuselier continued studying the killers,

but he transitioned back to his role as head of domestic terrorism for the

Colorado-Wyoming region. Few Americans had heard of Osama bin Laden,

but a life-sized WANTED poster of him greeted visitors to the FBI branch office.

Fuselier saw enemy number one's picture every morning as he got off the

elevator on the eighteenth floor.

"He's a dangerous man," Fuselier told a visitor. The Bureau was

determined to stop him.

Fuselier also resumed training hostage negotiators and went back on call

for serious incidents. Two years later, he concluded one of the most

notorious prison breaks in recent history. The Texas Seven had escaped a

maximum-security facility and embarked on a crime spree. The ringleader

was serving eighteen life sentences--he had nothing left to lose. On

Christmas Eve 2000, they stole a cache of guns from a sporting goods store

and ambushed a police officer. They shot him eleven times and ran him

over on the way out, to be sure he was dead. He was. A reward was posted:


The gang kept moving. On January 20, 2001, they were spotted in a

trailer park near Colorado Springs. A SWAT team captured four of them,

and a fifth killed himself to avoid recapture. The two holdouts barricaded

themselves in a Holiday Inn. It took Agent Fuselier's team five hours to talk

them out. They were fixated on corruption in the penal system, so Fuselier

arranged a live interview on a local TV station at 2:30 A.M. A cameraman

came inside the room so the holdouts could see they were actually

broadcast live. Both convicts then surrendered and were sentenced to death.

All six survivors await lethal injection in Texas.

The stress wore Fuselier down. He would have twenty years at the

Bureau that October and be eligible for his pension. He announced his

retirement for that date. He would be fifty-four.

On September 11, 2001, the country was attacked. Bin Laden was behind

it. Fuselier postponed his retirement and spent most of the next eleven

months on the case. By the summer of 2002, the United States had taken

over Afghanistan, bin Laden had fled into hiding, and the urgency had


Fuselier's son Brian graduated from Columbine High that May--the last

class Mr. D had been waiting for. Brian was leaving for college in July.

Dwayne scheduled his retirement for the week afterward, so Brian wouldn't

see his dad lazing about jobless.

"I could see a change the next day," Brian told his dad when he returned

home for a visit. "You had mellowed out more than I had ever seen."

Fuselier missed the work, though. Within months, he was consulting for

the State Department. It sent him to conduct antiterrorism training in Third

World countries. He spent a quarter of the year in sketchy sections of

Pakistan, Tanzania, Malaysia, Macedonia--anywhere terrorists were active.

Mimi worried. Dwayne didn't think about it much, and Brian didn't hear

the tension return to his voice. Fear wasn't the problem at the FBI; it was

the responsibility.

"It was getting harder going to work knowing someone's life might

depend on me not making any mistakes that day," he said.


Shortly before Brian left Columbine, Michael Moore's Bowling for

Columbine drew raves at Cannes. It became the top-grossing documentary

in U.S. history. It wasn't really much about Columbine, and the title

featured a minor myth--that Eric and Dylan went bowling on April 20--but

it included a dramatic scene where Moore and a victim went to Kmart and

asked to return the bullets still inside the guy. The stunt and/or publicity

around it shamed Kmart into discontinuing ammunition sales nationwide.

Marilyn Manson was interviewed in the film. Moore asked Manson what

he would say to the killers, if he had a chance to talk to them: "I wouldn't

say a single word to them," he said. "I would listen to what they have to say,

and that's what no one did." That was the story the media had told.

The connection to KMFDM, the nihilistic band Eric did idolize and quote

frequently, was ignored by the major media. Fans got word, however, and

the band issued a statement of deep remorse: "We are sick and appalled, as

is the rest of the nation, by what took place in Colorado... none of us

condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever."


The killers' parents remained silent. They never spoke to the press. Pastor

Don Marxhausen stayed close to Tom and Sue Klebold. He was a great

comfort. Sue went back to training disabled students at the community

college. That helped her cope.

"It's amazing how long it took me to get up and say my name at a

meeting, to say, 'I'm Dylan Klebold's mother,'" she said later. "Dylan could

have killed any number of the kids of people that I work with."

Shopping could be intimidating--anticipating that moment of recognition

as a salesperson examined her credit card. It was a distinctive name.

Sometimes they noticed.

"Boy, you're a survivor," one clerk said.

Tom worked from home, so he had a choice about when to go out. He

stayed in all the time. Pastor Don worried about him.

Reverend Marxhausen paid for that compassion. Much of his parish

loved him for it; others were outraged. The church council split. That was

untenable. A year after the massacre, he was forced out.

Marxhausen had been one of the most revered ministers in the Denver

area, but now he could not find a job. After a bout of unemployment, he left

the state to head up a small parish. He missed Colorado, and eventually

moved back. He got a job as a chaplain at a county jail. His primary

function was to advise inmates when loved ones had died. He was born for

the job, ministering to the desperate. He empathized with each one, and it

sucked the life out of him.


The lawsuits sputtered on for years. They got messier. A rash of new

defendants was added, including school officials, the killers' parents, the

manufacturer of Luvox, and anyone who had come in contact with the guns.

The suits were consolidated in federal court. Judge Lewis Babcock accepted

the county's two major arguments: that it was not responsible for stopping

the killers in advance, and that cops should not be punished for decisions

under fire. Babcock said the authorities should have headed off the

massacre months earlier but were not legally bound.

In November 2001, he dismissed most of the charges against the sheriff

and the school. The families appealed, and the county settled the next year:

$15,000 each--a fraction of their legal fees. The discovery process never

brought much to light; it didn't need to. The Rohrboughs' initial offensive

had set the legal process in motion, and it continued under its own power.

Judge Babcock refused to dismiss the Sanders case. He balked at the

contention that Dave's rescue involved split-second decisions.

"They had time in the third hour!" Babcock boomed.

The cops had hundreds of people to rescue, their attorney responded.

They'd had to allocate resources.

More then 750 cops had been on the scene, the judge reminded him. "It's

not as though they were a little shorthanded out there that day," he said.

In August 2002, Jeffco paid Angela Sanders $1.5 million. It admitted to

no wrongdoing. The last Jeffco case to close was Patrick Ireland's. He got


After years of wrangling, most of the fringe cases were dismissed. Luvox

was pulled from the market. That left the killers' families. They wanted to

settle. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had insurance. It turned out

their home owner's policies covered murder by their children. About $1.6

million was divided between thirty-one families. Most of it came from the

Klebolds' policy. Similar agreements were reached with Mark Manes,

Phillip Duran, and Robyn Anderson, for an estimated total of approximately

$1.3 million.

Five families rebuffed the Harrises and Klebolds: no buyout without

information. It really wasn't about the money for the Rohrboughs and four

others. They were battling for information, and they proved it.

But they were caught in a stalemate: the killers' parents would talk if the

victims dropped the lawsuits; the victims would drop the suits if the parents


For two more years, it continued. Then the judge brokered a deal. The

holdouts would dismiss their suits if the killers' parents answered all their

questions--privately, but under oath. It was a bitter compromise. The

holdouts wanted answers for the public as well as themselves. They settled

for themselves.

In July 2003, the four parents were deposed for several days. Media came

to photograph them. They had remained so private that few reporters even

knew what they looked like. Two weeks after the depositions, an agreement

was announced. It appeared to be over.

But Dawn Anna called for the depositions to be made public:

understanding the warning signs could prevent the next Columbine. A

chorus gathered behind her. A magistrate ruled that the transcripts would be

destroyed, per the agreement. That set off a public outcry and a wave of

open records requests. Judge Babcock agreed to consider arguments.

It had taken four years to reach this point. They were only halfway there.

In April 2007, Judge Babcock finally ruled. "There is a legitimate public

interest in these materials so that similar tragedies may hopefully be

prevented," he wrote. "I conclude, however, that the balance of interests still

strikes in favor of maintaining strict confidentiality."

He settled on a compromise. The transcripts would be sealed at the

national archives for twenty years. The truth would come out in 2027,

twenty-eight years after the massacre.


Though he was retired, Fuselier hoped to see the depositions, too.

Optimally, he would like to question the parents himself. He knew where

the boys ended, psychologically, but their origins were a mystery,

particularly Eric's. Only two people had an eighteen-year perspective on his

path to psychopathy. When did Eric start exhibiting the early hallmarks, and

how were they visible? Wayne had adopted a stern parenting style--how had

that worked? Eric wrote little about interaction with his mother--what had

Kathy's approach been? Were there any successes? Anything that could help

the next parent?

Fuselier understood their refusal to talk.

"I have the utmost sympathy for the Harris and Klebold parents," he said.

"They have been vilified without information. No one has sufficient

objective information to draw any conclusions."

Fuselier said he had raised two sons, and either one could have emerged

with traits beyond his comprehension. Eric documented his parents'

frustration with his behavior, as well as their attempts to force him to

conform. Their tactics might have been all wrong for a budding young

psychopath, but how do parents even know what that is?

"I believe they have been unjustifiably criticized for what their sons did,"

Fuselier said. "They are probably asking themselves the same questions that

we in the profession are asking."


Patrick Ireland left home for Colorado State in fall 2000. He did fine. He

really took to campus life. And he was surprised by how much he enjoyed

business school. Letting go of architecture turned out to be easy. He had

been forced into something he liked more.

He still fought memory battles, struggled a bit to find words, and would

probably remain on antiseizure medication for life. He met a girl his first

night. Kacie Lancaster. She was clever, attractive, and a little shy. They

clicked immediately and became close friends.

In May 2004, he graduated magna cum laude. Armed with a BS in

business administration, he accepted a job as a financial planner at

Northwestern Mutual Financial Network. He loved it.

One finger troubled him a little. His right pinkie jutted out away from the

others, which caused a minor issue when he shook hands. It could poke the

other person in the palm a little--just enough to signal that something was

off. You could catch him glancing down there nervously, if you knew what

to look for. It was not the first impression he wanted to make. But he had

such a commanding presence once he spoke. Clients trusted him. His bosses

were happy. He was becoming a star.

Patrick had retired the wheelchair and the crutch in high school. The foot

brace remained. His right leg lagged behind a little: noticeable, but not

debilitating. Running was out of the question, but water skis were not.

Balance, strength, and agility were all hurdles Patrick could overcome.

But he would never regain the dexterity in his right foot to grip the ski. So

he worked with an engineering friend to build a custom boot he could slip

on as he tried to rise up on the water. They spent months working on

prototypes and experimenting with them at the lake. John went with them

for encouragement. Every time, the boat dragged Patrick uselessly behind.

They tried stripping the shell off a Rollerblade and adhering it to the ski.

Nope. They refined it, and returned to the lake. Useless. Patrick tried over

and over. He had made about ten runs that evening, and it was getting late.

John was sure Patrick was exhausted, and thought it was time to break. No,

I can do this, Patrick said.

John agreed. He sat in the passenger seat facing backward. The driver

throttled the engine, and John watched his boy rise up onto the surface of

the lake. Wow.

Patrick felt the spray pelt his face. The sun danced on the waves. The

towrope jerked his arms. He dug in for a turn. A sheet of water shot up and

sliced into his calf. It hurt, just a little. Ahhhhhh. The pain of competition. It

felt great.


Everyone expected copycats. The country braced for a new level of horror.

School shooting deaths actually dropped 25 percent over the next three

years. But Eric and Dylan gave young eyes a fresh approach: terrorist

tactics for personal aggrandizement. In 2001, a pair of ninth graders at a

Fort Collins, Colorado, middle school procured a similar arsenal: TEC-9,

shotgun, rifles, and propane bombs. They planned to reverse Eric's

chronology: seal off exits, mow down students, and save the bombs for

stragglers. They would finish by taking ten hostages, holding them in the

counseling office for fun, then killing the kids and themselves.

But they leaked. Kids nearly always leak. The bigger the plot, the wider

the leakage. The Fort Collins pair went recruiting for gunmen to cover all

the exits. One of the plotters told at least seven people that he planned to

"redo Columbine." He bragged to four girls that they would be the first to

die. They went straight to the police.

Teen peers were different after 1999. "Jokes" scared the crap out of kids.

Two more grandiose plots--in Malcolm, Nebraska, and Oaklyn, New

Jersey--were foiled in the first five years.

School administrators around the country responded with "zero

tolerance"--meaning every idle threat was treated like a cocked gun. That

drove everyone crazy. Nearly all supposed killers turned out to be kids

blowing off steam. It wasn't working for anyone.

A pair of government how-to guides helped. The FBI and the Secret

Service each published reports in the first three years, guiding faculty to

identify serious threats. The central recommendations contradicted

prevailing post-Columbine behavior. They said identifying outcasts as

threats is not healthy. It demonizes innocent kids who are already


It is also unproductive. Oddballs are not the problem. They do not fit the

profile. There is no profile.

All the recent school shooters shared exactly one trait: 100 percent male.

(Since the study a few have been female.) Aside from personal experience,

no other characteristic hit 50 percent, not even close. "There is no accurate

or useful 'profile' of attackers," the Secret Service said. Attackers came

from all ethnic, economic, and social classes. The bulk came from solid

two-parent homes. Most had no criminal record or history of violence.

The two biggest myths were that shooters were loners and that they

"snapped." A staggering 93 percent planned their attack in advance. "The

path toward violence is an evolutionary one, with signposts along the way,"

the FBI report said.

Cultural influences also appeared weak. Only a quarter were interested in

violent movies, half that number in video games--probably below average

for teen boys.

Most perps shared a crucial experience: 98 percent had suffered a loss or

failure they perceived as serious--anything from getting fired to blowing a

test or getting dumped. Of course, everyone suffers loss and failure, but for

these kids, the trauma seemed to set anger in motion. This was certainly

true in Columbine: Dylan viewed his entire life as failure, and Eric's arrest

accelerated his anger.

So what should adults look for? First and foremost, advance confessions:

81 percent of shooters had confided their intentions. More than half told at

least two people. Most threats are idle, though; the key is specificity. Vague,

implied, and implausible threats are low-risk. The danger skyrockets when

threats are direct and specific, identify a motive, and indicate work

performed to carry it out. Melodramatic outbursts do not increase the risk.

A subtler form of leakage is preoccupation with death, destruction, and

violence. A graphic mutilation story might be an early warning sign--or a

vivid imagination. Add malice, brutality, and an unrepentant hero, and

concern should rise. Don't overreact to a single story or drawing, the FBI

warned. Normal teen boys enjoy violence and are fascinated with the

macabre. "Writings and drawings on these themes can be a reflection of a

harmless but rich and creative fantasy life," the report said. The key was

repetition leading to obsession. The Bureau described a boy who'd worked

guns and violence into every assignment. In home ec class he'd baked a

cake in the shape of a gun.

The FBI compiled a specific list of warning signs, including symptoms of

both psychopathy and depression: manipulation, intolerance, superiority,

narcissism, alienation, rigidity, lethargy, dehumanization of others, and

externalizing blame. It was a daunting list--that's a small excerpt. Few

teachers were going to master it. The FBI recommended against trying. It

suggested one person per school be trained intensely, for all faculty and

administrators to turn to.

The FBI added one final caution: a kid matching most of its warning

signs was more likely to be suffering from depression or mental illness than

planning an attack. Most kids matching the criteria needed help, not



Columbine also changed police response to attacks. No more perimeters. A

national task force was organized to develop a new plan. In 2003, it

released "The Active Shooter Protocol." The gist was simple: If the shooter

seems active, storm the building. Move toward the sound of gunfire.

Disregard even victims. There is one objective: Neutralize the shooters.

Stop them or kill them.

The concept had been around for years but had been rejected. PreColumbine, cops had been exhorted to proceed cautiously: secure the

perimeter, get the gunman talking, wait for the SWAT team.

The key to the new protocol was active. Most shootings--the vast

majority--were labeled passive: the gunman was alive but not firing. Those

cases reverted to the old protocol. Success depended on accurately

determining the threat in the first moments.

Officers face a second decision point when they reach the shooters. If the

killer is holed up in a classroom, holding kids but not firing, responders

may need to stop there and use traditional hostage techniques. Storming the

classroom could provoke the gunman. But if the shooter is firing, even just

periodically, move in.

The active shooter protocol gained quick and widespread acceptance. In a

series of shootings over the next decade, including the worst disaster, at

Virginia Tech, cops or guards rushed in, stopped shooters, and saved lives.


Sue Petrone asked for and received the two sidewalk blocks her son Danny

died on. They were jackhammered out of the ground and installed in her

backyard, in the shadow of a fragrant spruce tree. Around the slab, she

created a rock garden, with two big wooden tubs overflowing with petunias.

She had a sturdy oak truss constructed over the slab, and a porch swing

suspended from the crossbeam. She and Rich and their shaggy little dog can

nestle comfortably into the generous swing.

Linda Sanders kept the Advil tablet found near Dave's body. He had

trouble with knee swelling, so he always carried one in his pocket. Just one.

She took his bloody clothes, a swath of carpet from under his head, a little

fragment of tooth that chipped off when he fell, and his glasses.

She would never let those glasses go. She snapped them into an eyeglass

case and placed them on the nightstand by her bed. She intends to leave

them that way forever.

The lawsuit on behalf of Dave Sanders outlived all the others, but his

widow chose not to take part. She was not angry at the police, or the school,

or the parents. She was angry at her situation. She was lonely.

50. The Basement Tapes

Eric wanted to be remembered. He spent a year on "The Book of God," but

five weeks before Judgment Day, he decided that wasn't good enough. He

wanted a starring role on-camera. So on March 15, he and Dylan began the

Basement Tapes. It would be a tight shooting schedule, with no time for

editing or postproduction. They filmed with a Sony 8mm camcorder,

checked out from the Columbine High video lab.

The first installment was a basic talk-show setup: a stationary camera in

the family room in Eric's basement, outside his bedroom. He continued

making camera adjustments after he was rolling--perhaps as a sneaky way

to ensure his audience would be clear on the director. The video project was

entirely about his audience. Ultimately, the attack was, too.

Eric joined Dylan on-set. They kicked back in plush velvet recliners,

bantering about the big event. Eric had a bottle of Jack Daniel's in one hand

and Arlene laid across his lap. He took a swig and tried not to grimace. He

hated the stuff. Dylan munched on a toothpick and took little sips of Jack as


They ranted for more than an hour. Dylan was wild and animated and

angry, obsessively hurling his fingers through his long, ratty hair. Eric was

mostly calm and controlled. They spoke with one voice: Eric's.

Eric introduced most ideas; Dylan riffed along. They insulted the usual

inferiors: blacks, Latinos, gays, and women. "Yes, moms, stay home," Eric

said. "Fucking make me dinner, bitch!"

Sometimes, Eric got kind of loud. That made Dylan nervous. It was after

1:00 A.M., and Eric's parents were upstairs, snoozing away. Careful, Dylan


They rattled off a list of kids who'd pissed them off. Eric had been

dragged across the country: the scrawny little white guy, constantly starting

over, always at the bottom of the food chain. People kept making fun of

him--"my face, my hair, my shirts." He enumerated every girl who had

refused his advances.

Dylan got fired up just listening. He faced the camera and addressed his

tormenters. "If you could see all the anger I've stored over the past four

fucking years," he said. He described a sophomore who didn't deserve the

jaw evolution gave him. "Look for his jaw," Dylan said. "It won't be on his


Eric named one guy he planned to shoot in the balls, another in the face.

"I imagine I will be shot in the head by a fucking cop," he said.

No one they named would be killed.

It went back so much further than high school. From prekindergarten, at

Foothills Day Care center, Dylan could remember them: all the stuck-up

toddlers sneering at him. "Being shy didn't help," he said. At home it was

just as bad. Except for his parents, his whole extended family looked down

on him, treated him like the runt of the litter. His brother was always

ripping on him; Byron's friends, too. "You made me what I am," Dylan said.

"You added to the rage."

"More rage, more rage!" Eric demanded. He motioned with his arms.

"Keep building it."

Dylan hurled another Ericism: "I've narrowed it down. It's humans I


Eric raised Arlene, and aimed her at the camera. "You guys will all die,

and it will be fucking soon," he said. "You all need to die. We need to die,


The boys made it clear, repeatedly, that they planned to die in battle.

Their legacy would live. "We're going to kick-start a revolution," Eric said.

"I declared war on the human race and war is what it is."

He apologized to his mom. "I really am sorry about this, but war's war,"

he told her. "My mother, she's so thoughtful. She helps out in so many

ways." She brought him candy when he was sad, and sometimes Slim Jims.

He said his dad was great, too.

Eric grew quiet. He said his parents had probably noticed him

withdrawing. That was intentional--he was doing it to help them. "I don't

want to spend any more time with them," he said. "I wish they were out of

town so I didn't have to look at them and bond more."

Dylan was less generous. "I'm sorry I have so much rage, but you put it

in me," he said. He got around to thanking them for self-awareness and self-

reliance. "I appreciate that," he said.

The boys insisted their parents were not to blame. "They gave me my

fucking life," Dylan said. "It's up to me what I do with it."

Dylan bemoaned the guilt they would feel, but then ridiculed it. He

pitched his voice to mimic his mom: "If only we could have reached them

sooner. Or found this tape."

Eric loved that. "If only we would have asked the right questions," he


Oh, they were wily, the boys agreed. Parents were easy to fool. Teachers,

cops, bosses, judges, shrinks, Diversion officers, and anyone in authority

were pathetic. "I could convince them that I'm going to climb Mount

Everest," Eric said, "or that I have a twin brother growing out of my back. I

can make you believe anything."

Eventually, they got tired of the talk show and moved on to a tour of their



Eric outdid Dylan with the apologies. To the untrained eye, he seemed

sincere. The psychologists on the case found Eric less convincing. They

saw a psychopath. Classic. He even pulled the stunt of self-diagnosing to

dismiss it. "I wish I was a fucking sociopath so I didn't have any remorse,"

Eric said. "But I do."

Watching that made Dr. Fuselier angry. Remorse meant a deep desire to

correct a mistake. Eric hadn't done it yet. He excused his actions several

times on the tapes. Fuselier was tough to rattle, but that got to him.

"Those are the most worthless apologies I've ever heard in my life," he

said. It got more ludicrous later, when Eric willed some of his stuff to two

buddies, "if you guys live."

"If you live?" Fuselier repeated. "They are going to go in there and quite

possibly kill their friends. If they were the least bit sorry, they would not do


This is exactly the sort of false apology Dr. Cleckley identified in 1941.

He described phony emotional outbursts and dazzling simulations of love

for friends, relatives, and their own children--shortly before devastating

them. Psychopaths mimic remorse so convincingly that victims often

believe their apologies, even from a state of ruin. Consider Eric Harris:

months after his massacre, a group of experienced journalists from the top

papers in the country watched him perform on the Basement Tapes. Most

reported Eric apologizing and showing remorse. They marveled at his



The boys got the camera rolling again three nights later. Same place, same

setup, same time frame.

They laughed about how easy it was to build all the stuff. Instructions for

everything were right there on the Internet--"bombs, poison, napalm, and

how to buy guns if you're underage."

In between the logistics, they tossed in more bits of philosophy: "World

Peace is an impossible thing.... Religions are gay."

"Directors will be fighting over this story," Dylan gushed. They pondered

whom they should trust with their material: Steven Spielberg or Quentin



Agent Fuselier watched the tapes dozens of times. In one respect, they were

a revelation. While the journals explained motive, the tapes conveyed

personality. There was ample testimony about them from friends, but there's

nothing like meeting a killer in person. The tapes offered the best


Fuselier understood that the Basement Tapes had been shot for an

audience. They were partially performance--for the public, for the cops, and

for each other. Dylan, in particular, was working his heart out to show Eric

how invested he was. To laymen, Dylan appeared dominant. He was louder,

brasher, and had much more personality. Eric preferred directing. He was

often behind the lens. But he was always in charge. Fuselier saw Dylan

gave himself away with his eyes. He would shout like a madman, then

glance at his partner for approval. How was that?

The Basement Tapes were a fusion of invented characters with the real

killers. But the characters the killers chose were revealing, too.


Eric had a new idea. Columbine would remain the centerpiece of his

apocalypse, but maybe he could make it bolder. Trip bombs and land

mines? Nothing fancy, just simple explosives.

Expansion would require additional manpower. Eric began recruitment


Around the end of March, Eric approached Chris Morris. What if they

strung up a trip bomb right there behind Blackjack? That hole in the fence

would be perfect--kids crawled through there all the time.

Chris was unenthusiastic. A bomb for pesky kids? Sounds a little

extreme, he said.

Eric backpedaled. The bomb would not actually hit the kids, just scare

the shit out of them.

No, Chris said. Definitely not.

Chris was starting to worry. Eric and Dylan were making a lot of bombs.

They had blown a bunch off. And he was hearing stories from all kinds of

kids about them getting guns.

Chris noticed a change in Eric. He was acting aggressive all of a sudden,

picking fights with people for no good reason. Nate Dykeman saw

something, too, in both Eric and Dylan: cutting classes more, sleeping in

class, acting secretive. No one said anything.

Eric made at least three attempts to recruit Chris Morris, though Chris did

not grasp that at the time. Some of the overtures came in the form of


"Wouldn't it be fun to kill all the jocks?" he asked in bowling class. Why

stop there, why not blow up the whole school? How hard would it be,

really? Chris assumed Eric was joking, but still.

Come on, Eric said. They could put bombs on the power generators--that

ought to take out the school.

Chris had enough. He turned to talk to someone else.

That is a standard recruitment technique for aspiring mass murderers,

Fuselier explained. They toss out the idea, and if it's shunned it's a "joke"; if

the person lights up, the recruiter proceeds to the next step.

When news of Eric's crack about killing the jocks was reported, many

took it as confirmation of the target motive. Eric was a much wilier recruiter

than that. He always played to the audience in front of him. He nearly

always gauged their desires correctly. Suggesting the jocks didn't mean he

wanted to single them out, it indicated he thought the idea would appeal to


Of course Eric would enjoy killing jocks, too, along with niggers, spics,

fags, and every other group he railed against.

Dylan was leaking indiscriminately now. He made several public

displays of the pipe bombs. These grew far more frequent as NBK came

within sight. A lot of people knew about the guns. And the pipe bombs. Eric

and Dylan were setting off more and more of them, getting bolder with

whom they let in on it.

In February or March, Eric spilled something even scarier: napalm. It

happened at a party at Robyn's house. Eric had not been friends with Zack

since their falling out the past summer, but Eric needed something. He

could not get the napalm recipes off the Web to work. Zack was good with

that kind of thing. Eric had a pretty good idea that Zack was the man to help


Eric walked up to Zack good-naturedly, asked him how he was doing,

chatted him up awhile. They talked about their futures.

Zack and Eric left the party at the same time, and drove separately to a

supermarket, King Soopers. Zack bought a soda and a candy bar, and

waited for Eric back in the parking lot. Eric came out and showed him a

soda and a box of bleach. Bleach? What was the bleach for? Zack asked.

Eric said he was "going to try it."

Try what?

Napalm. Eric said he was going to try napalm. Did Zack know how to

make it?


Zack told the story to the investigators after the murders, but he lied the

first time. He described Robyn's party, but edited out the napalm. He agreed

to a polygraph, and just before they strapped him in, he confessed to the

rest. He said the conversation went no further, and he never discussed

napalm or the shotguns again--with Eric, Dylan, or anyone else. The results

of his polygraph were inconclusive.

Eric also asked Chris to store napalm at his house. Eric and Dylan joked

about it on the Basement Tapes: "Napalm better not freeze at that certain

person's house." They disguised his identity at first, but then referred to

"Chris Pizza's house." Crafty. (Chris Morris later testified that it was indeed

him, and that he'd refused.)


No time. Less than a month to go. Eric had a lot of shit left to do. He

organized it into a list labeled "shit left to do." He had to figure out napalm,

acquire more ammo, find a laser-aiming device, practice gear-ups, prepare

final explosives, and determine the peak killing moment. One item was

apparently not accomplished: "get laid."


April 2, Staff Sergeant Mark Gonzales cold-called Eric about enlisting in

the Marines. Eric said maybe. They talked several times.

That same month, he returned to "The Book of God." Months had passed;

a whole lot had happened. He had thirty-nine crickets ready, twenty-four

pipe bombs, and all four guns. Eric closed up the journal. That was done.


Eric met Sergeant Gonzales. He wore a black Rammstein T-shirt, black

pants, and black combat boots. He took a screening test and got an average

score. The sergeant asked Eric to describe himself by selecting among tabs

labeled with personal attributes. He chose "physical fitness," "leadership

and self-reliance," and "self-discipline and self-direction." He would think

about enlisting, and talk it over with his parents. He agreed to a home visit,

with his parents.

It's not clear what Eric was getting out of the exercise. He probably had

multiple motives. He had always pictured himself as a Marine--he might

enjoy a last-minute taste. And he needed information: he was still

struggling with the time bombs and the napalm. He told Gonzales he was

interested in weapons and demolitions training, and he asked a lot of

questions. But his parents were probably the key motive. They kept

hounding Eric about his future. This would get them off his back. Two

weeks of tranquillity. Breathing room to maneuver.


Eric shot the next video scene on his own, in his car, driving, with the

camera facing him from the dash. He had the music blaring, so much of

what he said is unclear. He talked about the Blackjack crew, and apologized

for what was ahead: "Sorry dudes, I had to do what I had to do." He was

going to miss them. He was really going to miss Bob, his old boss who'd

gotten drunk on the roof with them.

Eric still couldn't decide on the timing of the attack: before prom or after?

"It is a weird feeling knowing you're going to be dead in two and a half

weeks," he said.


April 9 was Eric's birthday. Eighteen years old--officially an adult. He got

together with a bunch of friends at a local hangout.

A couple of days before or after, a friend saw Eric and Dylan in the

cafeteria, huddled over a piece of paper. What was going on? she asked.

They tried to hide it. She played it cool, then snatched the paper away. It

was a hand-drawn diagram of the cafeteria, showing details like the location

of surveillance cameras. That was weird.

Eric made several more diagrams. He conducted his inventory of

cafeteria traffic. He did not allow that to be seen.


The boys shot more tapes. NBK would make for one hell of a graduation,

they said. Lots of people crying, probably a candlelight vigil. Too bad they

wouldn't see it. They congratulated themselves for documenting all this. But

the cops would get the tapes first. Do you think they'll let people see them?

Dylan asked. Probably not. The cops would chop up all their footage and

show the public how they wanted it to look. That could be a problem. They

resolved to copy the videos and distribute them to four news stations. Eric

would scan his journal and e-mail it with maps and blueprints.

They never got around to that.

On Sunday, the boys headed into Denver for supplies. Of course they

brought the camcorder. This was history. They picked up fuel containers

and propane bottles. Dylan got his army pants. Eric seems to have been

funding most of the operation, but Dylan paid his share this time. He

brought $200 in cash; Eric had a check for $150.

The next shot was in Eric's bedroom, alone. He sat on his bed, pointing

the camera at his face from a few inches away, producing an eerie fish-eye

effect. Eric talked about his "best parents" again--and the cops making them


"It fucking sucks to do this to them," he said. "They're going to be put

through hell."

They could not have stopped him, Eric assured them. He quoted

Shakespeare: "Good wombs have borne bad sons."

He wrote the same line in his day planner on the page for Mother's Day.

That was revealing, Fuselier thought. Dylan wanted to be a good boy, but

Eric understood he was evil.

It was funny, Eric told the television audience: all that razzing from his

parents about goals and he was working his ass off. "It's kinda hard on me,

these last few days," he said. "This is my last week on earth and they don't


The payoff would be worth it. "The apocalypse is coming and it's starting

in eight days," he said. He licked his lips. "Oh yeah. It's coming, all right."

Then he held up his masterpiece: "This is 'The Book of God,'" he said.

"This is the thought process"--if you want to understand why, read this. He

flipped through to show off his best work. "Somehow, I'll publish these."

He stopped at a sketch in the back, of himself or Dylan in battle gear. The

soldier was outfitted with a huge tank to be strapped to his back. It was

labeled "napalm." He pointed to it and said, "This is the suicide plan."


Five days before Judgment, Dylan finally accepted that he was enacting it.

"Time to die," he wrote. "We are in wait of our reward, each other."

We. The word dominates the entry, but does not include Eric. Dylan was

addressing Harriet. He was grateful to Eric for providing the exit, but was

uninterested in spending eternity with him.


Thursday evening, the Marine recruiter showed up for the home visit at

6:00 P.M. Wayne and Kathy had lots of questions about job opportunities in

the corps. Kathy asked whether antidepressants would affect Eric's

eligibility. She fetched the prescription bottle, and Sergeant Gonzales wrote

down "Luvox." He said he would check and call back.

Like Eric cared. He had been invoking the Marines in his war fantasies

all his life, but all he really wanted out of the corps was the prestige of its

patch on his shoulder. Eric never depicted himself supporting a squadron,

and certainly not taking orders. It was always an army of one or two, and

the mission was about him, not country or his corps.

Gonzales phoned on Friday or Saturday and left a message to call him

back. Eric never bothered.


Mr. D provided a dose of irony. He wrapped up Friday's assembly talking

about everyone coming back alive. Perfect.

The boys picked up more propane that day. Eric hounded Mark Manes

for ammo. The delay probably pushed NBK from April 19 to April 20.

Eric spent the night at Dylan's. That surprised Tom and Sue Klebold--

they had not seen Eric in six months. The boys came in after 10:00 P.M. Dylan

was nervous--Tom could hear it in his voice. His pitch was a little off; Tom

described it later as "tight." He made a mental note to talk to Dylan about it.

He never got to it.

Eric came with a great big duffel bag, stuffed with something. It was

oversized and bulky and he was having trouble carrying it. Tom assumed it

was a computer. It was a weapons cache, for a final fashion show. They

filmed it, of course--the only scene from the Basement Tapes shot at

Dylan's. Eric directed, as usual. Dylan strapped on gear: harness, ammo

pouches... when he got to the knives, he joked about a certain sophomore's

head impaled on one. He slung the TEC-9 over his shoulder and slid the

shotgun into the cargo pocket on his pants. Then he strapped it in with the

webbing to secure it into place.

He needed his backpack. Dylan went digging for it in the closet and ran

into his tux, hanging up for prom tomorrow night. Whatever. He turned to

the camera to rub it in: "Robyn. I didn't really want to go to prom. But since

I'm going to be dying, I thought I might do something cool." Plus, he said

his parents were paying for it.

Dylan pulled his trench coat on, struck a pose in the mirror. This was his

entrance outfit--it was going to be so badass. It looked lumpy. "I'm fat on

this side," he complained.

The whole point was impressing people. Details mattered. Wardrobe,

staging, atmospherics, audio, pyrotechnics, action, suspense, timing, irony,

foreshadowing--all the cinematic elements were important. And for the

local audience, they were adding aroma: sulfur, burning flesh, and fear.

Dylan tried his next pose, and that was a problem, too. His very first

move, once the scene got rolling, was to snatch the TEC out of its sling and

toss it to his firing hand in a single dramatic motion. His trench coat got in

the way. He tried it again. Lame. Faster, Eric said. He was visibly annoyed.

He had practiced every move to perfection. Dylan was trying all this shit for

the first time.


Eric left around 9:00 A.M., without the duffel bag. The boys may have stayed

up all night. Tom and Sue noticed that Dylan's bed didn't look slept in.


Saturday was all about prom. Dylan came home at 3:00 A.M., and Sue was up

to greet him. How was it? she asked. Dylan showed her a schnapps flask.

He told her he'd only drunk a little. The rest of the group was going to

breakfast, he said. He was tired. He was done.

He slept it off most of the next day.


Monday morning, around 9 o'clock, Dylan grabbed his spiral notebook and

drew the top of a giant numeral 1. He drew the bottom of it at the foot of the

page, with a big gap in between for copy: "1. One day. One is the beginning

or the end. Hahaha, rescued, yet there. About 26.5 hours from now the

judgment will begin. Difficult, but not impossible, necessary,

nervewracking & fun."

It was interesting, he said, knowing he was going to die. Everything had

a touch of triviality. Calculus really did turn out to have no practical

application in his life.

The last word is hard to read, but it appears to be "Fickt," German slang

for "fucked."


In his last twenty-four hours, Dylan got active. He drew up full-page

sketches of himself in body armor: front and back displays geared up with

explosives. One of the last pages included a brief schedule for NBK, now

pushed back to Tuesday. It ended like this: "When first bombs go off,

attack. have fun!"

Monday night, the boys went out to dinner with friends. They went to

Outback Steakhouse, Eric's favorite restaurant. Dylan had some coupons, so

they could economize. His mom asked how it was when he got home.

Good, he said. They'd had a nice time. He'd had himself a nice steak.

Eric got the final two boxes of ammo from Mark Manes, and said he

might go shooting tomorrow. He didn't get a lot of sleep that night, if any.

He was still awake past 2:00 A.M., three hours before his wake-up call. He had

a few reflections to add to his audio memoirs. He spoke into a microcassette

recorder, indicating that there were fewer than nine hours to go. "People

will die because of me," Eric said. "It will be a day that will be remembered


Tuesday morning, the boys rose early. Tom and Sue heard Dylan leave

around 5:15. They assumed he was on his way to bowling class. They did

not see him.

"Bye," he called out.

Then they heard the door shut.

Eric left his microcassette on the kitchen counter. It was an old tape,

reused, and someone had labeled it "Nixon" somewhere along the line. The

meaning of that label perplexed observers for years to come. It meant


51. Two Hurdles

The fifth-anniversary commemoration drew a smaller audience than

expected. The crowds had grown progressively smaller each year, but the

school foresaw a bigger bump for this milestone. Nearly everyone was

pleased by the light turnout. It meant people had moved on.

Many survivors began to think in terms of how many events were left to

slog through. Only two remained now: the ten-year and the dedication of

the memorial. Surely they wouldn't have to come back in twenty.

There were always a lot of the same faces, but Anne Marie Hochhalter

showed up for the first time this year.

It had been a rough road there.

After her mother's suicide, Anne Marie finished out senior year and made

a go at community college. She didn't like it much. She traveled to North

Carolina for electrical stimulation therapy. Doctors hoped it might lead her

to walk again. It failed.

The commotion over Columbine never seemed to end. Two years out, her

dad moved the family way out to the country to get some peace. They went

stir-crazy out there.

Anne Marie dropped out of school. She had no job. She was miserable.

Doctors kept trying fresh approaches on her spine. Nothing worked. She

wallowed in it for a while, then she had enough.

She went back to school--a four-year college, majoring in business. She

bought a house with donations and equipped it for her wheelchair. Life

began to feel good.

"I wish I could tell you I had an epiphany, but it was gradual," she said.

The turnaround came when she let go of the dream of walking again. "I

finally accepted that I was confined to a wheelchair. Once I did that, I was

free to move on with my life. It was very liberating."

Her dad remarried and Anne Marie forgave her mother. She had

struggled so long, and mental illness was so debilitating. "In her mind, she

thought it was the best thing she could have done," she said.

Anne Marie let go of her anger at the killers, too. "That's

counterproductive," she said. "If you don't forgive, you can't move on."

On the fifth anniversary, she returned to Columbine to share her hope.


Funding for the Clement Park memorial met unforeseen resistance. It was

budgeted at $2.5 million, less than the library project, which the families

had raised in four months. This one looked easy.

But by the time they started fund-raising in 2000, goodwill had been

tapped out. They scaled back the project by a million in 2005. Still, they

were not even close.

Bill Clinton had taken a personal interest in the massacre as president. He

returned to Jeffco in July 2004 to rev up support. He brought in $300,000.

That was a big boost, but momentum fizzled again.


Before he retired, Supervisory Special Agent Fuselier requested permission

from the head of his branch to share his analysis. His boss agreed. Other

experts brought in by the FBI cooperated as well, including Dr. Hare, Dr.

Frank Ochberg, and others who spoke off the record. On the fifth

anniversary of the massacre, a summary of their analysis was published.

New York Times columnist David Brooks devoted an op-ed piece to the

team's conclusions. Tom Klebold read it. He didn't like it. He sent David

Brooks an e-mail saying so. Brooks was struck by how loyal Tom still felt

toward Dylan. After several exchanges, Tom and Sue agreed to sit down

with Brooks to discuss their boy and his tragedy--the first and only media

interview any of the four parents has ever given.

It turned out that they were kind of angry, too. Sue recounted an incident

where she was offered absolution. "I forgive you for what you've done," the

person said. That infuriated Sue. "I haven't done anything for which I need

forgiveness," she told Brooks.

But mostly Tom and Sue were bewildered. They were convinced that

jocks and bullying had been behind it, but jocks and bullies are everywhere

and few kids are trying to blow up their high school. They were bright

people, and they knew they weren't qualified to offer an explanation for

their son's crimes. "I'm a quantitative person," Tom said. He was a scientist

and a businessman. "We're not qualified to sort this out," he said.

They had run it over and over in their heads; they had tried to be

objective, and they could honestly say they could rule one cause out.

"Dylan did not do this because of the way he was raised," Susan said. They

were emphatic about that. "He did it in contradiction to the way he was


They were aware the public had reached a different verdict: the primary

culprits were them. When Brooks met them, Tom had a stack of news

stories documenting their poll numbers: 83 percent blamed the two of them

and Eric's parents. In five years, the figure had barely budged. For the

Klebolds, judgment was the price of silence. And it stung.

The public condemned them, but those close to the family did not. "Most

people have been good-hearted," Tom said.

He and Sue accepted responsibility for one tragic mistake. Dylan was in

agony; they'd thought he would be just fine. "He was hopeless," Tom said

now. "We didn't realize it until after the end." They had not induced Dylan's

homicide, they believed, but failed to prevent his suicide. They failed to see

it coming. "I think he suffered horribly before he died," Sue said. "For not

seeing that, I will never forgive myself."

Tom and Sue preferred to talk about Columbine as a suicide. "They

acknowledge but do not emphasize the murders their son committed,"

Brooks wrote. What they really yearned for was an authoritative study that

would explain why Eric and Dylan did it. Yet they had just read the analysis

by some of the top experts in North America; they had dismissed it for

providing the wrong explanation. They complained that Dr. Fuselier had

assessed their son without interviewing them. Fuselier was dying to.

Mostly, the four parents remain a mystery. They have chosen that path.

But David Brooks spent enough time with the Klebolds to form a distinct

impression, and he has proven himself a good judge of character. He

concluded his column with this assessment: Dylan left Tom and Sue to face

terrible consequences. "I'd say they are facing them bravely and honorably."

The Klebolds wanted to understand what happened. They wanted to help

other parents like them. They did not feel safe talking to the press, but they

talked to a pair of child psychologists, under the condition that they not cite

them directly. They were writing a book about teen violence. The problem

was that at the time they published, the authors had no access to the crucial



Patrick Ireland slips his right foot into a hard plastic brace every morning as

he gets dressed. He twists open a prescription bottle and swallows a dose of

antiseizure meds. He walks with a limp. His mind is sharp, but he hesitates

occasionally to find the words. His friends don't notice. He knows. It's not

quite like before.

Patrick rarely thinks about before. Life is different than he imagined

before. Better. Shoes are an issue, because of the brace. And his big toe is

crooked inward, scrunches the others over. The little toe on his right foot

sticks way out--nobody makes a shoe that wide. The doctors never set his

foot right. "My dad's pretty pissed off," he said.

He still hangs out with many of his high school buddies. They don't talk

about the massacre much, which is what many of the survivors report. It

isn't emotional anymore, just boring. They're done.

He is tired of interviews, too. Occasionally he agrees to one. Reporters

generally approach the library ordeal gingerly, but Patrick just plunges in,

describing it unemotionally, as if recapping a movie. When he did Oprah's

show, she played a clip of him going out the window.

"Whoa!" she said. "So is it difficult for you to see that video?"


"It's not? OK."

He felt good watching it, actually. He felt a sense of accomplishment.

Patrick got a perple