My Columbine Story
Columbine. At the word my heart sinks down into my chest. I can feel the panic rise in me like it did on April 20th 1999. Along with the masses of individuals in Littleton and beyond, that day changed my life forever. On April 20th 1999 I was a 15 year old Sophomore on home studies because of the fact that I hated school with an intense hatred. Since Kindergarten I can remember being the loner, the kid no one wanted to hang around with. While I did have a few single friends here and there it seemed to me that these “friends” usually chose to interact with people other than me, given a choice. It goes without saying that having little to no social interaction with others as a child did wonders for my lack of self-esteem. By the end of my junior high school years I walked around feeling like a vile disease that everyone was desperate to avoid like the Plague. I sank into a deep depression and had begun cutting myself at the age of 11. When I had made my first cut I had no clue, having never heard of that sort of behavior, what I was even doing. All I knew was that it felt good and numbed my pain. It wasn’t long that, on a daily basis, I would come home from school, walk into the kitchen and quietly sneak my favorite seraded kitchen knife out of the cutlery drawer, retreat back to my room and punish myself just for being myself. I would like to mention that bullying (and a mentally and emotionally abusive mother) does play a part in this. The earliest I can remember any type of bullying was in second grade. I was not the cutest or thinnest child and kids made sure to remind me of that on a daily basis. This would carry on until I left school the second semester of my sophomore year. The bullying basically consisted of name calling and teasing. They made fun of anything and everything they could including my hair, clothes, weight, height, voice,my interests…and the list is endless. Unfortunately after hearing these things so many times they stuck with me and eventually I started repeating these things to myself in my own mind. This of course escalated my self injurious behavior from cutting to hitting, biting and needle pricking. The hate I felt for myself boiled deep inside of my bones. I became the disease that I felt everyone else was trying to desperately avoid. Anger welled up in me to the point that I not only lashed out on my own skin but at everyone else who crossed my path. I had declared war on myself and all of humanity. I wanted to die and I wanted to take everyone with me. Enter April 20th 1999. Standing in my living room watching three teenage boys in camouflage pants and black shirts stand in an open field with their hands behind their heads, I couldn’t wrap my head around the horrible event that was displayed on every news channel in existence. A few moments later received a phone call from a friend who asked me if I wanted to go with her to (of all places to go that day) the library. As we waited at her house for her mom to drive us to the library, she stood in front of the t.v. watching the news, with her hand over her mouth completely devastated. At that time I remember seeing scrolled across the bottom of the T.V. “25 people dead and many more injured in Colorado high school shooting”. I felt torn. I was just as shocked devastated as everyone else at the severity of the event but at the same time it was like I took a sigh of relief and said to myself “Finally!” Once I had learned that the perpetrators in the shooting had committed suicide I immediately felt compassion towards them. After all, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had a fantasy or two or three of doing the exact same thing. The next morning I opened the newspaper to find it splayed out across the front page. My eyes immediately catching the attention of two black and white photos of the two perpetrators. My heart sunk so deep into my chest. They were beautiful. From that day forward I dedicated my days and nights to watching the news and buying all the news magazines I could possibly find that featured the shooting (these were the days before the internet was so widespread). I immediately found myself writing poetry and letters to Eric and Dylan asking why they did what they did and wondering if there was anything I could have possibly done to prevent it. I spent countless days and nights in my room alone sympathizing with them. So much anger welled up inside of me. I hated everyone and everything. I hated society for what it had done to these two precious boys. I wanted to go back in time and lock them in the tightest embrace and not let go until they were all better. I cried, I cut, I screamed, I cried some more, I laid on my bed in silence numb to the core, I planned to end my own life. I’d had it with the apathy of humankind. This was the the end of my rope. Not only had I endured the suffering of emotional and mental abuse and neglect pretty much my entire life, I couldn’t deal with knowing that is what caused these boys to massacre others before massacring themselves. I had no more passion for life, I had no more desire to live, I wanted out. Over the next few months I had constructed a suicide plan. The plan included a cleansing and dressing ritual, proper placement of the suicide note, details of the tool I would use and exact procedure of how I could execute it. I’d had it down. It was time and I was ready. Or so I thought. I went through this ritual night after night wishing for the courage to just do it but I always held on to this glimmer of hope that maybe someday things will get better. Over the next 10 years not much got better. I immersed myself in Columbine. I researched and studied as much as I could find. I purchased every document released. It was all I could think and talk about. I lost almost all of my friends and acquaintances and all of whatever respect my family had for me. They deemed me crazy but I didn’t care. I didn’t care because I felt crazy. I lived and breathed Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Anytime someone dared to bring up the topic I automatically challenged any myths or half-truths they spoke of by firing back proven facts I had learned during my research. And if someone brought up the topic of Eric and Dylan’s motives I automatically entered into a spiel about societies negligence, natural selection and the downfall of the human race. At this vulnerable time in my life there were days that I didn’t think I would be able to go on without living vicariously through Eric and Dylan. I became them and they became me. My first trip to Colorado was in May of 2006. It was amazing and beautiful. The clear deep blue skies, snow covered mountain tops in the distance, more green open land than I think I had ever seen in my life (I am a city girl). I was in awe. During that trip I visited the school, Clement Park (before the memorial), Eric’s house, Dylan’s house, the memorial at Chapel Hill Cemetery, Southwest Plaza, the old Black Jack Pizza location, the old Tortilla Wraps location and so on. I even made a trip to Angelo’s Music to buy the same KMFDM CD that Eric did! It was a pretty amazing trip. I try to make it a point now to go at least once a year. I went for the opening of the memorial in Clement Park in 2007, for the 10 year anniversary ceremony in 2009 (which was a defining moment in my life but I’ll save that for later) and I just went back this past September. Within the past 3 years things have settled for me a bit. I find that I don’t refer back to Columbine or Eric and Dylan as much. I don’t grasp on to the familiarity or the need for validation as I once did with them. I’ve begun to realize that I found in them the exact thing they were trying to find for themselves. They wanted to be loved, understood, validated, cherished and appreciated. They wanted to feel like they made a positive contribution to the world and lives of others instead of being constantly pushed away and ignored. They wanted people to accept them for who they were, flaws and all. Because in all actuality we are all flawed. There is no such thing as a perfect person and I wish that we would all stop trying to pretend that there is. Pretending gets us nowhere. It just keeps us locked in a cycle of denial and insanity. Most of all they wanted to be treated with compassion, like actual human beings, instead of wretched diseases. So they decided to wage a war. A war against the zombies, demons and monsters created by mankind. A war they desperately wanted to win but knew that the possibility was hopeless. So they left, they exited, they chose to fight their last battle and then forfeited the war. Now they rest and I pray they rest in peace. I will always give thanks to Eric and Dylan for opening up my eyes to the warfare going on around me. In some ways they taught me how to soldier on. By identifying with them I learned that I am not the only one who struggles with anger, hatred, depression, suicidal thoughts, self injury, low self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness and being unwanted and unloved. I also learned that there is not only one way out. There are ways to cope. There are other people out there that are willing to offer a hand to hold because they too are dealing with the same struggles. I just have to look up, reach out, ignore the voices telling me lies and try not to let the darkness envelop me in a bubble of destruction. The same type of destruction that happened on April 20th 1999, that took the lives of 15 innocent people. Not 13, but 15. Eric and Dylan were human beings too. They were just lost somewhere deep beneath their agony, buried in their pits of despair. In my heart I have spent the last 13 years digging them out, using the pile of rubble as a foundation to stand on to honor them with my life and the memory and legacy they leave behind. Just like everyone else in this world I believe they had a purpose far beyond the madness and I will not let this purpose remain unknown. Just as they so easily ended the lives of Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall, John Tomlin, Matt Kechter, Dan Rohrbough, Daniel Mauser, Kyle Velasquez, Kelly Flemming, Isaiah Shoels, Dave Sanders, Lauren Townsend, Corey DePooter and Steven Curnow, I can’t ignore the fact that they helped save mine. RIP to everyone who lost their lives that day.