why columbine was my 9/11

 April 20, 1999: Outside of Columbine High School

April 20, 1999: Outside of Columbine High School

Columbine High School. To this day, those words still send a shiver up my spine. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris; evil personified in two human beings. As much as I hate writing those two names, they’re two that will never escape me for as long as I live. Give me a math test and I can’t remember simple equations, but say the words Columbine High School and the events that followed, and I’ll remember them for as long as I am on this earth. I won’t be able to overlook two individuals who planned to blow up their entire school and everything that came with it; every teacher, every family member, and every kid with dreams.

You know, I was only nine when Columbine happened. Nine years old. But, for me, Columbine will always resonate a little more for me than the tragic attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. You know, it is a weird feeling thinking back on those days as a nine-year old kid. Hell, what was I even up to then? Shooting hoops, playing pickle at the swim club and having zero responsibilities whatsoever; that much I do remember. Although I was not yet even a teenager, Columbine was my first wake-up call to the real atrocities that can happen in this world, my first wake-up call into the intricacies of fear and how real it can be. Or, perhaps, it was something more. Was it my exit from childhood into the very realness of adulthood? It’s hard to say, but I don’t remember ever feeling the same after the whole thing unfolded, that much I do know for sure.

Looking back, I have a memory that will burn in my brain for eternity. It was the time I saw evil for the first time in real life, and not just in the movies. It caught me off guard at first. You see, the terror induced at Columbine High School absolutely blew my mind at such a young age. After the attack occurred on April 20, 1999, I can vividly remember sitting with my mother at a hair salon as she was preparing for a new haircut. I learned early just how long these haircuts could take, and I was thinking of ways to pass the time. So, I decided to pick up a TIME magazine with the cover titled, “The Monsters Next Door.”

TIME Cover 1999

The cover caught my eye immediately. I had learned of the attack a month prior and I remember it being the first time I was afriad to go into school the next day. Sitting in class, I began to act up certain scenarios in my head. What if it happened at myschool? How would I react? How would I escape? How could I gang up with others to help stop the madness? It seems crazy looking back on all of it, but I had always wondered if I was the only one who thought this way. I know the teachers had to be thinking about it. How could they not be? This was the first time an act like this had taken the mainstream media and world by storm, and the story behind it was disturbing, yet very fascinating to me at the time. Comparable to a homicidal detective, I felt compelled to learn more about these mind-boggling events and what they really meant. How could something like this happen? Could it have been prevented? It’s been such a long time since I was nine years old and in elementary school, but I still don’t remember our teachers talking much about it. Maybe schools and adults felt it would create chaos and fear, or maybe we just didn’t know what the fuck to do about it. It was almost brushed aside like it couldn’t happen in our town, in our neck of the woods, or in our perfect community. Littleton, CO was your stereotypical little town, and yet, people all over the country had a hard time accepting this. The future of our world starts with our children, but so often, they are brushed aside as if they know nothing and are incapable of handling situations such as these. Well, maybe they are, but looking back on it, educating our youth on the realness of it all really might have made sense for the future of our country and our world.

Anyway, as I sat there unearthing the pages of information surrounding the massive school shooting, I saw something. I can’t recall ever seeing anything quite like it before, but it had that stench of evil that seemed to jump out of the pages in TIME. Now that I’ve read Stephen King’s IT, it was eerily similar to that of Pennywise the Clown and the stench of evil IT brings with IT wherever IT goes. This picture:

 Evil Personified in One Photo 

Evil Personified in One Photo 

Looking back on my article here, I’m not sure which direction to take on the remainder of this. I’m really not. That is kind of a first for me, but I felt it was something I needed to write about. Listening to the news these days, and reading this article on Medium a few weeks ago: https://medium.com/keep-learning-keep-growing/what-it-s-like-to-report-on-mass-shootings-routinely-b8d173610839#.y6ws1xlgf

it is absolutely insane how many mass shootings we have had to endure in our lifetimes. These horrific acts have become routine and expected in our daily newscasts, in our daily lives, and in our daily world. From Pearl Harbor, to Kennedy’s Assassination, to 9/11; each generation is often defined by a groundbreaking violent actthat modifies the modern course of history. For me, everything changed after the attacks at Columbine High School. There is a common emotion associated with these violent, groundbreaking moments in U.S. history, and that is the emotion of fear. Often, humans, by choice, or lack of awareness, refuse to acknowledge our animalistic instincts and tendencies. With fear, these innate abilities infiltrate our entire system and force us to act in ways we often cannot explain. Now, my mind shifts to the tragic events at Columbine High School during every single school shooting that occurs. It’s almost as if it kickstarted the entirety of it all and set the precedent for the massive school shootings that followed. Either way, the fear associated with these school shootings is real; it’s very real. I’m not sure who else out there else feels the same way that I do in regards to Columbine, but I’d love to know. If this topic is important and/or interesting to you, please leave a comment below and let’s get a conversation going.

P.S. — Right after finishing this article, I stumbled upon this recent article by Malcolm Gladwell on The New Yorker:


From his point of view, the events at Columbine, did in fact kickstart much of the school shooting revolution.  I highly recommend reading his analysis above.