|Ten Years On -Columbine. Home Grown Terrorism?
||[Apr. 17th, 2009|04:06 pm]
Serial Killers, Mass Murderers, and True Crime
The truth about Columbine|
Ten years ago, two teenagers walked into a Colorado school and massacred 13 people. The killings sparked wall-to-wall media coverage around the world - much of which has since turned out to be nonsense. Andrew Gumbel, who reported on the aftermath, explains what really happened that day - and why.
Friday April 17 2009
Exactly 10 years ago on Monday, the world woke up to learn that two more unhinged American teenage misfits had snapped after years of bullying at the hands of the "jocks", the sporting overlords of their universe, and gone on a murderous rampage with semi-automatic weapons through their suburban high school.
Or that's the version we were told, anyway.
The teenagers were called Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their school was Columbine High, an idyllic sounding place nestled between the Denver metropolitan area and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. What is indisputable is that Columbine quickly became a byword for the nightmarish phenomenon - now seemingly a worldwide contagion - of school shootings. It was the bloodiest, creepiest, most vivid school attack anyone at the time could remember and remains, to this day, the episode the American popular imagination just can't seem to shake.
Harris and Klebold did not just gun down their victims in cold blood. They laughed and hollered while they were doing it, as though they were having the time of their lives.
Much of what we reported, though, was simply wrong, as attested by tens of thousands of official documents and other evidence that has at last seen the light of day after years of suppression by the local authorities. As the Colorado-based journalist Dave Cullen tells in his gripping and authoritative new book Columbine, Harris and Klebold had plenty of friends, did pretty well in school, were not members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, did not listen to Manson, were not bullied, harboured no specific grudges against any one group, and did not "snap" because of some last-straw traumatic event. All those stories were the product of hysteria, ignorance and flailing guesswork in the first few hours and days.
In contrast to previous American school shootings, which had unfolded in hard-to-reach locales such as West Paducah, Kentucky, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, this one happened half an hour's drive from a major media hub. Denver television crews got there while the horrors were unfolding, and the cameras did not stop rolling for a week. That, in retrospect, may not have been an entirely good thing.
From the start, the images seemed to suck viewers right into the heart of the mayhem. One of the dead was left stranded in a parking lot, which terrified fellow students would eventually have to pass as they ran out at the end of their ordeal. The cameras captured it all. Another victim, already badly wounded in the head, arm and legs but seized by a compulsion to get out of the school at any cost, somehow pirouetted his broken body across a window ledge and let himself tumble into the arms of two waiting officers. That, too, was broadcast live on international television.
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