Evil, Heroism and Survivors: What We Learned from Columbine

Like the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, the Columbine High School massacre that occurred 10 years ago deeply and profoundly affected kids in my age group.

Though there had been school shootings before that, and there have been many school shootings since, all over the U.S. and in at least a few other countries, Columbine still stands out as a bewildering, horrifying incident that cost 13 people their lives. It also cost parents and even students their peace of mind.

At the time, Columbine meant many things to me. Some of these things were very selfish.

For example, I hated the dominant stream of thought that blamed some or all of the killers’ actions on video games. I play video games. I have never killed anyone. My brother plays video games. He is one of the gentlest, kindest people I know, who always tries to calm me down when I’m upset and tries to help me see the good in other people. He plays video games, and guess what? He’s never killed anyone either.

I found that whole stream of thought to be especially irritating in the months after Columbine, when we were all trying to figure out what happened. Now I think that video games simply gave people something to point to, some reason they could cling to and think: This won’t happen to us.

Another item that became abruptly forbidden was the wearing of trenchcoats of any color, but especially black ones, because the killers were part of the "trenchcoat mafia." I like long coats and always have, but it took a long time for me to decide it was appropriate to wear any kind of trenchcoat. Now it turns out that the killers probably did not even belong to the Trenchcoat Mafia.

Bullying suddenly became a critical issue after Columbine, because the killers were characterized as having been bullied in school.

That made me glad, because I was a victim of relational aggression and girl-bullying as a kid and it was never treated very seriously by anyone except my poor parents–who did their best to help but were basically powerless in the system as it was then. Things are different now, thank goodness.

But it turns out that though the killers may have been bullied, they were bullies in their own right.

And whether you like goths or not, they were not goths. They were not loners, and they were not on antidepressants. They did not like Marilyn Manson.

They were not good kids gone bad.

One was a sociopath, or psychopath, or whatever the current term is for people born without a moral compass. The other was suicidally depressed and paranoid.

And it’s so easy to blame the parents and the families of these killers (who does not want to find a reason, any reason, that it could not happen here), but remember that a sociopath is incapable of feeling guilt and therefore is almost always an amazingly convincing liar. What parent, confronted with a misbehaving child, asks whether the child may be a mass murderer?

Here are the names we remember today.

Rachel Scott
Daniel Rohrbough
Dave Sanders
Kyle Velasquez
Steven Curnow
Cassie Bernall
Isaiah Shoels
Matthew Kechter
Lauren Townsend
John Tomlin
Kelly Fleming
Daniel Mauser
Corey DePooter

We also remember those who were wounded physically and emotionally, including the families of the shooters themselves.

For more information about the tragedy, visit Wikipedia, or read about the myths of the shooting that persist today, or learn about how schools have changed in response to the tragedy, or find out how police have changed their tactics since the massacre.

One thought on “Evil, Heroism and Survivors: What We Learned from Columbine

  1. Pingback: Remembering Columbine | Oh Look, a Shiny Thing!

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