Remembering… Read more
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It’s been 20 years. I’m not sure I have anything new to say.
On April 20, 1999, at 11:19am MDT, the world changed. Read more
April 20, 1999. I remember exactly where I was, exactly what I was doing. My co-worker at US West, Joe Lopez, turned to me and said “hey Sammy, there’s been a shooting at a school down in Littleton.”
“Find out everything you can,” I said. I’ll go tell Marti. Marti was Marti Smith, our VP, and thus began some of the hardest days those of us in Colorado have ever had to confront.
It was also the moment when I realized that North Carolina, the state I grew up in, was no longer home.
This piece – “Columbine and the Power of Symbols” – chronicles my reaction to the events of 4/20/99 as well as the days that followed, as we all tried to make sense of utter senselessness. It’s still one of the three or four best things I have ever written. And it’s still so very hard to read, even after all these years.
It’s been 15 years since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire.
I don’t have anything new to say, but I thought that we ought to pause and reflect on that day and all that has transpired in its wake.
Through the years I’ve written about Columbine several times, attempting to make sense of it, perhaps create a bit of context and perspective. The first in this extended series, “Columbine and the Power of Symbols,” which was written shortly after I visited the site a few days later, is still very hard for me to read.
I have compiled the rest of my writings on Columbine here, and invite you to track along with my journey.
So much has changed, so much remains the same.
As we try to unravel the whole Manti Te’o/”Lennay Kekua” mystery – is she dead? Is she alive? Does she exist? Was Te’o in on it or is he the biggest rube in America? – “sports journalists” (one of my favorite oxymorons, btw) are taking a right kicking, and deservedly so. Everybody out there who reported on the heartbreaking dead girlfriend story is now having to account for the willingness to push the narrative even once troubling discrepancies began to arise. Things like there was no death certificate. And Stanford never heard of her. And the police had no accident records. And shouldn’t there be hospital records? And wait – you’ve never met her? And so on. Read more
In the days following the murders at Columbine High School I visited the school and the grounds of Clement Park. Those walks produced this piece, which was originally published ten years ago today.
We have learned a great deal about the events that took place at Columbine since this essay was written (for instance, we now know that the “Cassie Said Yes” story never actually happened, and we also know that the whole “Trenchcoat Mafia” thing was also a media-propagated fiction). But it seemed to me that going back and revising to account for new information would damage the fabric of what I wrote in late April and early May of 1999. I have therefore elected to leave the factual inaccuracies in place. I do, however, note the spots containing errors with an asterisk (*).
Salon.com and Westword.com provide as thorough and accurate a picture as we are ever likely to have of the shootings and the aftermath, and I recommend them highly.
Sunday, May 2, 1999
It won’t stop raining, and nobody seems to care. Read more
Part two in a series
How did it happen? Why did it happen? There’s simply no way to measure how many hours have devoted to these questions in the ten years and four days since Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, and while we don’t (and never will) have all the answers, we do have some of them. Obviously a good bit of the discussion focuses on the individuals themselves, and other analyses cast a broader net, examining the social factors that shaped the individuals. In a way, the question we’re still debating perhaps boils down to nature vs. nurture. Were Harris and Klebold Natural Born Killers? Or are they better understood as by-products of deeper social trends and dynamics?
The answer is probably “All of the above,” but we can’t simply check C and be on our merry, uncritical way. Read more
Part one of a series
April 20, 2009: 11:19 am MDT
Ten years ago a co-worker turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget, no matter how long I live: “Hey, Sammy, there’s been a school shooting in Littleton.”
Since that day a great deal has been written and said about Columbine High School and the events of 4.20.99, and like a lot of other people I’ve tried my hardest to make sense of something that seemed (and still seems) inherently senseless. Tried and failed. Now, ten years on, the grief hasn’t fully dissipated here in the city that I have come to call home, and even if we manage to understand the whos, whats, and hows, there’s a part of us that’s doomed to wrestle forever with the whys. Read more
This week authorities busted up three Columbine copycat plots, at least one of which seems to have been pretty serious. I doubt this really surprises anyone who’s been paying attention (see prediction #5 here), but it’s still pretty disturbing.
Mark it down – some April 20 in the near future, the conspirators are going to be smart enough not to warn anybody, not to IM about it to strangers, and not to post their plans on MySpace. Worse, they may be technically gifted enough to pull off something much larger than Columbine (which was a real fizzle, fortunately – had the bomb gone off in the cafeteria the body count would have been a lot higher). It doesn’t take a genius to make the prediction and it won’t make the predictor a modern-day Nostradamus when it comes true, either. It’s just a case of looking at the situation and realizing that if X leads to Y, more X stands a good chance of leading to more Y.
Seven years ago I lived in Denver, and although I didn’t know anybody involved, anybody who was there can tell you that it felt personal. (I do have a friend who’s a Columbine grad, and if she’s reading this she’s invited to chime in.) I visited the school and Clement Park twice in the days after the shootings, and those visits produced a little essay that attempted to understand what had happened and why. Reading back over it today, I’m struck by the disparity between the tone of the piece and what I know I felt at the time I wrote it. Hunh.
Seven years on, and these arrests indicate that we still don’t get it, I guess. Let’s make a pact to check back this time next year and see if one got through the net…
Boys plotted to hit Saint John High, police say
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Three teenage boys have been arrested for allegedly conspiring to seize control of a school and methodically murder some of its students and teachers. Police found gunpowder and other material used for making pipe bombs at the boys’ homes and believe the youths had practised making bombs.
[Credit: Thanks to Cody Barstow at Mojo City News for the link.]
Welcome to Colorado, the Shoot-’em-Up State
We do have a bloody history, don’t we? The latest breaking news happened the other day at the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder. At least three or four good friends live nearby and shop there regularly. And I used to shop there two or three times a week – I lived maybe a mile up the hill toward NCAR during grad school. Read more
It isn’t just NRA money. Congressional Republicans don’t act because their families aren’t at risk.
Did you see this?
‘WTF’: Twitter furious as Florida lawmakers declare porn a ‘health risk’ but block assault rifle ban
The vote comes less than a week after the devastating shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school left 17 people dead
Less than a week after the devastating shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school left 17 people dead, Florida lawmakers rejected an attempt to discuss a ban on assault weapons. The Florida House voted 36-71 on Tuesday (20 February) against a motion to consider the bill that would have banned the sale or possession of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines such as the AR-15 assault rifle used by the gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the Republican Party (A Wholly Owned Subsidiary of the NRA) doesn’t care about these children. Your children. Read more
When I was in graduate school at Iowa State in the late 1980s I hit a period, during my second year, where a little homesickness set in. So I did something to remind myself of the place and people I was missing: I bought a Confederate flag and affixed it to my desk in the office, which I shared with 10-15 other MA students.
Some of my colleagues were, I think, appalled, and it was suggested that this was a symbol of slavery and racism. No, I said. I’m not a racist – it’s simply a reminder of home. I don’t think I used the word “heritage,” but from the outside what I was saying probably sounded exactly like what defenders of the flag are saying today.
As irony would have it, at the time I was dating a black woman. Read more
Government shutdown, debt crisis reveal how much GOP has in common with other sociopaths…
Is this to be an empathy test? Capillary dilation of the so-called blush response? Fluctuation of the pupil. Involuntary dilation of the iris?
I believe Philip K. Dick had it right in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Technology had, in that not-so-distant future, created androids that were nearly indistinguishable from humans. The one thing people had that the Nexus 6s didn’t, the quality that made them essentially human, was empathy. Read more