In the annals of 20th century crime, there have been a lot of grisly or shocking crimes committed that have taken the public consciousness by surprise. But maybe no crime so shocked and appalled the nation as the Columbine murders carried out by two young students against their fellow students at a high school on April 20, 1999. Maybe it was because it was so shocking for normal high school kids to strike out with such violence so suddenly.
But on top of that, the murders were so random and so without provocation or explanation that the world was left wondering why it happened to those poor students in Colorado and if such violence lurked in our own schools in our own towns.
In that the two young men to carried out the Columbine massacre died at their own hands, we were left to try to sort out the causes of why Dylan Klebold and Eric Harrisstruck out at their fellow students. We know that the attack was carefully planned. In fact, the boys left behind lots of documentation that they had researched how to make the bombs on the internet and planned the crime for over two years.
One thing both Klebold and Harris shared was a tremendous rage. In a way, their attack on their school was revenge but it was not revenge for a particular insult or injury or against one particular person. They were striking out against the system in general. The rage expressed in their journals and online communications showed that they felt alienated and even though they existed in the active world of a high school, they were isolated from their fellow students, which lead to paranoia and a desire to strike out violently.
What is just as disturbing is that the preparations of Klebold and Harris could have been even more devastating than they were. The boys arrived at the school just before lunch hour armed with a massive amount of explosives and firepower. They knew to attack the lunchroom when it was packed with students. They planted bombs in the lunchroom timed to go off when the crowd was at its peak. If that plan had worked, hundreds of students would have died.
When the bombs did not go off, the two youths went on a killing spree armed heavily with handguns and sawed off shotguns. The massacre moved systematically from the cafeteria, through the halls, into the library where the boys finally completed their day of horror by killing themselves. The death toll included 12 students, one teacher and Klebold and Harris themselves. It was a crime that shook up the nation like no other hideous crime in the history of 20th century crime.
There is no way to reconcile what happened at Columbine. There have been countless evaluations and analysis of the crime trying to track down the causes. The video games Klebold and Harris played were blamed as well as the rock music they listened to and the movies they watched.
What can be said with certainty is that the alienation that caused the fury in these two young men should have been addressed earlier. Since Columbine, schools all over the nation reinforced their security measures. But just as much as security, more attention has been paid to youths who seem separated from the rest of society, who isolate themselves and show signs of alienation and anger. These steps are necessary to do what we can to prevent such tragic events from happening again.