NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a piece I wrote about the Columbine tragedy. It turned out a bit different than I thought it was going to, but I think it works. It basically centers on the difficulty of really knowing the past with so many factors and interests involved, and ends with a counter-factual. A counter-factual is a sort of intellectual game we historians do to better understand what actually happened. We go through the facts and find a factor, usually a small one, that plausibly could have changed everything; presuming everything else stayed the same.
My factor was the fact that both of the attackers were under the legal age to buy the kind of guns they used and had to get them through an illegal “straw purchase.” In this case, meaning through a third-party, someone who got them at a gun show from unlicensed sellers. Had this not happened they would have been left with their primary bomb plot which if successful would have been the second largest domestic bomb attack after Oklahoma City. We, however, know that the large bombs completely failed and the homemade pipe-bombs were ineffective, all of the deaths coming from gunshots. No guns, no dead and what is seen as the first-mass shooting becomes an embarrassing fuck-up. I have also linked some song ideas- T.K. McNeil
What Really Happened At Columbine
By T. K. McNeil
When Are Facts, Really Facts?
Recording history accurately is a tricky business at best. Particularly when there is a degree of shock and trauma involved in the events. Passion, stress and the now known unreliability of eye-witness reports make accuracy difficult if not impossible to piece together. Furthermore, human memory can lead to things being a matter of record that turn out not to be true. The only reason we have a good idea of what happened on 9/11 is that there is video. But to this day, there are theorists who believe there were explosives inside the towers that were the real cause of the towers collapse.
What happened At Columbine
COLUMBINE High School, Littleton, CO. The day after the massacre, Columbine High School students gather outside their school to pray and place flowers on the ground. (Photo by Zed Nelson)
Though such reports are baseless the “real story (the accepted story)” may be blended truth with myth and mythology. In several cases the same victim was, reported dead, twice or more. But, how many were never found? Questions, questions, questions, an endless stream of questions. A similar situation from around this same point in history is the infamous Columbine school massacre. History to those too young to remember it, but all too clear to those who were old enough to believe they know what happened at Littleton, Colorado that day. The sad fact is, almost everything people think they know about what happened that terrible day in 1999 is faulty, if not outright false.
Doomed To Repeat It
Some might question why it matters if we get everything right. After all, what happened at Columbine did happen nearly twenty years ago. What happened at Columbine is still important because there is solid evidence that this single event sparked the American cultural phenomena of mass shootings. Not only figuratively in terms of being the first, but literally, in that it is known to have at least partly influenced later shooters. The Sandy Hook shooter for example, is known to have been involved in Columbine related threads. Why this was not a red flag for the police is anyone’s guess. Particularly when there are teenagers such as the YouTuber SeptikSiren, now being suspended from school under suspicion of being potential terrorists for re-tweeting Columbine memes.
Lies and Misconceptions
Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold
Some of the misconceptions about what happened at Columbine are small. The shooters liked Goth and Heavy Metal music. The real point, and a fact that was used to feed into a bigger lie was that Klebold and Harris were outsiders, loners, weirdos linked to a group called “The Trench Coat Mafia.” This is not true. The confusion stemmed in part from the fact that this group and the shooters liked similar bands and dressed in a similar way.
Knowing that they did not belong to the Trench Coat Mafia undercuts many of the assumptions about the victims. What happened at Columbine was basically a random shooting. Eric Harris was a keen athlete and they were not targeting jocks. They were not known to be white supremacists and were not targeting blacks. They were not into witchcraft, a common rumor about the Trench Coat Mafia, and were not actively targeting Christians. Which is the root of one of the biggest bits of propaganda around the shooting.