4/20/09

Ten Years Since

It's strange to think that it has already been ten years since the Columbine High School shooting on April 20, 1999. I was in high school then, and there was a wave of panic that swept through the school. Mostly because this guy, Zach, and his friends, also wore trench coats, a recognized fashion aesthetic at the time as a result of Harris and Klebold's rampage.

Zach, of course, was a perfectly normal high school student who everyone knew was a good guy who was demonized by the school administration and his fellow students for being in the "Trench Coat Mafia." We know now, of course, that Harris and Klebold weren't just dudes in trench coats or in a mafia or gang, but simply two unstable students who took what they believed to be revenge on their fellow students and teachers. If their plan had worked out, apparently parents and service workers arriving at the school would have been met by bombs set in Harris and Klebold's cars. Fortunately, it seems as though Harris' bomb-making skills were terrible, which is really no consolation at all.

It's strange to think back now- ten years on- that Columbine is still a pretty crucial moment in the lives of anyone around my age. 9/11 obviously had it's impact, but to be in high school at the time another high school went through something like that was more personal and had a deeper impact, and to some extent, still does. Perhaps it's that 9/11 became such a Right wing clusterf**k that we were somehow desensitized to the images, but still the idea of two students roaming through their cafeteria chills me.

There are, and already were, other school shootings before April 20, 1999, and I have no doubt that those had an impact on people as strongly as Columbine. But there's something interesting in our generation, I feel: people our age were responsible not only for that massacre, but the other major massacre at Virginia Tech back in April of 2007. April isn't the cruelest month for nothing, it seems, and yet somehow I feel odd that there's such a stigma on my violent generation- it's daunting really.

And what Harris, Klebold, and Cho seem to have in common is some desire to see pain in others for the pain they themselves felt, a pain which seems to have either gone ignored or was so far buried that there was no chance to help out. In Harris' case, it seems he had sociopathic tendencies that were unknown at the time. He was apparently charming- something he could turn on and off. Something he could control within himself to pass as "normal," it turns out.

There was such a rush of panic that went through my high school, my county, and my age. Everybody was suspect. Everybody tried to be nice to everybody else because if you weren't, that person could show up the next day with a gun and blow their school away. If you wore a trench coat, you were apparently a part of a nationwide gang bent on destruction and watching the world burn. If you seemed like you weren't popular, you were about to kill everyone.

Of course most of this is untrue. Zach, as far as I'm aware, is alive and well and never harmed anyone other than the things we generally do to each other in terms of break up and break downs. We as Americans are quite reactionary and quick to find blame and fault, which is exactly what we have done after every single Fox News bulletin and CNN Breaking News signal. Somehow, I feel it is this reaction that leads to more violence than the video games and music that everyone blamed right after Columbine.

I don't know. It's an odd thing to think back on, at least.

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