We all probably remember where we were 10 years ago when we heard the news about the Columbine shootings. I was at work, chatting with some friends online. One of them told me she heard there had been a shooting at a high school in the Littleton area. We quickly turned on the television and watched the events unfolding. Most of the day was spent praying and crying.
I watched in shock and horror that evening and over the course of the next few days. Stories came out telling what happened that day. Then I started hearing things about some of the kids I knew who attended school there. I learned that one of the students who was shot and survived, Lance Kirklin, is the son of a good friend I grew up with in Englewood. My nephew Brandon was a student at Columbine then, but stayed home from school that day. Many of the kids I had worked with at a church nearby there had been in the school. Thankfully none of them were hurt.
The biggest shock came as I remembered an event that had happened just the week before. During those days I liked hanging out in a Denver chat room on AOL with a group of friends. The week before the shooting, a teen entered the chat room under the screen name Rebel. He began stirring up some trouble, saying that he and his friend were planning something that would cause everyone to take notice of them. He didn’t give a lot of details. As was my habit when new people joined our conversations, I looked up his profile page. It had many references to building pipe bombs, a fascination with guns, and listing himself as a “Rebel.” I proceeded to ask him about all of these things.
When I asked him if the name Rebel was a reference to being a student at Columbine, he said it was. (I knew their mascot name since my nephew and cousins had attended school there.) When I asked him about the pipe bombs, he said that he kept them in his room at home, but his parents didn’t know about them because they didn’t go in his room. I got the impression from him that he was a very spoiled kid, whose parents didn’t spend much time with him. He said he had recently been in some trouble, but that his dad had been able to get him out of it. He talked about wanting to join the service, and I told him that would be a good idea, that it would probably straighten him out. We had a conversation in which I, and several others in the chat room, told him that we didn’t believe his talk of the pipe bombs and guns. We were used to all kinds of weird characters joining our conversations, and this one didn’t seem much different. We told him he should go hang out in the teen chat rooms, rather than in the adult chat rooms. He became increasingly more belligerent and then said that in a few days we’d all take him seriously. He said that he and his friend voDKa had a plan to hurt and kill a lot of people. We brushed it off, and he left after a while.
After the Columbine shootings, I asked some of my online friends if they remembered that conversation. They all did, and a few of them made the connection. We had been talking to Eric Harris. The thought of that still sends shivers down my spine. I didn’t take his threats seriously, and neither did anyone else in the chat room that day. I wish we had.
My thoughts and prayers continue to this day to all those who were affected in one way or another by those tragic events on April 20, 1999. Below is a video I found as a tribute to those who lost their lives that day. May they rest in peace.