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Thoughts About A Tragedy

Author: Anonymous, 11/99


Much of this was written the week after the shooting at Columbine High School. While it was a very tragic incident, it inspired me to take a different outlook on life.


The day of the Columbine tragedy, while at work, my fiancé contacted me over the Internet, asking if I had heard yet about what was going on at Columbine High. She said two men in trench coats and masks entered the high school and started shooting. They had grenades. My first thought was that this was a terrorist attack, that these weren't students attacking the school. But as the day progressed, and the news came in, I found out I was wrong. Still today, it is so hard for me to comprehend the planning, detail, and thoroughness of this attack. For what at first seemed like a random violent act, it turned out to be a well-planned attack to kill as many people as possible.

In the following weeks, we were riveted to the news from Littleton. It is so frightening to hear national reporters talk about Littleton, Jefferson County, Clement Park, and Columbine High. I grew up in Jefferson County. I went to Southwest Plaza Mall in Littleton. Columbine High school originally had the same floor plan as my high school. The killing of innocent children, the senseless use of guns, and other tragic events happen every single day in this country. Not only can it happen at any school, it seems that it can happen anyWHERE. This event couldn't have happened much closer to home for me, yet I find myself asking why it took an incident this close to home to really make me think about the world we live in.

Since the shooting, I've begun to look at the world in a different light. The smaller shootings and violent acts on the news every night look more senseless, they all seem interconnected as part of a larger problem with American society. I recently saw the movie "The Matrix", and I really liked the movie. Yet now, I look back, and think about the scenes in that movie that didn't even phase me. In one part, it is the goal for 2 "heroes" of the film to enter an office building and kill 60 people. The scene is riddled with gunfire, spent shells, falling bodies, and destruction. If I can sit through this type of violence in an afternoon of entertainment and hardly flinch, should I really be that surprised by what happened at Columbine? Then again, I also saw "Saving Private Ryan" recently. It also contains scenes of incredibly graphic violence, and it affected me very differently. Saving Private Ryan was an attempt to re-create history, not fiction like "The Matrix". Why should there be a difference, though - violence is violence.

I don't know the exact mentality Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had, but I can relate to some of their viewpoint. From the descriptions of Columbine High, the high school environment hasn't changed much since I graduated. There are cliques, they tend to be tight-knit. There are jocks and cheerleaders, and always at least one group of kids that don't fit in. The average high school student isn't accepting of all types of people - if you're in a clique, your part of it, and you don't necessarily associate with other cliques. Individuals who are really different are looked down upon. When I was in high school, I had a friend whose car was vandalized twice, and he was punched in the middle of a school hallway. No good reason I could see other than he was different.

When I was in high school, I wasn't very popular, and by the end of my time there, I was bitter. I didn't like jocks either. I listened to angry music and played violent video games. There were parts of my life that I chose not to share with my parents. I love my parents dearly, and I think they have been very good parents to me, but there were things I felt I could hide from them if I chose. So these things, I feel I have in common with the young men who did this act. BUT - I never, ever, saw in myself the capacity to do physical harm to anyone I felt anger toward. I don't understand why Eric and Dylan chose to do what they did, but I feel like I understand, at least a little, what caused them anger and suffering.

There has been an incredible amount of media attention and publicity about the Columbine shootings. One thing that frustrates me so much is how everyone seems to be trying to find the ONE thing that we can fix so this doesn't happen again. I personally believe that tighter gun control laws would help. I've heard other people say this on TV, and the reaction is "that's not really going to solve the problem." My response is - of COURSE it's not going to SOLVE the problem, but it's going to make a difference. We live in a society where people want the quick fix, the easy way out. People are also looking for someone to blame. We want to blame the parents, or the school, or maybe the jocks, or the judicial system that let these kids go after their felony in 1998. People question whether or not the SWAT team was too slow, and why did the police leave the crime scene intact for so long? From everything I've seen in the news, the police, SWAT team, and everyone involved that handled this incident did an incredible job. The situation was incomprehensible - it shook the foundation of everyone involved, even those that have to deal with violence as part of their daily jobs. There is not ONE person or establishment to blame for this incident. As I see it, Eric and Dylan are the products of American society. If there is blame to place, we are all to blame.

How many Americans can go through a workday without thinking ill of another person? I think about the dialogue that is perpetuated in television, movies, and myself. I drive to work with "idiots" on the road, I have to deal with "clueless" people on the phone, at work, or when I go to a fast food restaurant for lunch. I can't believe so-and-so didn't call me back; I watch the nightly news or read the paper, and can't believe what that "jackass" governor in Salt Lake is doing. We as a society are perpetuating the hatred. Love and understanding can heal the problems of this nation, but that means EVERYONE must learn to love and try to understand EVERYONE. Yes, that idiot on the road cut me off, but he doesn't have anything against me, he's just trying to get to work, like everyone else. Maybe he's late because he spent a little extra time with his daughter before she had to go to school - I don't know, and it's not my right to judge. Benefit of the doubt. Maybe the woman who was supposed to call me back didn't because she just broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years, and is having a hard time keeping her mind clear. Who knows?

I just finished reading a book called "The Holy Man". It's about a holy man (Joe) who lives in a hermitage at the top of a mountain. Every year, during the summer months, people line up to wait and see the holy man. Joe really has only one piece of advice to give to people - "if you look on everyone you meet as holy, you will be happy." This is one of the most difficult things to do in life, but imagine if everyone did it -- we would live in such a different world... maybe a world in which Eric and Dylan would have found happiness in creating, instead of destroying.





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