The Columbine massacre was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history. On April 20, 1999, high school seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 students, one teacher, and themselves. Twenty-five students were also injured, some very critically. While there had been many school shootings in America prior to this, the young age of the shooters, the number of victims, and the randomness of the people they killed shocked the nation. It has been 14 years since this tragedy and even now the word Columbine is synonymous with school shootings. The subsequent days, months, and years since this attack have proven that the Columbine massacre has influenced the United States in many areas of our everyday lives including school policies, anti-bullying programs, gun laws, and even popular culture.
Thought to have been planned around a year in advance, Harris and Klebold intended to blow up Columbine High School and harm as many people as possible. Before arriving at the school, the shooters left two backpacks full of explosives in a field about three miles away from the school. The subsequent explosion was meant to serve as a distraction to police as the events at Columbine unfolded. Once at the school, Harris and Klebold planted propane bombs in the cafeteria and waited in their cars. It is unclear how the bombs were planted without notice. The shooters also set timed car bombs in each of their vehicles and, once they realized the bombs inside the school were not exploding as planned, took their guns and walked to the top of a hill on the school’s campus. Though discovered by police and diffused in the evening, the car bombs were supposed to injure first responders and people that survived the initial bombing.
Once at the top of the hill, Harris and Klebold began shooting and killed two students and severely injured six others. Many people reported that initially they thought the sound of gunfire was construction work. Others thought the boys were shooting paintball guns or that it was a senior prank. The boys then made their way into the school where they continued to shoot at students and faculty as well as throw homemade explosives. One teacher was killed in the school hallway while trying to help students escape, and 10 students were killed in the library. The attack lasted less than an hour but the repercussions are still being seen.
After the tragedy, questions of how and why this happened, and what could have been done to prevent the attack, were widely discussed. Some blamed the shooters’ actions on violent video games while others blamed bullying as the reason for the massacre. It may never be fully clear why Harris and Klebold committed such a terrible act, but measures to prevent it from happening again began almost immediately. Strides were taken to make schools a safer environment for students through changes to school policies and the addition or enhancement of anti-bullying programs; law enforcement officials...