LITTLETON, Colo. – On April 20, 1999, two teenage boys wearing black trench coats went on a killing rampage at Columbine Excessive College in suburban Denver. They shot and killed 12 classmates and a instructor and wounded two dozen others earlier than taking their very own lives.
Twenty years later, The Related Press is republishing this story concerning the assault, the product of reporting from greater than a dozen AP journalists who performed interviews within the hours after it occurred. The article first appeared on April 22, 1999.
A second of shock, then hours of terror
By TED ANTHONY
AP Nationwide Author
LITTLETON, Colo. — Her favourite lunchtime meal was prepared — “my solely meal,” jokes Sarah DeBoer. So, nachos in hand, she headed towards the commons space of the Columbine Excessive College cafeteria.
It was a sunny Tuesday morning, possibly 60 levels, solely 17 college days earlier than commencement, and a spring mentality was afoot — the type that claims summer season is on the horizon.
Outdoors, two disaffected younger males knew one thing their classmates did not. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had endgame in thoughts.
Ms. DeBoer, who knew the pair in passing, had talked to them Friday. True, they preferred to bluster about weapons and vengeance and Adolf Hitler. However they appeared — for them, at the least — effective.
Upstairs within the college library, 4 dozen college students have been finding out their manner via the lunch interval.
Down the corridor, Dave Sanders, a well-liked teacher and coach, was educating a science class. Close by, Stephanie Williams, 16, a junior, was within the choir room singing.
Then, at about 11:15 a.m., a sound from outdoors: pop-pop-pop-BANG.
Within the cafeteria, they thought it was a lunchtime prank. No matter it was, it was getting nearer.
Sarah DeBoer, a 16-year-old sophomore, hit the ground together with her lunch companions. As realization washed over her, she uttered one factor. Whether or not it was aloud or simply to herself, she would not fairly bear in mind.
“I feel that I’ll die.”
In moments of chaos and hours of confusion, recollections can cloud. However, via myriad interviews and briefings, an intelligible if nonetheless imprecise portrait emerges of what unfolded behind a suburban college’s pale brown partitions.
Simply after lunch interval begins, two younger males in black trench coats open fireplace within the car parking zone. Senior Wade Frank, 18, outdoors within the car parking zone subsequent to a picnic space, hears popping sounds and sees a lady mendacity towards a curb, shot within the leg. As he watches, one other youth is shot within the again and falls ahead.
Then one gunman throws a bomb into the car parking zone and heads inside.
“He was simply casually strolling. He wasn’t in any hurry,” says Frank.
Sophomore Denny Rowe, 15, is outdoors having lunch with pals. “These guys opened fireplace on every part that appeared human,” says Rowe. Bullets are bouncing in every single place.
“One boy was working and instantly his ankle simply overrated in blood,” says sophomore Don Arnold, 16. “A woman was working and her head popped open.”
Because the gunmen stroll into the college, two college students lie lifeless outdoors. Nonetheless taking pictures, the 2 stroll to the cafeteria, the place meals server Karen Nielsen hears somebody yell, “Get down!”
Klebold, 17, and Harris, 18, are closely armed — an assault rifle, sawed-off shotguns, handguns. Within the cafeteria, one removes his trench coat to disclose home-made grenades. He tosses a pipe bomb.
Gunshots echo. College students fall. One will get as much as run and others comply with.
Phrase spreads: The “Trenchcoat Mafia” has gone nuts. Most of the 900 college students within the constructing duck into closets and loos, beneath tables and chairs. A pair name 911 with mobile telephones. Dozens flee the constructing and conceal in brush across the college.
Senior Nick Foss, 18, and a buddy push two lecturers, a prepare dinner and one other lady into a toilet. “I heard folks praying for his or her husbands and their kids,” says Foss. The attackers bang on doorways, yelling: “We all know you are in there.”
Casey Brackley, 15, is within the fitness center when an administrator herds children into the tools room.
“I hit my knees and prayed,” Ms. Brackley says. They keep for 15 minutes earlier than the administrator directs them outdoors.
Neil Gardner, the Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the college full-time, hears photographs and spots one of many gunmen in a first-floor hallway. He radios for backup and returns fireplace as bullets ricochet off lockers. Inside minutes, seven officers arrive and start pulling college students, together with a couple of taking pictures victims, from the constructing.
Within the choir room, above the commons, Stephanie Williams and her classmates hear the sounds.
Somebody involves the door and, with a thumb-forefinger gesture, offers them a warning: gun.
Her instructor tells everybody to sit down. However in moments, the college’s two-level auditorium subsequent door appears a safer place, so some go; then, after about 10 minutes, they run into the principle corridor.
“The group I used to be in headed straight for the door. He was taking pictures at us,” Stephanie says. “All we knew was to run.”
As they flee, a door behind them explodes in gunfire.
Sarah DeBoer, separated from her buddy who had run into the load room, lies on the cafeteria flooring till she hears a automobile explode outdoors. Then she runs into the auditorium and lies down between seats.
There she stays for a while. Fellow college students — 15, possibly 20 — cry softly. Academics warn them to be silent. Within the distance, they hear sharp stories and uninteresting explosions. Lastly, a janitor enters and tells them: Go!
They run, and gunfire follows.
“I turned, and I noticed Dylan was the one who turned and shot at me,” Sarah says. “He did not comprehend it was me; we have been simply working out of the auditorium.”
The gunmen head upstairs towards the library.
“All jocks rise up! We will kill each one among you,” one gunman yells within the library.
Pupil Aaron Cohn, a ballplayer, is spared as a result of a lady leaps onto his again whereas he lies on the ground, protecting the baseball slogan on his shirt.
“They have been laughing after they shot,” Cohn says. “It was like they have been having the time of their life.”
Some college students are slain at their desks, one with pencil nonetheless in hand. The gunmen play “peek-a-boo” with others, discovering them cowering beneath desks and opening fireplace. Isaiah Shoels, who’s black and has tangled with the gunmen earlier than, is a type of to fall.
Says one assailant: “Oh, my God. Take a look at this black child’s mind. Superior, man!”
Some children play lifeless. By the point it’s over, 12 aren’t enjoying.
Klebold and Harris depart behind shattered home windows, bloody flooring and a quiet not like any the library has ever heard. Elsewhere upstairs, Sanders, the instructor, has been shot twice within the chest however manages to get college students down a hallway away from hazard. He stumbles right into a science room, bleeding and coughing blood.
Outdoors, the primary SWAT workforce is on the scene 20 minutes after the primary 911 calls, becoming a member of the sheriff’s deputies. It finds a number of explosive gadgets across the college and treads cautiously.
“We had preliminary folks there immediately, however we could not get in,” Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone says. “We have been manner outgunned.”
About 45 minutes after the taking pictures begins, at midday, ambulances take the primary wounded college students — those who managed to run outdoors — to hospitals. Bomb groups, firetrucks, extra SWAT models and paramedics arrive.
Nick Foss and different college students handle to crawl into an area between the ceiling and acoustic tiles. Foss falls via a tile, crashing onto the ground of the instructor’s lounge. He runs.
Kammi Vest, 18, hides within the choir-room closet with as much as 60 different college students. Others attempt to crawl via heating vents to security.
Within the science room, Dave Sanders is dying. College students cowl the 47-year-old instructor with their shirts and a blanket and hold him speaking. However his pulse slows, and he grows chilly.
Pictures are heard till nearly 12:30. About that point, within the library, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris flip their weapons on themselves, although nobody will likely be positive of this for hours.
As 12:30 passes, after no photographs echo for a number of minutes, SWAT groups start sweeping the constructing room by room. It’s, fairly actually, a minefield: Dropped backpacks are in every single place, every a possible bomb. Within the coming days, bombs will flip up in varied sizes and styles. They embody two 35-pound propane bombs hidden within the college’s kitchen.
At about 2:30, SWAT groups start liberating these in hiding. In small teams, fingers behind their heads, they run from the college to a holding space. They’re frisked, questioned, supplied medical care and bused to Leawood Elementary College to be reunited with mother and father.
By now, the world is seeing all of it on TV. Escaped college students cling to one another. Tears circulation freely for some; for others, it would take time. Even the robust guys, those with the backward baseball caps and the saggy camo pants, cry.
At 4:30, with the gunmen’s our bodies discovered, authorities declare the college beneath management. In goes Dr. Chris Colwell, summoned for a medical synopsis. Within the sun-dappled, silent library is the worst sight he has ever seen.
“You stroll in there with that hope that there is perhaps someone who’s nonetheless alive and nonetheless salvageable,” Colwell says. “It did not take lengthy to see that wasn’t the case.”
He pronounces all of them lifeless — 10 college students and two alienated schoolmates who let their anger devour them.
The our bodies will keep there for a whole day, till the identified bombs are cleared.
By the next afternoon, close by Clement Park has grow to be a spot of mourning. College students and lecturers and gawkers, they arrive to commiserate, to talk of religion and perseverance, to see the spectacle and discuss to the press.
Among the many pilgrims: Sarah DeBoer, carrying her Columbine soccer jersey, and Stephanie Williams, accompanied by a buddy to consolation her. They stand collectively, yards from the scene of their lives’ biggest terror, and so they attempt to course of the scenes working via their thoughts.
“Yesterday I used to be so scared,” Ms. DeBoer says, her voice falling.
“They ruined the college, however I feel we must always positively return,” she says. “When you do not return, they’re going to win.”