April 20 2019
“These guys opened fire on anything that looked human”
“I just saw a bunch of people on the ground lying in a pool of blood”
“We were waiting for the cops to get them and they never got them”
April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado:
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold turned their school into a war zone by “kicking natural selection up a few notches.” Columbine High School will never be the same.
11:25 A.M. 911 call from Columbine teacher Patti Nielson hiding in the Columbine library with children.
Nielson: The school is in a panic. And I’m in the library. I’ve got students, under the table. Kids! Kids under the table! Kids are screaming …. We need police here. …
Nielson: He turned the gun straight at us and shot and my God, the window went out. And the kid standing there with us, I think, I, he got hit. (Sound of gunshots.) Oh God! Oh God! …
Nielson: He’s outside of this hall … He’s in the hall … There are alarms and things going off, there’s smoke, my God, smoke is like coming … I’ve got the kids under the tables here, I don’t know what is happening in the rest of the building.
Dispatcher: I just want you to stay on the line with me, we need to know what’s going on. O.K.?
Nielson: O.K … (shouting) I want every student in this library on the floor and you better stay on the floor!
Dispatcher: Is there any way you can lock the doors?
Nielson: Smoke is coming in from out there and I’m a little afraid. (Sound of gunshots.) The gun is right outside the library door. O.K.? I don’t think I’m going out there.”
Dispatcher: We have paramedics, we have fire and we have police en route.
Nielson: I can’t believe he’s not out of bullets. He just keeps shooting and shooting and shooting.
Dispatcher: We’ve got a police officer on scene. Just try and keep the kids in the library calm. Is there anyway you can block the door so no one can get in?
Nielson: I do not …. Yeah, I guess I can try to go, but he’s right outside that door. I’m afraid to go.…
It was a short sleeve day, the kind when the sun bathes pansies and tulips in a way that makes their colors seem unreal- the type of spring day that Colorado is known for. However, after April 20, 1999, it will be known for something else. It will become a day Americans will never forget.
11:20 a.m: Students are scattered throughout the school, unaware of the havoc to be wreaked upon them and their classmates in a matter of minutes. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris stormed the school from the west entrance armed to their teeth, and spotted their first victim eating lunch on the grass with her friend Richard Castaldo, an innocent bystander who is now permanently paralyzed due to a bullet in his back given by one of the gunmen.
She was the first to be killed in their quest for “revenge”, caused by four gunshots to her head, chest, arm and leg. Mocked for her faith, even with her life in the hands of her killers she stood by what she believed in.
Her name was Rachel Joy Scott.
Soon after, a freshman was heading out of the cafeteria with his friends when the shooters opened fire outside the school’s west entrance. There was no warning for him: a moment later, he received shots to the abdomen and left leg. Then, the gunman shot him again in the chest. He bled to death on the sidewalk outside the school, and laid there for nearly two days before paramedics were allowed to move him. Imagine seeing your child from across the street behind yellow caution tape and not being able to do a thing… Knowing your child had died on the sidewalk alone and scared.
His name was Daniel Rohrbough.
As students continued conversing with their friends, they heard loud noises coming from the parking lot. People looked up from their lunches as a group of boys ran through the cafeteria and up the stairs to the upper level. However, the students did not realize anything was wrong until a teacher named Dave Sanders jumped up on a plastic cafeteria chair. “Get under the tables!” he screamed. “Get down!”
Chaos ripped through the lunchroom as hundreds of students scrambled to get underneath the round lunch tables. Then, students realized that the windows above them were fogged with smoke.
Students began crawling over backpacks toward the stairs out of the cafeteria, many screaming and crying as they could hear bullets hitting the railings and lockers around them.
Dave Sanders, a computer and business teacher for 25 years and coach of the girls’ basketball and softball teams, helped get more than 100 students out of the path of danger by herding them away from the shooters. By the time the gunman arrived, the cafeteria was nearly empty thanks to him.
Sanders was in the upstairs hall trying to get students safely hidden in classrooms when he was shot from behind by both shooters. He was hit in the head and bled to death waiting for help that 911 dispatchers told students was coming but did not arrive in time.
After plowing through the cafeteria with bullets, the gunmen headed towards the library. There, students and teachers began to hear popping noises coming from outside the school.
Smoke poured into the library from pipe bombs the gunmen had thrown earlier. Fire alarms blared through the school. It was at 11:29 a.m. when the gunmen entered to fulfill their plan. They yelled, “get up! Everyone with a white cap, stand up. All jocks stand up!”
When no one stood up, one of the gunman said, “Fine, I’ll start shooting.”
Harris fired from a shotgun as he walked through the library toward the west windows. A student sat at the north computer table. When the gunman walked in his direction, he curled up under the table. Dylan Klebold shot him in the head and back without hesitation.
His name was Kyle Velasquez.
Kyle attended Columbine for three months before the shooting. He would have been on his way home the day the shooting started, but Kyle loved computers and decided to stay in the library. Kyle was just a baby he suffered a stroke that left him mentally disabled.
Next, Klebold shot toward table 15, hitting Daniel Steepleton, Makai Hall and Patrick Ireland. As Ireland was attempting to administer first aid, he was shot again.
Meanwhile, Harris killed the youngest victim of this massacre, who was hiding under one of the computer tables.
His name was Steve Curnow.
Eric Harris walked over to table 19 and bent down to come across two frightened girls. He slapped the tabletop twice, said, “Peek-a-boo,” and fired, killing another student by shooting her in the head.
Her name was Cassie Bernall.
Klebold got Harris’ attention to table 16, where two boys were hiding underneath. One of the boys was black, and the gunman stood on opposite sides of the table. Klebold was heard making a racial comment and began grabbing at the student in an effort to pull him out from underneath the table. Harris fired under the table, shooting him in the chest.
His name was Isaiah Shoels.
After Harris fired under the table, killing Isaiah Shoels, Klebold fired under the table as well, killing a sophomore student by shooting him in the chest.
His name was Matthew Kechter.
"When I heard he was one of the ones from the library, it only made sense," said Kechter’s close friend Greg Barnes. "He was always in the library studying. He always put academics first. He had straight A's but he would never brag about it. I kinda looked up to him because of it. He was never in a bad mood, he was consistently happy."
Tragically, Barnes committed suicide shortly following the 1st 'anniversary' of the shootings at Columbine.
The gunmen then moved east toward the entrance. There, Klebold injured Valeen Schnurr and Lisa Kreutz. Walking beside the table, he proceeded to fire as fast as his gun would shoot, killing a possible valedictorian.
Her name was Lauren Townsend.
Meanwhile, Harris fired under table 6, injuring both Nicole Nowlen and John Tomlin. Tomlin came out from under the table and Klebold shot him in the head, making him their tenth victim.
Then, he shot a teenager in the back, killing yet another student.
Her name was Kelly Fleming.
After reloading their weapons, they approached another table. A student pushed his chair in front of him in a possible attempt to knock over one of the shooters. Outraged, the shooter shot the Sophomore boy in the face. His name was Daniel Mauser.
Both gunman then shot under table 14, injuring Jennifer Doyle and Austin Eubanks and killing their last victim with three gunshots to the neck, chest, and left arm.
His name was Corey DePooter.
The gunmen then left the library in a deadly silence. They shot themselves in the head to finish their mission. The student’s ears were ringing, and the injured were moaning, but the gunfire had stopped. The gunman’s taunts and laughter had ceased.
It was a scene of chaos, pieced together through the shaky voices of teenagers, some splattered with the blood of their friends, some wondering how it was they managed to get out alive, some too upset to even cry. The sprinklers went off, and the cafeteria was flooded with water. There were powder marks from guns on the walls, and the doors were kicked in.
Twenty years ago, 13 people died in this horrific school shooting. But the deaths didn’t stop there. Since Columbine, there have been more than 230 school shootings in the USA, not including those at colleges or universities. Today, we remember the lives that were lost at Columbine. Tomorrow, the fight to end school violence continues.
To honor the victims of Columbine, click here and take a pledge to end gun violence.