Cover Story

'They just hated'

The high-school massacre in Colorado marks the latest-and most vicious and deadly-student attack in the public schools since the December 1997 murders in Paducah, Ky. With a dark sense of humor and no sense of mercy, two teenagers moved through Columbine High School and cut down classmate after classmate with bullets and bombs. As one mother put it, "You just want to hear, 'it's over.'"

Issue: "Chaos in Colorado," May 1, 1999

Columbine High School student Caleb Newberry knew Eric Harris hated athletes. He just didn't know how much. Caleb, a 16-year-old sophomore who survived last week's massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., had a gym class with Harris last semester. During a brief confrontation between the boys, Eric told Caleb: "Someday, all you jocks are gonna die."

On Tuesday, April 20, Eric Harris evidently tried to make good on his word. Armed with shotguns and at least one pistol, he and fellow Columbine junior Dylan Klebold entered the school parking lot about 11:30 a.m. and opened fire. The boys, members of a dark clique called the Trenchcoat Mafia, were acknowledged social outcasts. Witnesses say the boys in their black trenchcoats moved methodically through the cafeteria and up to the library, laughing as they randomly murdered terrified students and teachers along the way.

The massacre at Columbine was the eighth school shooting in the United States in a horrific chain that began in 1997. It was by far the deadliest. Before they were finished, the boys had killed 13 people and wounded 16 others. Then they shot themselves. One girl was treated for nine shrapnel wounds, apparently from one of two grenade-like devices detonated during the rampage. In all, police found more than 30 explosive devices on the school grounds, in cars parked outside, at the homes of the killers, and on the killers' dead bodies.

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

Caleb Newberry was sitting in math class when the killing began, his mother Paulette told WORLD. Since last week was Senior Prank Week, "when someone came to the classroom door and told the teacher to get everyone out, they first thought it was a joke," she said. But a clanging fire alarm convinced Caleb's teacher that something was seriously wrong. Then, as Caleb's entire math class fled down a hallway, their bid for escape turned desperate. Explosions rang out and a girl running next to Caleb crumpled to the floor, wounded in the leg by shrapnel. Caleb stopped to help her, but his teacher urged Caleb to keep running, then dragged the girl to safety himself. Everyone in Caleb's math class reached safety outside the school.

But his friend Isaiah Shoels did not make it. When Caleb arrived home, he learned from TV news coverage that Isaiah had been among the first slain. "He broke down right there," said Mrs. Newberry. "He said he felt like he should have gone back in and tried to save his friends. I told him there was nothing he could have done to fight against guns and bombs."

Indeed, for kids in the path of such firepower, fighting wasn't an option. Instead, they hid-and prayed. In ones, twos, and larger groups, terrified students barricaded themselves in offices, huddled under desks, even curled up inside overhead air ducts.

"I saw them shoot a girl because she was praying to God," 15-year-old Evan Todd told the Denver Post.

Byron Kirkland, a 15-year-old sophomore, described another scene to the Denver Post: "There was a girl crouched beneath a desk in the library, and the guy came up and said, 'peekaboo,' and shot her in the neck. They were hooting and hollering and getting a big joy out of this."

Beth Lagerborg's 17-year-old son Andrew was among those who hid in fear from Eric and Dylan. "Andrew was in a chemistry classroom," said Mrs. Lagerborg. "The kids heard an explosion and ran to the door, but the kids at the front said, 'Oh, no, no, it's a gunman!' So they ran through an adjoining classroom and barricaded themselves in an office. They laid there on the floor for three hours, afraid even to talk."

At about 2:30 p.m., a SWAT team conducting room-to-room clearing operations found the group and led them out of the school via a route that circumvented much of the carnage. "I feel blessed that my son was spared so much," said Mrs. Lagerborg, who attends Cherry Hills Community Church.

"A lot of the other kids saw some grisly, awful things."

Like the 16-year-old son of a family that attends Bruce Porter's Littleton church. Mr. Porter, pastor of Celebration Christian Fellowship, reported comforting the boy as he sobbed out his survival story: Feigning death, he lay still on the floor in the blood of his dying friends, while the killers moved on in search of other victims. The boy, whose name was not released, eventually made it out of Columbine. His 17-year-old sister didn't.

"My heart is breaking for the mom and dad and her brother and her family," said Mr. Porter. "We sat in a staging area at Leawood Elementary School for hours awaiting word of her. None came."

Comments

You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading

     

    Big Hero 6

    Only in an animated film can an obese, mouthless…

    Advertisement