Eric Harris was meticulous about maintaining journals, notebooks and blogs, filling them with his musings, reflections on the past and plans for the future. The 18-year-old hadn’t always found life easy since his family had relocated to Colorado after his Air Force pilot father retired from military service. But, despite his arrest in January 1998 for stealing computers from a locked van, there were signs that the young man was turning his life around.
Harris’ probation officer had hailed the teenager as “a very bright individual who is likely to succeed in life” and his family were delighted when he applied to join the United States Marine Corps. No-one then had stumbled upon the journal entries in which Harris outlined in forensic detail his plot to murder almost everyone at his high school.
That plan was first sketched out in his journal entry for April 26, 1998. The following April, Harris promised, he and his friend Dylan Klebold aimed to “kick natural selection up a few notches” by detonating “fire bombs, chlorine gas bombs and smoke bombs” at Columbine High School. The pair intended to set off homemade explosives in the school’s cafeteria at peak lunch hour, then shoot, stab and bomb any survivors. In anticipation of the emergency services arriving, devices hidden in the boys’ cars in the school parking lots would be primed to explode, causing further devastation.
“It’ll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, WWII, Vietnam, [video games] Duke [Nukem] and Doom all mixed together,” Harris wrote. “I want to leave a lasting impression on the world.”
Shortly after 11am on the morning of April 20, 1999, Harris and Klebold set their plan in motion. When the bombs placed in the lunch hall failed to explode, the two teenagers calmly walked through the school, firing indiscriminately at students and staff. Within an hour, they had murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured 24 others. At approximately 12:08, the two boys turned their guns on themselves, their suicides ending what was, at that point, the deadliest school shooting in American history.
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