Columbine leaves infamous legacy


On the morning of April 20, 1999, gunshots first rang out in a school cafeteria full of high school teens and faculty which left a roadmap for future school massacres across the globe. A town called Littleton, Colorado, made its infamous mark on the world when two of its outcast inhabitants, seniors Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris of Columbine High School, made the decision to plot and carry out a mass murder on their own school. 

The original plan was to mimic the works of Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government militia movement leader who sought vengeance by bombing the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The explosion killed 168 people, the largest terrorist attack in US history until the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. This event had just followed a 51-day standoff between the Branch Davidian Cult in Waco, Texas, and the FBI, also resulting in a huge fire which burned 80 hostages, New York Times best selling author, Dave Cullen said, via email. 

To one-up the events in Oklahoma and Texas, Harris and Klebold planned to set multiple bombs in their school cafeteria around four columns at the busiest time of day, lunch. The bombs would go off, which would cause the columns to collapse the overhead library on top of everyone in the cafeteria; however, the bombs never went off. With the original plan destroyed, the boys went to plan B: shooting people in white baseball caps, members of the football team, and anyone who got in their way. 

To parents, this seemed like the longest day of their lives as they awaited news if their child was alive. Thirteen families did not receive this news, including the shocked parents of the shooters who committed suicide before SWAT teams could get to them. Twenty others were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds. 

The enormity of this event still remains close to the kids and teachers who attend Columbine High School on a day-to-day basis. 

“We actually do not have school on the day the shooting took place 20 years ago. Our kids volunteer out in the community instead. We have various service projects allowing kids to go out into the community and do different projects based on what they are passionate about. We have not had school on this day since 1999. Some kids choose to go over to the park next to the school, while others choose to go to the local elderly homes or mow lawns. The state has even issued a day off to every school in the state of Colorado on this day every year,” current Columbine High School principal, Scott Christy said, via phone call. 

The school also has a memorial in honor of the deceased and injured victims, survivors, rescuers and all who were affected by the massacre. The memorial is located in Clement Park behind Columbine High School. 

One of the most memorable survivors on the memorial belongs to Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel Scott. Rachel Scott was shot four times by Eric Harris while eating lunch with her friend, Richard Castaldo, on the lawn outside the west entrance of the school. Craig was 16 at the time, and he was in the library where most of the deaths occurred. He was under a table with two of his friends when they were both shot and killed.  

“What happened was so sad. Rachel was innocent and so were all the others that lost their lives due to the two shooters’ decisions,” Isabelle M. ’20 said. 

This school shooting set a precedent for school safety across the country. In Ohio, ALICE, Alert-Lockdown-Inform-Counter-Evacuate, is a federal Homeland Security Department program originally created for use in workplace settings. This became the protocol for most schools, informing kids of the steps to keep themselves safe if a school shooting event were to ever pursue, according to

Similar to ALICE, “[Columbine High School] uses the SRP, or Standard Response Protocol developed [in Littleton] by the “I love you guys” foundation. The foundation was started by the father of a Platte Canyon High School victim,” Christy said. 

The Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis was a hostage taking and shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado, on Sept. 27, 2006. The gunman, 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison, took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them, later releasing four. One of the hostages, the daughter of the founder of “I love you guys,” was caught in the crossfire with police and died shortly after. 

“I just do not understand what would really drive someone to do things like this to other people. This personally affects me because I have friends who go to Jackson High School where a shooting almost happened. It scares me to think this could really happen to anyone,” Jaylynn B. ‘23 said. 

Although the Columbine shooting happened over 20 years ago, the school still faces the issue of safety when it comes to tourism. 

“There are times when Columbine is on high alert and on “lockdown” due to threats that are phoned in. It seems Columbine is an attractive place to those who fixate on the tragedy and over the years, people from outside the community have made threats to us.  Those have happened occasionally, some years one or two times, most years none at all. When those lockdowns happen, it does seem to raise emotions for some students, but a very small number in a school of 1,700,” Columbine counselor, Andrew Lentini said, via phone. 

The building is now on high security with six campus security guards and a high volume of cameras; however, with Columbine being such a large part of American history, it still seems to rake in thousands of visitors a year. 

“We need to take action to help prevent these kinds of events from ever happening again. School shootings tend to happen for absolutely no reason, taking the lives of innocent people,” Derek R. ‘21 said. 

The lasting impact left behind by one of the largest school shootings in America is immense, but the Columbine community’s strength is greater. 

“We have an amazing culture unlike any other school in the nation. We are very proud of our school pride and our community and our kids love it. We do not know if that is a result of what happened 20 years ago, but we are definitely very proud of how much our community has come together in unity and strength all these years,” Christy said.