Surviving Columbine: What We Got Wrong

What actually happened at Columbine is more complicated, according to at least three new books published on the anniversary: "Columbine," by Dave Cullen; "Columbine: A True Crime Story," by Jeff Kass; and "Why Kids Kill" by Peter Langman.

Journalists Cullen, who reported for Salon, and Kass, who covered the story for the Pulitzer-winning Rocky Mountain News, contend that the media got the story all wrong.

Eric Harris was a psychopath -- controlling, manipulative and sadistic; Dylan Klebold was a lonely depressive, full of suppressed emotional rage.

The pair planned the attack as a terrorist bombing, hoping to kill at least 500. They were not "goths" or members of the "Trench Coat Mafia," as was widely reported. They wore duster jackets to hide their weapons.

When their bomb timers failed to go off, they randomly fired at students for little more than 17 minutes. The shooters got bored, wandered the high school, then killed themselves 45 minutes later.

Confusion, SWAT Team Delays

SWAT teams, thinking the school was under siege, delayed rescues for three hours as victims like coach Dave Sanders bled to death.

Cullen also claims the tragedy, anchored in confusion, was hijacked by the media, religious groups and filmmakers.

Some of the misinformation began as 1,000 students gathered at Clement Park the day after the shootings.

"Kids opened up and talked to each other, but they needed to talk to adults," said Cullen. "They used the press like shrinks, like a sounding board."

The media picked up on narratives such as the "trench coat mafia" and "jock bullies," then students watching the news parroted back the falsehoods.

"All rumors were in place that first day," said Cullen. "And once it started it was an echo chamber where we would say something on TV and radio, and they would hear it and report back to us. We thought they were verifying."

He debunks the myth that student Cassie Bernall professed her Christianity before being killed by a shot to the head. An eyewitness confused the 17-year-old, who had no time to speak before being slain, with Valeen Schnurr, who told Klebold she believed in God before being shot in the chest, arms and abdomen.

'Bowling for Columbine'

The tragedy spawned Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," which became the top-grossing documentary of all time in the United States in 2002. Moore and shooting victim Mark Taylor walked into a Kmart and demanded the store "take back" the multiple bullets left in the teen's body.

Taylor's parents told that their son had "never received a dime" from the movie. Today Taylor is mentally ill, living with his mother on food stamps in New Mexico.

The Harris and Klebold families have avoided the press for the last 10 years. Their homeowners' insurance paid out $1.6 million to 31 families of victims, according to Cullen.

Their side of the story will not be known until 2027, when their depositions to police are made public.

The survivors have also struggled with their version of the tragedy.

Brooks Brown, now 28, told that he had been ostracized by victims' families because he had once been friends with the killers. Brown's mother had reported to police months in advance of the shooting that Eric Harris was unstable and a threat to her family.

When Harris arrived in the Columbine parking lot ready for the suicide-rampage, he famously spared Brown's life.

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