What most people know about the massacre is what they learned in the first few days after it occurred. The basic narrative of Columbine—the story that Americans absorbed—was based on fragmentary and incorrect information from the first hours after the shooting. The story was that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, a pair of lonely, outcast Goths, tore through the school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud between athletes and the Trenchcoat Mafia. After years of bullying, the pair finally snapped and turned on their tormenters with automatic weapons and pipe bombs. They arrived at the school with a hit list of victims, including despised minorities, Christians, and athletes. In fact, this tale was mostly a myth, as were other supposed "facts" about Columbine involving Marilyn Manson, the martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, and a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into New York City.
Here is the straight story on seven of the central myths:
1. Targeting jocks, blacks, and Christians: There were no targets. Harris and Klebold just wanted body count, and they didn't care who died. They expected their bombs to do most of the killing, murdering everyone in the cafeteria, irrespective of clique or social standing. When the bombs failed, they shot indiscriminately, firing into open crowds and under tables without bothering to see who their victims were. They taunted jocks briefly in the library, but they taunted virtually everyone else there, too.
2. The Trench Coat Mafia: A small group of Columbine students did dub themselves the Trenchcoat Mafia, and they did have a feud with a band of jocks in 1999. But it was never a formal gang or club, and most of the members graduated nearly a year before the massacre. Harris and Klebold were never closely affiliated with the group and did not appear in the 1998 yearbook picture identifying the members. The TCM had little to do with Harris and Klebold and nothing to do with the massacre. The killers wore long coats in order to hide their weapons.
3. The Hit List: Eric Harris did create an enemies list, with a wide and sometimes comical assortment of personalities—students who pissed him off, girls who refused his dates, Tiger Woods. There's no indication that these were ever intended as targets. No one on the list was killed.
4. Christian Martyr Cassie Bernall: One of the killers allegedly asked student Cassie Bernall if she believed in God, then killed her when she said yes. Bernall became a revered figure among evangelical Christians. In fact, one of the killers posed the question to another girl, Valeen Schnurr, after she had already been shot. They had a short exchange, he reloaded, got distracted, and she crawled away to safety.
5. Marilyn Manson: Klebold and Harris hated Marilyn Manson. On his Web site, Harris said he loved, "Good, fast, hard, strong, pounding TECHNO!! Such as KMFDM, PRODIGY, ORBITAL, RAMMSTEIN, and such."
6. Escape to New York: Harris' journal does contain a passage about hijacking a plane and crashing it into New York City, but that appears to have been an early fantasy. He settled on a more practical scheme long before he and Klebold actually staged their massacre. By the time of the attack, they fully expected to die at the high school. They refer to their death routinely and explicitly in their writings and in their videos.
7. Outcasts: Perhaps the most pervasive myth is that Harris and Klebold were rejected outcasts. They were not captains of the football team, but they were far more accepted than many of their schoolmates. They hung out with a tight circle of close friends and partied regularly on the weekend with a wider crowd.
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