We All Have Known a School Shooter
The chilling realization that we all have played a part in this nightmare and anyone of us could be next
I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade on April 20th, 1999.
I was one of the last generations to know what it was like to go to school without having to worry about being shot. That changed when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris showed up at their high school in Littleton, Colorado, and killed 13 people and wounded over 20 others.
Columbine changed school for me and every student in every class after mine.
I’d never experienced a major death in my young life up until that point. I remember watching my mom cry on the phone when I was 7 years old when she got the call that her favorite aunt had passed. My great-aunt was my Godmother, but I didn’t really know her. Her funeral was strange for me. I understood why everyone was sad, but it didn’t affect me the same way because, well, I didn’t really know her.
Things were different on April 20th, 1999, though.
I was much older and though probably not wiser, I understood what death meant. It was final. Forever.
While I didn’t know the 12 students and the teacher that died that day, it felt close. Students across America felt the pain of the friends, family, and community left behind after Klebold and Harris did what they did.
It would take me another 20 years to realize why I was so deeply affected by the events at Columbine High School. More school shootings would occur during that time, including Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary, and Stoneman Douglas High School. So many more lives were lost, including children my own children’s ages. With each newsbreak, my heart would drop and that pit deep in my stomach would activate — the same way it did after Columbine. After so much reflection, research, and wondering about how things like this could continue to happen from my childhood to those of my own kids, I finally realized something.
Every single one of us has known an Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold.
We’ve all known a loner. We’ve all known a kid that got expelled maybe too many times to count. We’ve all been around a kid that had little to no friends. Every single one of us went to elementary, middle school, or high school with one of these kids. Or maybe, some of us were that kid.
While most of them wouldn’t go on to kill people, many share characteristics eerily similar to each other.
In the wake of the Robb Elementary School shootings on May 24th, 2022, people are looking for answers, yet again calling for more gun control and a bigger focus on mental health treatment in our country. While we are all entitled to our opinions and I can’t say that I don’t agree with all three things, I can’t help but wonder if the root of this neverending nightmare is right in front of our eyes?
The alleged gunman at Robb Elementary School, Salvador Ramos, was 18 years old. He had very few friends. Those that he was friends with were scared of him. One of his friends, Nathan Romo, told ABC News, “I used to be his friend, and I told him I was going to stop being his friend because he was being weird with not only me but with a lot of other people.”
He had a history of missing school, making threats against fellow students, and even animal abuse.
Ramos, like so many other perpetrators of school shootings, was like the kids I mentioned earlier. Sure, maybe a little bit more on the extreme end, but the fact is, we all can think back and remember someone like Ramos at our high school, stories from a friend that went to another school or maybe we were even related to them.
Children are not born evil.
Read the case studies, the many books that have been written on the subject, or listen to testimony from survivors of these horrendous acts of terror, but before you do, stop and think to yourself…
How did that individual end up there?
Children are not inherently evil. Sometimes they are products of their environment, with parents that raise them in some kind of soulless manner that leaves them thinking that this how the world is. Sometimes, they are bullied for being different, whether they are nerdy or a tiny bit goth, even in this day and age, being different still is not necessarily celebrated in the halls of America’s high schools.
So many factors contribute to the formation of the profile of a school shooter. Mental health, upbringing, abuse, lack of parental supervision, exposure to violent video games, access to firearms, lack of discipline — you name it and it’s been brought up by the so-called experts. While some of these things are certainly contributing factors, the one enduring truth is that all of these killers were somebody’s brother, son, friend, student, and classmate. They went to school somewhere. They had a hometown. They had teachers that knew them well over the years. They had a community that watched them grow up and become the person they turned out to be.
Yet, they continue to fall through the cracks. The Salvador Ramos’, Adam Lanzas and Nikolas Cruzs of the world continue to kill our children, our mothers, our fathers, our teachers and our classmates.
These types of monsters are not made overnight. The culmination of the type of violence they displayed is a million little series of events in their lives that lead to days like April 20th, 1999, December 14th, 2012, February 14th, 2018, and May 24h, 2022. And so many others.
Stand back a moment and ask yourself…who do you know that “fits the bill” or makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up just a little bit when they pass by? Have you contributed to their state of mind? What have you done to get that person help before it’s too late?
We all have known a Salvador Ramos. Every single one of us. Yet, we say nothing. We do nothing. And next time, well, it could be any one of us.
Eric Harris once lived in my hometown. He once wandered the halls of a school I used to work. We probably had one or two people separating us from knowing each other before he moved to Colorado in 1991. When I say it could be any one of us, I say this here to prove how dangerously close to this every American truly is.
© Britt LeBoeuf, 2022. All rights reserved.
*The thoughts and opinions displayed here are mine and mine alone. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As Americans, we are all affected by these events. It is only in the discussion as to why this keeps happening that we can stop it from occurring yet again. My deepest condolences go out to the victims, families, schools and communities of America’s mass school shootings.