April 20, 1999
Two teenaged males commit an act of terrorism at their school, resulting in 15 deaths and 24 injuries
The boys’ motive is unclear, but journal entries left behind suggested they wanted to rival the Oklahoma City bombing from a few years prior. (The Columbine massacre took place the day after the Oklahoma City bombing’s 4 year anniversary.) Though some have suggested the attack was due to bullying, there is very little evidence for this claim as both students were fairly well-liked. Some, including the FBI’s lead Columbine investigator and psychologist Supervisory Special Agent Dwayne Fuselier, theorize the boys were trying to become infamous.
The original plan involved the boys leaving two propane bombs in the cafeteria, detonating them at lunch for maximum effect, to shoot the survivors as they fled, and to detonate bombs left in their cars as emergency personnel arrived to kill or injure them as well.
The bombs they set failed, but had they succeeded the nearly 500 students in the cafeteria would have been killed or seriously wounded. It is also speculated the blast could have brought severe structural damage to the building, with some believing the cafeteria ceiling would have given way and the library above would have collapsed as well.
When the bomb failed to detonate, the two threw a malfunctioning pipe bomb into the cafeteria before entering, then began indiscriminately firing upon the students assembled. Ten students and two teachers were shot or injured by shrapnel or glass in the cafeteria. The boys then made their way to the library.
One pervasive myth about the shooting involved one of the female victims in the library named Cassie Bernall who, according to legend, asked God for help as she was dying. When asked by a shooter if she believed in God, she replied in the affirmative and was “killed for her faith.” However, Cassie was killed as a gunman knelt to find her in her hiding place, said “peek-a-boo” and shot her in the head, killing her instantly. Cassie’s friend Emily Wyant was next to Cassie when she was murdered and has stated the legend of Cassie’s death due to her faith is untrue. Regardless, Cassie’s mother Misty wrote a book entitled She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, published in October of 1999.
It is theorized the boys discussed suicide, though this wasn’t heard by any survivors. A hidden witness did hear them say “one, two, three,” however, before two gun shots. One of the boys had shot himself in the temple with a handgun while the other shot the roof of his mouth with a shotgun.
At the end of the attack, 15 were dead including the perpetrators and a teacher, and 24 suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Note: because it’s likely the murderers killed and attempted to kill for fame or infamy, their names have not been used.