Columbine High School Massacre | Part Four: The Victims, The Aftermath And Final Thoughts

(Continued from Part Three

After the school had been thoroughly searched for any remaining explosives which carried on into the next day (21st of April) the official number of victims was announced to the public, 13 of the victims and the bodies of Dylan and Eric had remained in the school for quite some time. At the time none of the victims had been formally identified. The authorities began removing the victims bodies out of the school that afternoon and into the evening, by 5pm the identities of all who were killed were being known.

When Eric and Dylan's bodies were removed that evening a blizzard that came out of nowhere started. The day up until that point had been warm and sunny.

On the 22nd of April officials announced that they found another propane bomb in the school's kitchen.

From the 22nd of April onwards, funerals for the victims began to take place. An official memorial was held in which 70,000 people attended.

On the 30th of April 1999. Officials at Jefferson County and the sheriff's office had a meeting to decide whether they should release that they had prior knowledge of Eric's hit list, pipebombs, threatening behaviour towards the Brown family and his websites. They chose to keep this information from the public and never spoke of it during their press conference or at any other time.

15 wooden (6' tall) crosses had been put up in tribute to the people who lost their lives at the school by a carpenter named Greg Zanis in Clement Park on Rebel Hill. There was a lot of controversy because of the two crosses that were in tribute to the killers. A father of one of the victims removed the 2 crosses which many deemed disrespectful.

On May the 22nd a student memorial was held at Red Rocks Amphitheatre and the next day the students returned to school, they attended Chatfield High School in the afternoons whilst Columbine High School was closed to the public.

On the same day that some of the students had returned to school, a 22 year old man named Mark E Manes handed himself into the police and admitted that he had sold the TEC-DC9 to Eric and Dylan. Four months after the shooting, Mark was sentenced to 6 years in prison. He was released after 19 months to a halfway house. He was released in 2002 under electric monitor and denied parole 3 times.

May the 22nd was also the day that Lauren Townsend and Isaiah Shoels were due to graduate. Survivors Valeen Schnurr, Lisa Kruetz and Jeanna Park all received their diplomas.

On May the 27th the family of Isaiah Shoels filed a wrongful death suit against the Harris and Klebold family.

Students were allowed to return to Columbine High School on the 1st of June to collect any belongings they may have left behind during the shooting. The next day, Dylan Klebold's family sent letters to the families of all the victims.

On the 3rd of June renovations began on Columbine High School so that classes could resume in August. Most of the work was done by volunteers. The next day, Robyn Anderson, who was a friend of Dylans and attended prom with him, admitted to the police that she bought the two shotguns and the 9mm carbine from a Denver gun show in November 1998 which she gave to Eric and Dylan. Robyn claimed that she had no idea what the boys planned to do with the guns. No charges were brought against her.

Authorities announced that their investigations of the CCTV footage found that Eric and Dylan were the only ones who carried out the attack. There was no other people involved.

Charges were filed against 22 year old Philip Joseph Duran on the 17th of June for providing a handgun to Dylan and Eric. Philip worked with the boys at Blackjack pizza. Philip later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 4 and a half years in 2000. He was paroled after 3 and a half years.

On July the 20th, students and their families returned to Columbine to decorate memorial tiles.

Four months after the massacre, Columbine High School opened on the 16th of August. The building had been remodelled. 2000 students had turned up to the school and a line of parents and teachers (shielding the students from the media) stood along the sidewalk as the students walked into the building. There was a ''Take Back The School Rally'' before the classes began. After the rally, the American flag which had been at half mast since the shooting was raised and the school was officially announced open.

After the Columbine massacre various lawsuits were filed by the families of the victims against the school, the police and the gunmen's families.

The New Library & Cafeteria Remodelled: 

The school library was originally going to be kept the same but repainted with new furniture. The parents of the victims and local community were outraged by this and insisted that the library be demolished. Eventually the library was demolished, rebuilt with completely new furniture and facilities and was built to one side of Columbine's main building, thanks to hardwork and money raised by HOPE (an organisation formed by families of people who were injured or killed at Columbine).

The library was originally on the second floor above the cafeteria, work crews removed the floor in that section and replaced it with an airy atrium, sky lights and screen murals which completely changed the look of the cafeteria.


The Columbine Memorial:


The Columbine Memorial opened to the public on the 21st of September 2007. There is a Ring Of Healing which has messages on the inside wall to honour and remember those that lost their lives on the 20th of April 1999. You can find out more about the memorial here.



The Victims:


John Tomlin - John Robert Tomlin was born on the 16th of September 1982. He was a native of Wisconsin, his family and friends remember him being a person who had bags of energy and a warm smile.


John wasn't afraid of hard work, after being at school all day he would work at a local nursery. He was very sociable, always busy and was a member of a church youth group where he met his girlfriend of 7 months. John was a big fan of Chevrolet trucks and enjoyed spending time at church.

He had recently got his drivers licence and had bought an old Chevy truck that he'd been working and saving up for since he was 14.

John was just 16 years old when he was killed at Columbine. His truck which was still parked in the parking lot of the school, became a memorial with tributes and flowers left by friends, family and members of the public.

Witnesses say that John spent his lunch breaks in the library regularly and on the day of the shooting he welcomed a girl he didn't know into his hiding place. He held her hand to try and keep her calm.

John's father described him as the perfect son, always a hard worker and going that extra mile to help. He was the sort of person that if you asked him to wash a car, he would wash two cars.

The Thursday following the shootings, his family gathered around his truck (even though the rain was coming down hard) to pay tribute to him. His bible was still sitting on the dashboard where he always left it in the hope that someone would see something there that would bring them closer to God.

On the 23rd of April 1999, John was buried in his hometown of Waterford, Wisconsin in Saint Peter's cemetery. His funeral was held at Foothills Bible Church where he regularly attended.

John was buried in a satin-lined coffin which was embroidered with Chevy trucks.


Rachel Scott - Rachel Joy Scott was born on the 5th of August 1981 and was described by her family and friends as beautiful, kind, vibrant and straight forward. Rachel was a proud Christian and wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed in.

She had dreams of becoming an actress and a writer. She played the lead in a student written school play and was in the middle of writing a play for her senior year.

Rachel was a spiritual person who often wrote to God in her diaries, she wrote about wanting to reach the unreached.

Rachel loved photography and was very active in the Celebration Christian Fellowship church. Her father said she was ''made for the camera''. Her mother also said ''There's nothing I can add or take away from what she gave us, in those 17 years, it was complete''.

She had always been close to her brother Craig (who had been in the library during the shooting and miraculously survived uninjured despite being next to his friends Isaiah Shoels and Matt Kechter who were shot and killed) and her family.

She quit smoking at the request of a friend who later took her to the prom. If she hadn't have quit, its quite possible she would have been at the Smokers Pit instead of the line of fire that day. Before she was killed, Rachel had been sitting on the grass outside eating lunch with her friend Richard.

Dylan Klebold had known Rachel since Kindergarten and he'd been the sound technician for the talent show she performed in.

Like John Tomlin, Rachel's car became a memorial in the parking lot, full of flowers and tributes. People would gather around her car (like people did with John's truck) and pay tribute to her.

In 1998 Rachel drew a collage of images that included a rose growing out of a Columbine (flower that the school was named after) with several dark drops spiralling it. On the morning of the shootings, she doodled a reprise of the picture that featured a pair of eyes crying, 13 teardrops onto the same rose (the same number of victims the shooters would kill that day).

Several books and movies have been made about Rachel. Some are based on the journals that she left behind. Her family often travel around the world talking to younger people whilst paying tribute to Rachel and sharing her life to help inspire others.

On the 24th of April 1999, Rachel's funeral took place and was broadcast live on CNN. At that point it had become the most watched event in CNN's history.

Rachel was buried at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in the Columbine Memorial Garden in Littleton, Colorado. Rachel's family and friends wrote messages on her coffin. She was just 17 when she was killed.


Kelly Fleming - Kelly Ann Fleming was born on the 6th of January 1983, her family had moved to Littleton from Phoenix, Arizona 18 months before the shooting. Her father Don said that they scoured the area looking for a good neighbourhood where their daughters would be safe.

Kelly was described as shy, creative and loved all things related to Halloween and Vampires. She was an aspiring songwriter and author who wrote many poems and short stories based on her own life experiences.

She had been in the middle of writing her own autobiography on her home computer, she started at the very beginning of her life when her mother's water broke and had gotten as far as her fifth year.

Kelly liked to go to the library at Columbine to work on her stories and poems. The stories that she wrote always had a happy ending. She often entered writing competitions too.

She was also learning to drive and wanted to get a job in a daycare centre. She was saving money up to buy one of her dream cars, she loved mustangs and corvettes. She longed to be able to drive so that she could take road trips to Phoenix and other places.

Kelly's funeral was held at St Frances Cabrini Catholic church, the same time as Daniel Mauser's on the 25th of April 1999.

Kelly was buried with two teddy bears in her arms. Her grave is located at Mount Olivet cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Kelly was just 16 when she was killed.


Daniel Mauser - Daniel Conner Mauser was born on the 25th of June 1983. He loved swimming and hiking and his father hoped in the summer of 1999 to take him on his first mountain hike.

He was a sophomore and excelled in Maths and Science. Daniel got straight 'A's on his last report card and volunteered at a hospital. His dad described him as a smart young man who wasn't afraid of challenges. Daniel was shy but that didn't stop him from joining the debate team and although he wasn't a natural athlete, he still joined the cross-country team.

Daniel was described by family and friends as a lovable person who wasn't afraid to hug his parents. He was a gentle soul who was close with his sister and loved things like pepperoni pizza, playing video games, The Simpsons and The X-Files. He also liked challenging things like trivia, puzzles and knowledge games.

He loved skiing and camping and had recently returned from a two week trip to Paris with the French club.

Daniel was preparing for confirmation in the Catholic church (he was confirmed two weeks after his death).

Daniel won the ''Stretch For Excellence'' award for being named top biology student of the sophomore class at Columbine High School, sadly he died before he could learn that he'd been selected for the honour.

He was also posthumously accepted for membership into The National Honor Society in September of 1999. He applied for membership weeks before the shootings.

Daniel was concerned about gun safety in America, his father Tom is an activist against the NRA and continues to campaign.

Not long after the shootings Daniel's family along with other parents of victims and survivors created the H.O.P.E organisation and worked together to have the new library at the school built.

Daniel's funeral took place on the 25th of April 1999 (the same time as Kelly Fleming's funeral) at St Frances Cabrini Catholic church. He is buried at Mount Olivet cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Daniel was just 15 when he was killed.

Cassie Bernall - Cassie Renee Bernall was born on the 6th of November 1981. Her parents nicknamed her ''Bunny Rabbit''. She loved rock climbing, her favourite movie was Braveheart and she had just recently visited Great Britain.

Cassie was a born again Christian who was very active in church youth programs and bible study groups.

During the initial reports of what happened at Columbine, there was a lot of confusion with some of the witnesses reporting that they had seen one of the shooters ask if she had believed in God to which she replied yes and was killed. No such conversation between Cassie and the shooters took place. Valeen Schnurr was the girl that was asked if she had believed in God.

Cassie's funeral took place on the 26th of April 1999. She was buried in a white coffin which was covered in messages and tributes from loved ones and friends.

She was buried in Golden Cemetery, Colorado. Cassie was only 17 when she was killed.


Dave Sanders - William Dave Sanders was born on the 22nd of October 1951 and was seen as a real hero the day of the Columbine Massacre. Dave was a computer and business teacher who also coached the girl's basketball and softball teams. He had worked at Columbine for 25 years and was popular with both colleagues and students.

Students at Columbine described Dave as a teacher, a friend, a mentor and an inspiration.

On the 20th of April when the gunmen started firing outside the school, Dave ran to the cafeteria and sounded the alarm. He along with two of the school's janitors, helped get more than 100 students out of the path of danger by herding them away from the shooters. He saved untold numbers of lives that day.

Dave posthumously received The Arthur Ashe Award For Courage. A scholarship and the Columbine softball field was also named after him.

Dave's daughter Angela said at his funeral ''What you did in that school on Tuesday was an amazing act of heroism, even after you were hurt you continued to be the brave, selfless man we all know you are''.

Dave was shot and hid in a classroom with some students who tried to administer first aid to him as they waited for help to arrive. A student in the classroom placed a sign in the window ''1 Bleeding To Death'' as an attempt to get help. Help didn't come till 3 hours later, Dave sadly passed away and his last words were said to be ''Tell my family I love them''.

Dave leaves behind his wife, four children, five grandchildren and an amazing legacy.

Dave's funeral took place on the 26th of April 1999 and he is buried in Littleton's Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens. Dave was just 47 when he was killed.


Lauren Townsend - Lauren Dawn Townsend (nicknamed ''Lu Lu'') was born on the 17 of January 1981. She was a senior and a captain of the girl's varsity volleyball team which her mother coached.

Lauren was described as a talented sketch artist who was a straight 'A' student who never got a 'B'.

She was also a member of The National Honor Society and was a candidate for valedictorian of her graduating class.

She volunteered at a local animal shelter and planned to major in biology at Colorado State University when she graduated at Columbine.

Lauren was in the library with her friends during the shooting. like everyone else, she hid under the tables and found herself next to Valeen Schnurr, who was frightened. Lauren put her arm around Valeen and told her that everything was going to be ok.

Lauren would have graduated on the 22nd of May 1999.

Lauren's funeral took place on the 26th of April 1999 at Foothills Bible church. Many of her teachers spoke at her funeral, commenting on her gentle nature, loving spirit and academic excellence. She had a white coffin which family and friends left messages on and she was laid to rest in Littleton cemetery, Colorado.

Lauren was just 18 years old when she was killed.


Kyle Velasaquez - Kyle Albert Velasquez was born on the 5th of May 1982 and was described as a gentle giant who was shy, affectionate and sincere. He loved computers and had only been attending Columbine High School for 3 months.

Kyle had a suffered a stroke when he was a baby that left him mentally disabled and he had severe asthma.

He would regularly be at home for his lunch but in the past few weeks he felt confident to stay at the school for lunch. His family say that he was beginning to come out of his shell.

He enjoyed doing family activities and helping out around the house. Everyday he would kiss his mum on the cheek and tell her that he loved her.

Kyle suffered a lot of bullying growing up so he knew what it felt like to be the odd one out.

Kyle dreamt of joining the Navy like his dad or becoming a firefighter.

His last words to his mum were ''I love you mom''.

Kyle's funeral took place on the 27th of April 1999 and he was buried with military honors in Fort Logan National cemetery in Denver, Colorado since his father was a Navy veteran. His parents were given the flags from his coffin and the one that was flown at half mast in Kyle's honor at the state capital.

Kyle was only 16 when he was killed.

Matt Kechter - Matthew Joseph Kechter was born on the 19th of February 1983. Family and friends remember him as always upbeat, happy and never in a bad mood. Matt had an infectious laugh and the ability to cheer people up when they were feeling down.

Matt was a sophomore who was a member of the football team. He was a grade 'A' student who was always in the library and put academics first. He was always getting good grades in school but he never bragged about it and he planned to go to the University of Colorado in the future. 

''He was a wonderful role model for his younger brother'', his parents read out in a statement at his funeral. They said that Matt and his brother had a really close bond. ''In Matt's heart there was always enough room for everyone to be victorious'', his parents said. 

In September of 1999 Matt was posthumously accepted into The National Honor Society. 

Matt was buried in Mount Olivet cemetery in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Sadly a close friend of Matt's (Greg Barnes) committed suicide shortly following the first anniversary of the shootings at Columbine. 

Matt was only 16 years old when he was killed.

Isaiah Shoels - Isaiah Eamon Shoels was born on the 4th of August 1980. Isaiah was popular and well liked by fellow students and teachers at Columbine. On school projects all of the students wanted to work with Isaiah.

Isaiah was born with a heart defect but he was a fighter who overcame his disability and went onto play football and wrestle. He loved playing the keyboard. 

His friends nicknamed him ''Bushwick'', he dreamt of becoming a comedian and also a record producer like his father. 

Isaiah was due to graduate on the 22nd of May 1999 and had plans to attend The Denver Institute Of The Arts. 

He was the last of the Columbine victims to be buried. His funeral took place on the 29th of April 1999 and he was buried in Fairmount Cemetery, Denver, Colorado. Martin Luther King III (son of Martin Luther King Jr) spoke at his funeral at the Heritage of Christian centre. 

Isaiah was only 18 years old when he was killed.


Daniel Rohrbough - Daniel Lee Rohrbough was born on the 2nd of March 1984 and loved playing computer games and electronics. He was looking forward to getting his driver's permit and people described him as a fun guy and a hard worker who helped out at his father's stereo business everyday after school. He also worked on his Grandfather's farm harvesting wheat as he had done since he was 3 years old.

Daniel's father (Brian) was the person who removed the two memorial crosses dedicated to Eric and Dylan. Brian said at the time ''I don't think any thinking person in this country is going to disagree with me, we never ever honor a murderer in the same place as the memorial for his victims''. 

Daniel laid for nearly 2 days on the sidewalk outside of the school before paramedics were allowed to move him. His family were kept in the dark about what had happened to their son. His family only found out what happened with Daniel when pictures of him were all over the newspapers. 

His funeral was held at the Grace Presbyterian church and he was buried in Littleton Cemetery in Littleton, Colorado.

Daniel was only 15 when he was killed.


Steve Curnow - Steven Robert Curnow was born on the 28th of August 1984 and was the youngest of the Columbine victims. He loved soccer and worked part time as a referee. He was very close with his parents and dreamt of becoming a navy top gun pilot.

His favourite colour was green because it was the colour of the field. His favourite classes were Spanish, technology and gym because he got to play sports.

Steve was a huge fan of Star Wars (after his death, Sci-Fi fans nationwide put together a go-to Star Wars memorial day in his honour when The Phantom Menace premiered in theatres in May 1999. Steve was really looking forward to this movie).

Steve's funeral took place at Trinity Christian Centre, members of his soccer team attended his funeral. He was buried in Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado.

Steve was just 14 when he was killed.


Corey DePooter - Corey Tyler DePooter was born on the 3rd of March 1982 and was a former wrestler who enjoyed hiking, inline skating, wrestling and golf. He was described as an all American kid who put schoolwork before anything else. When he had his wisdom teeth removed he was upset that he had to miss school.

Family and friends remember him as someone who always lifted your spirits and was fun to be around. 

Soon after his death, his grandmother contacted the Marine Corps about holding some sort of ceremony for Corey because he'd always wanted to become a Marine. On the 3rd of May 2000, Corey was granted that dream during a ceremony at his gravesite in Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens in Littleton, Colorado where he was made an Honorary Marine. 

Corey was only 17 years old when he was killed.



Final Thoughts:


It's been quite emotional looking back over the Columbine Massacre. It may have been 20 years ago but to a lot of people especially the families of victims and survivors, it seems like yesterday.

I spent a lot of time researching, there was things that I already knew, things that I wasn't sure about and things that I had only just found out. With these posts, I started from scratch and looked at the evidence, the witness statements, the official timeline of events. I had to be careful not to think back to the original reports where the media made mistakes. 

I may have not have been able to include every tiny little detail in these posts but I think that I've done a good job with what I have included. It was important for me to talk a little bit about who the victims were and that was really hard for me. The sadness at all of these kids who's lives were taken and each one of them was special in their own way. 

I was around about the same age as these kids when this happened and now I'm at an age where I look at them in almost a parental role. They would be around my age now, probably married with children, who knows? They all deserved to have the chance to grow up and work towards their dreams and discover new ones.

When I look back at myself as a 15 year old who was depressed and had all sorts of issues thinking that Eric and Dylan were like me, I realise how that was just a desperate attempt to make myself feel less alone. I was nothing like these people, even at 15 years old. No matter how desperately depressed I was, I could never kill innocent children and laugh and bully them as they did.

I've read a lot of accounts from people who have said that Eric and Dylan bullied younger kids at Columbine and I believe that to be true. I believe that people bullied them too. There was a level of bullying at that school and certain teachers turned a blind eye to it like they did with all the red flags that were as clear as day about Eric and Dylan.

I look back at the Hitmen For Hire tape and the violent essay that Dylan had written amongst other things and I wonder, was that a cry for help? (were they looking for attention, someone to stop them?) or were they just mocking everyone? putting it all out there in plain sight. We'll never know.

Some people who knew them weren't surprised with what they did, others were in shock. Dylan and Eric managed to keep their plans a secret for a year, they collected weapons, built pipe bombs, drew up plans etc. This wasn't a bullied kid who just freaked out with a gun, they manipulated people. They let certain people go that day, they targeted people and made eye contact with them whilst shooting them. They were smiling and enjoying themselves. 

I've seen so many fan sites and videos dedicated to these people and at first I thought it was just misguided kids who didn't know the full facts but I think that they just cut out the bits they don't want to know. A lot of these fans were babies when Columbine happened. There's no excuse for not knowing the full facts, it's all there if they take the time to read it. 

I didn't include everything that was said in the library or at other points by Eric and Dylan because I knew that it would be too distressing. I read a lot of what they said and it made my blood run cold. I was really affected by what they did to Isaiah Shoels, as I was with everyone who was killed, but what they said and did to Isaiah really haunted me. 

I hope that you have found these posts informative and if you have any comments please feel free to leave them below or contact me on twitter.


My heart goes out to all of the victims, the survivors and their families x 




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2 comments:

  1. I loved this post. I was much younger when the shooting happened, I was in 4th grade, but I vaguely remember hearing about a shooting. Years later, when I was in high school, I found out more about Columbine. I became fascinated with Rachel and Cassie's stories (I had their books): I wanted to bad to be like Rachel and spread kindness and love about Christ the way she did, but I wasn't as cool or popular as her: I was the one bullied like Eric and Dylan was and my friend group was exactly like them too, and I was eventually ostracized by them because of stupid teen drama (and the fact that I was a Christian even though I never forced or shared my beliefs on them)...I would never ever do such a thing to take innocent lives. Rachel is a big inspiration for my faith. Thank you for this post!

    Hannah the Mad Dog

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting Hannah. I can relate to you, I try to spread as much kindness as I can now and I'm a firm believer in God. Hope you have a wonderful Easter x

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