Dylan Klebold in Love
On April 20, 1999, two teenagers named Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris shot and killed twelve students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., and then turned their guns on themselves. Klebold and Harris also managed to wound 21 others. They had intended to kill hundreds more, but two propane bombs that they planted in the school cafeteria failed to detonate. Even so, it was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Earlier this month, local police released, in response to a lawsuit, 936 pages of writings and other documents seized as evidence from Klebold's and Harris' houses after the shooting. Amid this pile of mass-murderer juvenilia was a love letter from Klebold to a female classmate whose name the authorities have chosen to withold. Possibly she was Robyn Anderson, described in a Rocky Mountain News article as a "straight-A" student with whom Klebold, shortly before the shootings, had a relationship that was "wobbling along that murky territory between friendship and romance." The two attended the prom together. If Anderson was the intended recipient of Klebold's love letter, then we know his beloved eventually agreed to have some sort of relationship, and that her semi-romantic attentions failed to persuade Klebold to abandon his and Harris' deadly plan. If the letter was written for Anderson we further know that Klebold's beloved survived the massacre. If Anderson wasn't the person to whom Klebold addressed his billet doux, all bets on this last question are off.
We don't know whether Klebold ever summoned the nerve to deliver the love letter. We just know that, mixed in with the grotesque torments that impelled Klebold and Harris to slaughter their schoolmates, there dwelt (within Klebold, at least; experts now believe Harris was more clearly psychopathic) recognizably human torments more typical of the adolescent male. To some, this may make Klebold seem more sympathetic. To me, it makes the very notion of love, or at least teenage infatuation, seem much darker and creepier. This is not to say that I would recommend that school officials across the country mobilize en masse to expel all young swains who declare their love to unsuspecting schoolgirls. (The high schools would be emptied within a week.) Judging from the text of Klebold's letter, it shouldn't be as difficult as many suppose to spot the distinct warning signs that a young man is seriously deranged. Still, I'm not sure I'll ever think the same way about what it means to have a secret admirer.
To read the footnotes on the document below and on the following page, roll your mouse over the portions highlighted in yellow. To read all the Klebold and Harris documents released on July 6 by the Jefferson County sheriff--be warned, it's an enormous PDF file--click here.
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Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.