Yet no matter how hard I wanted to believe that he wasn't, I couldn't dismiss the possibility. My husband had noticed something tight in Dylan's voice earlier that week; I had heard it myself just that morning. I knew that Dylan disliked his school. And that he'd spent much of the past few days with Eric Harris—who hadn't been to our house for months but who'd suddenly stayed over one night that weekend. If Eric was missing now, too, then I couldn't deny that the two of them might be involved in something bad together. More than a year earlier, they had broken into a van parked on a country road near our house. They'd been arrested and had completed a juvenile diversion program that involved counseling, community service, and classes. Their theft had shown that under each other's influence they could be impulsive and unscrupulous. Could they also—no matter how unbelievable it seemed—be violent?
When I got home my husband told me the police were on their way. I had so much adrenaline in my system that even as I was changing out of my work clothes, I was racing from room to room. I felt such an urgency to be ready for whatever might happen next. I called my sister. As I told her what was going on, I was overcome by horror, and I started to cry. Moments after I hung up the phone, my 20-year-old son walked in and lifted me like a rag doll in his arms while I sobbed into a dish towel. Then my husband shouted from the front hallway, "They're here!"
Members of a SWAT team in dark uniforms with bulletproof vests had arrived. I thought they were coming to help us or to get our assistance in helping Dylan; if Dylan did have a gun, maybe they were hoping we could persuade him to put it down. But it seemed that in the SWAT team's eyes, we were suspects ourselves. Years later I would learn that many of their actions that day were intended to protect us; fearing that we would hurt ourselves or that our home might have been rigged with explosives, they told us we had to leave the house. For the rest of the afternoon, we stayed outside, sitting on the sidewalk or pacing up and down our brick walk. When we needed to use the bathroom, two armed guards escorted us inside and waited by the door.
I do not remember how or when, but sometime that day it was confirmed that Dylan and Eric were indeed perpetrators in a massacre at the school. I was in shock and barely grasped what was happening, but I could hear the television through the open windows. News coverage announced a growing tally of victims. Helicopters began circling overhead to capture a killer's family on film. Cars lined the road and onlookers gawked to get a better view.
Though others were suffering, my thoughts focused on the safety of my own child. With every moment that passed, the likelihood of seeing Dylan as I knew him diminished. I asked the police over and over, "What's happening? Where's Dylan? Is he okay?" Late in the afternoon someone finally told me that he was dead but not how he died. We were told to evacuate for a few days so authorities could search our home; we found shelter in the basement of a family member's house. After a sleepless night, I learned that Dylan and Eric had killed 12 students and one teacher, and injured 24 others, before taking their own lives.
We Hear You!