LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — On April 20, 1999, two teenage boys dressed in black trench coats went on a killing rampage at Columbine High School in suburban Denver. They shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher and wounded two dozen others before taking their own lives.
Twenty years later, The Associated Press is republishing this story about the attack, the product of reporting from more than a dozen AP journalists who conducted interviews in the hours after it happened. The article first appeared on April 22, 1999.
A moment of surprise, then hours of terror.
LITTLETON, Colo. — Her favorite lunchtime meal was ready — “my only meal,” jokes Sarah DeBoer. So, nachos in hand, she headed toward the commons area of the Columbine High School cafeteria.
It was a sunny Tuesday morning, maybe 60 degrees, only 17 school days before graduation, and a spring mentality was afoot — the kind that says summer is on the horizon.
Outside, two disaffected young men knew something their classmates didn’t. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris had endgame in mind.
Ms. DeBoer, who knew the pair in passing, had talked to them Friday. True, they liked to bluster about guns and vengeance and Adolf Hitler. But they seemed — for them, at least — fine.
Upstairs in the school library, four dozen students were studying their way through the lunch period.
Down the hall, Dave Sanders, a popular instructor and coach, was teaching a science class. Nearby, Stephanie Williams, 16, a junior, was in the choir room singing.
Then, at about 11:15 a.m., a sound from outside: pop-pop-pop-BANG.
In the cafeteria, they thought it was a lunchtime prank. Whatever it was, it was getting closer.
Sarah DeBoer, a 16-year-old sophomore, hit the floor with her lunch companions. As realization washed over her, she uttered one thing. Whether it was aloud or just to herself, she doesn’t quite remember.
“I think that I’m going to die.”
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