The Shackles of Freedom
Part of the poster “Harry Handcuff Houdini: the jail breaker”, 1900–1904, St. Paul's Printing Co., Billy Rose Theatre Division/The New York Public Library

The Shackles of Freedom

On the Unbearable Burden of Choice
Paweł Franczak
time 9 minutes

On that day, at 11.10am, Eric parked his grey Honda outside the school. The first person he encountered was his friend Brooks, who had just gone on lunch break. “Hey, how come you weren’t there for the Chinese philosophy test this morning?” he asked Eric, finishing his cigarette. “It doesn’t matter anymore.” Eric waved, then stopped for a moment and glanced at his friend: “I like you. Get out of here. Go home,” he said, then walked off towards the school. Something in his friend’s voice and the way he looked at him made Brooks heed his advice.

At 11.14am, Dylan Klebold, Eric’s best friend, joined him in front of the canteen. They were both wearing black coats; Dylan, 17 years old, had an Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic pistol hidden under his coat, and 18-year-old Eric had a 9mm Hi-Point Carbine rifle under his. Additional shotguns, spare ammunition and hand-made bombs had been packed into backpacks and sports bags.

It was a sunny April day in Littleton, Colorado; not quite noon.

At 11.18am, Eric and Dylan glanced at each other in silence. They nodded: “Now!” Eric undid his coat, the weapon glistening underneath. At 11.19am, they fired their first shots in the direction of two random students who were eating their lunch on the grass. For the next 49 minutes, the boys lived out their dream, killing 13 and injuring 24 high school students, shooting police officers and teachers, detonating explosives and concluding the drama with a double suicide.

America shook with fear and outrage. This was the Columbine shooting of 1999, which at the time was one of the bloodiest in the history of the US.


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