While Columbine turned into what everyone would call a “school shooting,” it didn’t begin that way. It began as every Deadly Duo does: with a poisonous relationship.
As hard as this may be to believe, Klebold and Harris were not the same. Despite being lumped into the infamous “Trenchcoat Mafia” and being dubbed “outcasts” or “losers,” it was likely circumstance and proximity that actually brought the boys together – not pure similarity.
For starters, Dylan Klebold evidenced a much softer side. He was often described as “shy” and “gentle.” Very intelligent, Klebold was considered gifted as a child. He also participated in many activities including baseball, fantasy football, midnight bowling, and the school theatre productions as a techie. This eventually branched out to being behind the camera in AV club, where he routinely filmed people like Eric Harris.
But it was abundantly clear that Klebold himself was uncomfortable in the limelight. He wrote in his journal about how painful it felt to be ostracized, and he wrote (unsent) love letters to girls he liked at school. In short, Dylan Klebold felt rejected. He wanted desperately to be adored and admired by his classmates, or a girlfriend, but it wasn’t happening for him. So, the first time he mentioned firearms in his journals was in reference to shooting himself to end the misery.
Harris, on the other hand, was very comfortable being the center of attention…even if that attention was negative. Though he also participated in school activities, it was done on his own terms, and often contained a not-so-subtle rancor for his classmates. In fact, Harris was accused of leveling death threats at Brooks Brown via various websites and often annoyed or overstepped boundaries with others. Where Klebold wanted to be liked as a part of the group, Harris wanted to be worshipped as better than the group. So when Harris recognized the social failure in Klebold, he latched onto it and fed the fire of Klebold’s burgeoning anger in order to recruit a partner in the destruction he wished upon those who didn’t acknowledge his superiority. Harris simply wanted to punish, whereas Klebold could think of no other way to grapple with his pain, confusion, and rejection. Once Harris had his hooks in, Klebold likely saw no way to escape.
This isn’t to say that Klebold was an innocent victim – far from it. It’s merely to outline that the two boys were driven by very different forces.
Harris was a psychopath. He had little/no empathy, was narcissistic, and got an adrenaline rush from hurting others.
Klebold was an outcast teen with a lot of hurt, anger, impulsivity, and bad judgment.
When the two came together, Harris found a willing helper to carry out the violence he’d probably always envisioned. For his part, Klebold had found a person who he felt finally understood him. In this plot, Harris would get his revenge, and Klebold wouldn’t have to die alone.
Klebold: (softly, leaning over) “I can see my reflection in his blood…”
Harris: (still amped up)”There’s a lot of fucking cops. Come on, let’s go get a couple.”
Harris: “Come on, let’s go!”
Klebold: (definitively) “No. I’m done.”
These statements were uttered moments before both teenagers knelt down on the floor and shot themselves to death with their own weapons. It also clearly delineates the relationship that the two of them had. One was more disdainful and angry – the instigator until the end, going out in “a blaze of glory.” The other was the follower who’d finally had enough. Of course this resolve didn’t last long. Klebold waited a split second before pulling the trigger “on 3” as he glanced to see what Harris was doing – just to make sure.
It was a tragic end to a devolving and deadly friendship that had been spiraling toward a violent end for quite some time. It was also the most common Deadly Duo pairing: The Psychopath and The Dependent.