Portrait of two teens reveals a lot of gray
The more that's known of Harris and Klebold, the harder it is to fathomthe act
In the Columbine High School senior class photo, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold appear in the upper left-hand corner, on the very edge of the student body.Skip to next paragraph
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It seems a fitting spot for the boys who late last month gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves.
Early reports painted the two as misfits, members of a campus Trenchcoat Mafia, dark and brooding. Now, 14 days after the deadliest school shooting in US history, the portrait that has emerged is fuller - including participation in all-American activities such as Little League and Boy Scouts - but it is no less confounding.
Perhaps most puzzling is the degree to which the boys were able to maintain a faade of normalcy - holding down jobs at a local pizza shop, attending classes - all the while covertly obtaining guns, building pipe bombs, and plotting mass murder.
At the very least, this tragedy in suburban Denver may indicate how closely parents need to watch for signs of trouble in their teenagers.
"Teenagers are fantastic at hiding things from their parents," said Edgar Berg, a geophysicist who once worked with Dylan's father, Tom Klebold. "The more I talk with people who know Tom, the more baffling it becomes." He adds: "This is not a negligent parent."
By most accounts, Eric and Dylan had become disconnected from their fellow students - and many of their classmates noticed it. In earlier times, Dylan played baseball, and according to published reports, he was a pitcher who threw the ball as hard as anyone else, and hated to lose.
Eric had played soccer, left forward and mid-field, says Columbine senior and former soccer teammate Josh Swanson. He was not a star, but he was solid, and Josh recalls seeing Eric's parents standing on the sidelines during games.
But all this changed, and athletes became a nemesis for the two. Josh first noticed the change in Eric during junior year. Eric started wearing all black and T-shirts with German writing - although fellow students said his fascination with things German dated back to freshman language classes.
That's also when Eric began hanging out with the school's so-called Trenchcoat Mafia, a clique known for the black trench coats members wore no matter the weather. According to various reports, members listen to dark, industrial music by singers such as KMFDM. They wear swastikas. They also despise the "jocks," athletes who dominate school social life.
And the jocks expressed their animosity too, referring to the trench coats as "dresses" and even lobbing bottles at group members, according to one account.
"It's the same old story," Josh said the day after the shootings, as he stood by a budding memorial of flowers and notes. "The jocks tease the smokers."
Josh and others have suggested that it may have been the desire for friends that prompted Eric to join the trenchcoat group. Although Eric sometimes seemed "aggravated," Josh says, "the Trenchcoat Mafia accepted a lot of different people. They were probably the most accepting people."
Eric was born in Wichita, Kan., to Air Force transport pilot Wayne Harris and his wife, Kathy. The family moved around the country before landing in Colorado. Those who knew the Harris family talked of Eric's fishing derbies in Michigan, Little League in New York, and soccer in Littleton.