Columbine survivor speaks out on school shootings

Kristine Tarbert

A historic Reddit post covering the fallout for victims of school shootings has taken on new significance in the light of the latest US atrocity.

An 'Ask Me Anything' session with Columbine survivor Brooks Brown has become a touchstone for people living through the horror of a shooting.

As the world reels from this latest attack, the thread offers a glimpse of the fallout for the survivors of such events and an insight into the terrible impact of a rampage, as well as offering hope and advice for those dealing with such a tragedy.

A Florida school shooting has left 17 dead and almost 50 people injured. Photo: Getty

The post, which has been verified by moderators, was first made in April 20, 2011, on the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre which happened in 1999.

In it, Brooks explains that he was “friends with the killers, a few victims, was scapegoated by the police as being involved, went on to do lots of anti-bullying activism for many years before I gave it up”.

On that day, senior students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 students and one teacher, and injured 24 others. Their elaborately planned attack involved a fire bomb, 99 explosive devices, and car bombs. The pair took their lives before being apprehended by police.

Brooks Brown survived the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. Photo: Getty

Brooks was friends with the killers, which he explains was something which saw him fall under suspicion of being involved for some time, however it was also what saved his life.

“The guy Eric told to 'get out of here' because he 'liked me now',” Brooks says.
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People since have been curious as to what might have been going through his head then, whether there was anything he would do differently.

“If you could go back and do anything over again, what advice can you give us for preventative intervention should we ever be in the shoes you were in,” one person asks.

The shooter was 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz. Photo: Getty

Given that Brooks claims his parents called police multiple times to report the killers’ behaviour, he wasn’t sure there was anything more he could have done.

“My dad and I have talked about this a lot. 17 times we reported stuff to the police. We went to Eric’s parents. Dylan’s too. The police even told us they were taking care of it,” he responds.

“Don't know what else I could have done. The good news is that cops take this s**t seriously now. So that's a consolation.”

Scenes in Florida were similar to Columbine. Photo: Getty

When asked how much he thinks the shooting changed his life, Brooks said he wasn’t sure but the incident stopped him from going to college.

“I never made it to college, got to work with Michael Moore, never made a ton of friends prior to my move to San Francisco, have an amazing wife, and had a drinking problem for a bit,” he responds honestly.

He also goes on to admit that he does still after all this time have survivor’s guilt.

“Had it for years (still do on occasion). Never really goes away,” he writes.

The thread on Reddit has 1900 comments. Photo: Reddit

The latest mass shooting, which has so far left 17 dead and up to 50 people injured, took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, and saw 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz open fire on students. He has since been taken into custody.

Brooks says that he will never get over what happened the day of the Columbine massacre.

“It gets easier, but never easy. No matter how long it is,” he says.

“I'll be walking through the halls at work, and someone will stop me and tell me that they loved my book. Or I'll open Facebook and see one of three daily messages/friend requests from strangers or 'Eric and Dylan fanboys/girls'. It'll never get easy.”

However, the post has helped not only him move on with his life, but others as well.

A memorial for the Columbine massacre. Photo: Getty

Many have thanked Brooks for his willingness to respond to questions and open up about his life since. They also thanked him for his work around anti-bullying.

“I just want to say thank you for bringing awareness to bullying because it is a much bigger deal than people make it out to be. Still amazed that people are not taking it as seriously as they should,” one person writes.

“I want you to know your voice has made a difference,” another redditer responds to the thread. “You might not have prevented that massacre, but your coming forward has prevented future massacres.”

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