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the columbine shootings:
a media chronology

4.26.99

April 20 - Two students in black trenchcoats massacre 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in suburban Littleton, Colorado.

April 21 - A nation is in shock. Among the causes of these increasingly frequent youth crimes, say cultural commentators, are "music, TV, video games, and a Leonardo DiCaprio movie." DiCaprio had starred in 1995's The Basketball Diaries, in which his character fantasizes about gunning down a teacher and classmates while wearing a black trenchcoat.

April 22 - Newspapers across America compete to see who can come up with the most outraged front-page headline. Runners-up are "WHAT HAVE WE COME TO??," "IS NOWHERE SAFE ANY MORE?," "SAVE OUR CHILDREN!," and "NOT THIS AGAIN!" The winner? The San Diego Observer's 72-point-Helvetica headline "WHAT THE FUCK??"

April 24 - The verb "to black-trenchcoat," as in "I'm gonna go over there and black-trenchcoat your ass," becomes part of popular slang, replacing "I'm gonna open a can of whup-ass on you."

April 26 - A woman on a cruise liner has her dress ruined by a teenage boy on the deck above her who spits on her. Among the causes of this rash of spitting assaults, say cultural commentators, are "TV, video games, music, and a Leonardo DiCaprio movie." DiCaprio had starred in 1997's Titanic, in which his character spits over the railing of the first-class deck.

April 29 - A group of students known as the Puffy Yellow Windbreakers wreak havoc in a New Jersey high school. Police speculate that 27 people were given "serious wedgies" by the assailants until they were captured by a SWAT team. The perpetrators, described by authorities as being on "a wedgie mission," were apprehended in the science lab attempting to give wedgies to themselves.

May 1 - Barbara Walters nabs an exclusive interview with Tami Appleby, a Columbine student fortunate enough to have skipped school the day of the massacre. "I just, like, blew it off and like went to the mall and stuff? And, like, went to a movie and got my ears pierced? It was kinda lame actually but I guess I lucked out, huh?" According to Tami, her relieved mother told her she could skip school whenever she wanted from now on, "so, like, you could say something good did come of all this."

May 2 - School principals across the country crack down on students. No black trenchcoats are allowed on school grounds. In fact, no black articles of clothing whatsoever are allowed on school grounds. Visiting priests must change into pastel shirts and shorts before entering.

May 4 - A psychiatric report is published, telling parents of teenagers the danger signs to watch out for. Among them are: disrespect for authority; strange manners of dress and hairstyle; surly behavior; brooding alone in one's room listening to loud music; enjoyment of violent entertainment; and a general pessimistic outlook on life. Says commentator Rob Gonsalves, "Okay, this describes 99% of all teenagers since 1952. It also describes me, and I'm 28."

May 5 - The NRA begins its outreach program to provide firearms at a special teacher discount. Says NRA godhead Charlton Heston, "If any of those teachers had been packing a good AK-47, how different the outcome might have been. The answer to gun violence in this country is not less guns, but more guns." And what about disturbed teenagers who steal the firearms of their law-abiding gun-owning parents? "Shoot 'em," Heston replies.

May 6 - Two new parents in New York are outraged when their apparently healthy baby boy turns out to be retarded. Among the causes of this mysterious retardation, say cultural commentators, are "TV, soundtrack albums for video games, and a Leonardo DiCaprio movie." DiCaprio had starred in 1993's What's Eating Gilbert Grape, in which his character is retarded.

May 12 - Burlington Coat Factory issues a statement that "the Trenchcoat Mafia in no way represents our fine customers who have bought and enjoyed our classic dark trenchcoat line."

May 14 - School principals crack down even harder. If teenagers are determined to be "odd" or "harboring strange ideas," they are immediately expelled and recommended for psychiatric evaluation. If teenagers come to school with a gun, they are kept after school and given a warning note for their parents to sign.

May 15 - The Mafia issues a statement that "the Trenchcoat Mafia in no way represents our associates, some of whom do wear trenchcoats. You got a fuckin' problem with that? Giddoudahere before I tear yas a fresh one, ya half-a-fuck."

May 16 - A Palm Springs mother is dismayed when her teenage son gets wasted on absinthe and has sex with an English guy who looks like Pete Townshend's goofy younger brother. Among the causes of this baffling case, say cultural commentators, are "music, video games based on TV shows, and a Leonardo DiCaprio movie." DiCaprio had starred in 1996's Total Eclipse, in which his character gets wasted on absinthe and has sex with an English guy who looks like Pete Townshend's goofy younger brother.

May 20 - A month after Columbine, a nation gets over its shock. The op-ed columns stop wailing about the senseless murder of 13 Americans, and resume lecturing on the importance of wiping Serbia and its people off the face of the earth.


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