Cover image for No easy answers : the truth behind death at Columbine
No easy answers : the truth behind death at Columbine
Brown, Brooks.
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Publication Information:
New York : Lantern Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 270 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.9 12.0 78488.
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LB3013.33.C6 B76 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Now with a new Afterword on what has happened since the book was first published

On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, two seniors at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, walked into their school and shot to death twelve students and one teacher, and wounded many others. It was the worst single act of murder at a school in U.S. history.

Few people knew Dylan Klebold or Eric Harris better than Brooks Brown. Brown and Klebold were best friends in grade school, and years later, at Columbine, Brown was privy to some of Harris and Klebold's darkest fantasies and most troubling revelations After the shootings, Brown was even accused by the police of having been in on the massacre--simply because he had been friends with the killers.

Now, for the first time, Brown, with journalist Rob Merritt, gets to tell his full version of the story. He describes the warning signs that were missed or ignored, and the evidence that was kept hidden from the public after the murders. He takes on those who say that rock music or video games caused Klebold and Harris to kill their classmates and explores what it might have been that pushed these two young men, from supposedly stable families, to harbor such violent and apocalyptic dreams.

Shocking as well as inspirational and insightful, No Easy Answers is an authentic wake-up call for all the psychologists, authorities, parents, and law enforcement personnel who have attempted to understand the murders at Columbine High School. As the title suggests, the book offers no easy answers, but instead presents the unvarnished facts about growing up as an alienated teenager in America today.

This edition contains a new afterword that describes what the two authors have experienced and learned about Columbine since the publication of the book.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

When Eric Harris walked up to Brooks Brown in the Columbine High School parking lot on April 20, 1999, and told him, "Brooks, I like you now. Get out of here. Go home," Brown's life changed forever. Minutes later, Harris and Brown's close friend Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and a teacher. Brown immediately became the subject of rumor and innuendo, eventually being named as a "potential suspect" by the police. Besides the misery of being falsely associated with the murders, Brown endured unremitting guilt and confusion over having known Harris and Klebold well. Here Brooks tells his harrowing story, analyzing the Columbine murders along the way. Insisting that video games and rock music had nothing to do with the murders, he focuses instead on the horrific teasing and bullying rampant at Columbine. He insists that while Harris and Klebold were responsible for the deaths of 13 people, the school was responsible for making them into desperate, angry boys. Despite uber-hip slang and occasionally awkward phrasing, Brown's story is gripping and provocative. --John Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

The question of why Columbine seniors Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 12 classmates and one teacher before killing themselves is personal for classmate Brown, who was friends with both boys. However, this search for an answer is unlikely to provide closure for either Brown or others concerned about preventing future acts of school violence. The author, who appeared on Oprah and other shows after the killing spree, writes conversationally, as if he were being questioned by a talk show host and asked to describe growing up with Klebold, why he thinks Harris told him to go home right before the shootings and what can be learned from the gruesome event. Interspersed between Brown's first person accounts of bullying and injustice at Columbine, which he regards as the motivating factors for the shootings, are third person interviews with his parents and others. Since much of the story of the event's aftermath is told from newspaper clippings and TV reports, there's little new here. Still, Brown's discussion of Harris's Web pages, where he made a death threat against Brown, and the police's failure to act on them, makes for chilling reading. The book bogs down when Brown details the actions of the local police and sheriff, who implied that Brown was a suspect even though they knew he and his family were mentioned as potential targets in Harris's journals. Too little time has elapsed since the shootings for Brown to have the perspective necessary to make this a definitive work, but readers interested in a close-up account of the tragedy will want to read this book. Photos. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



"get out of here" THE LAST TIME I STOOD IN THIS SPOT, THE WORLD AS I KNEW IT WAS about to be shattered. I'm alone on a staircase outside Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The spot is a quiet one, bordered by concrete recesses that merge into a sidewalk leading up toward the math wing. I've stood here many times before; this place was always secluded enough for me to get in one last quick drag before an administrator would yell at me to quit smoking on school grounds. Today it's far away from the pool of media trucks gathered nearby in Clement Park, and from the gymnasium where the big assembly of students and teachers is taking place. It's a good place for me to just stop and think. It's also a good place to mourn. I haven't stood here since April 20, 1999. I haven't stood here since exactly one year ago this minute. * * * For the first two periods of April 20, it had been a typical day at Columbine, no different from any other in the past four years. Finished first hour, went outside, had a cigarette. Went to second hour, where I worked as an assistant to Mrs. Caruthers, the theatre teacher. She handed me some papers to help her review and grade. When the period ended, I went out and had a cigarette. Looking around during that smoke break, I realized what a beautiful day it was, especially for April, when in Colorado we're used to rain. The sun was out, the sky was clear and blue; and temperatures were finally warming up after the past few months of winter. I was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans; I hadn't even bothered bringing a coat to school. I finished my cigarette and headed for philosophy class. We had a test that day on Chinese philosophy. I was never a great student at Columbine, but I felt all right about this particular test. Mr. Kritzer was the kind of teacher who truly understood the material he taught-and knew that allowing students to contribute their own ideas, without being judgmental, is critical in the teaching of philosophy. His approach made me enjoy the class, which in turn made me work harder. I had a good feeling about today. That was when I noticed something odd. Eric wasn't there. It didn't seem right. My friend Eric Harris skipped class all the time, but he knew this wasn't just a quiz we were taking that morning. The test was going to be worth a good third of our final grade. To miss it was basically to write off the rest of the term. I tried to shrug it off as his loss. Still, I was a little concerned. Eric was a good student, and his parents drove him hard when it came to grades. I knew I'd have to give him shit about it the next time I saw him. I finished my test and brought it up to the front of the room. The period ended, and off I went to have another cigarette. Then l headed to fourth-hour creative writing. Once again, no Eric. This time, no Dylan, either. Normally, this wouldn't have seemed that odd. Eric was best friends with Dylan Klebold, and the two of them ditched creative writing all the time. However, they usually had at least one of their other friends from this class with them, too. Today, though, Becca Heins, Nate Dykeman, and I had all showed up for class. Apparently none of us had been invited along. I don't really remember what Mrs. Kelly had us do that day. I was already thinking about going home after fourth period and missing my last class. I had stayed up late on my computer the night before, and I was tired. I already had my cigarettes in hand by the time the bell rang to signify the end of the period. I had no idea that this would be the last time I would ever attend a class at Columbine High School. That it was the last time I'd ever take a philosophy test, or write a paper for Mrs. Kelly, or grade papers for Mrs. Caruthers, or play dodgeball in gym class. The world I knew was about to be altered forever. * * * As I took a drag on my cigarette, I was a little surprised to see Eric suddenly pull into the parking lot right in front of me. It seemed strange that he would skip two classes, then suddenly show up back at school. Even more bizarre, he was pulling into a spot other than his assigned space. I wanted to talk with him. I still couldn't believe he'd skipped philosophy. I walked right up to his car, just as he was getting out, and with a mix of concern and friendly cruelty, I started cussing him out. "What the hell's wrong with you, man?" I said. "You weren't in third hour today. You missed the test!" I didn't know how to read the look he gave me. It wasn't the "Oh, damn" look of someone who had just realized what was about to happen to his grades, or the look of annoyance that your friends give you when you rib them about a screw-up. This was something very different. He laughed at me, as if he couldn't believe I had even brought the subject up. "It doesn't matter anymore," he said. He pulled a light blue gym bag out of the backseat and set it down on the ground. "Yeah, whatever," I muttered, taking another drag on my cigarette. Eric was a weird guy-cool, but not as good a friend as Dylan. But today he was acting a little stranger than usual. Eric stopped. He looked straight at me. "Brooks, I like you now," he said. "Get out of here. Go home." His tone was bizarre-intense, but almost chuckling. I'd never heard him talk that way before. That's when I noticed Eric wasn't wearing his hat. A pretty small detail, I suppose; he was wearing his usual attire of black pants and a white T-shirt, so everything else seemed normal. But Eric always wore his hat. Always. Eric didn't even hold my gaze after he spoke. He turned his back to me and started pulling another duffel bag out of his back seat. "Uh, okay, whatever," I said. Eric didn't say anything else. He wasn't even looking at me anymore. My presence didn't seem to mean anything to him now. I took another drag off my cigarette-and that's when I got hit by this uneasy feeling. Didn't know where it came from, but somehow, in the back of my mind, I knew something wasn't right. The hat. Eric's demeanor. The test he'd skipped. I couldn't pin down why alarms are going off in my head. But they were. Something was telling me that I needed to walk away. Eric was a very serious person. You didn't screw with him. I knew that from last year, when he'd posted messages on the Internet about how badly he wanted me dead. We had made peace afterwards; I thought all of that was behind us now. But maybe those memories were coming back to unsettle me all over again. Whatever the reason, somehow I knew that Eric was not one to be antagonized any further at this moment. I didn't say anything else. I walked across the parking lot back down to Pierce Street, still holding the same cigarette I had lit when I walked out of class. I tried to just keep smoking like nothing had happened. Yet deep down, I knew that something was wrong, and that it had to do with Eric. Was he going to play a prank? Mess with the school's ventilation system? Shoot paint balls? Set off a pipe bomb in the parking lot? I saw an image of Bart Simpson flushing a lit firecracker down the toilet right before Principal Skinner brings his mother in to use the facilities. It had always made me laugh in the past. For some reason it didn't now. I finished the cigarette and tossed it. I tried to forget about Eric for a moment and decide whether I was going to skip fifth hour or not. Then I heard a loud crack in the distance. I looked around. Funny, I thought, that almost sounded like a gunshot. I looked to my left. On the other side of Pierce, there was a whole block of housing construction going on. Had I just heard a nail gun? Maybe. The pounding of nails will echo everywhere. You can't pinpoint where it came from when it's that loud. I heard a few more cracks. They sounded different from nails. Couldn't be sure. Then I heard something much louder than what had come before. That wasn't any goddamn nail. In that instant, I knew something horrible was happening. Panic washed over me, and without even thinking about it, I started moving. I didn't know what was going on, but somehow I knew I had to get as far away from there as possible. I heard more loud cracks. Something that sounded like explosions. A bomb. I wasn't walking anymore, I was running on Pierce Street, wanting in that instant to get as far away from Columbine as possible. One block. Another. Loud noises coming from behind me, sounds I knew meant unimaginable horror. I reached a little green generator next to the sidewalk and sat down for a moment. I could just barely see the front edge of Columbine, at the top of the hill in the distance, and I could still hear the shots. "All right-gotta figure out what I'm doing-gotta figure out what I'm doing-" I had no idea what I was going to do. I tried to calm myself down. Maybe it's a prank, I thought. Maybe it's exactly what I thought before. Maybe Eric tossed a couple of pipe bombs, scared the teachers, and now he's hiding behind a few cars in the parking lot, laughing his ass off. If it was a prank, and I ran to someone's house and started screaming that there were bombs and explosions going off at Columbine, what would be the first thing they'd do? Call the cops. If I was wrong, what would happen then? I'd get slapped with a fine. Nailed. You get in trouble real bad for making false reports in Littleton. Besides, I thought, maybe I didn't hear anything. Maybe I'm just losing it. Maybe if I just get up and walk back, I'll see that nothing happened and everything's all right. Jesus. I didn't know what the hell to think. But I couldn't stay there on that generator, out in the open. I knew that. I got up and kept moving away from the school. I was three blocks away from Columbine when I reached a concrete bicycle underpass that goes right under Pierce Street. I jumped down off the sidewalk and disappeared into it. I'd gone down here to smoke with friends in the past. I'd never done it to try to protect myself. My hands were shaking as I pulled out another cigarette. I had to clear my mind. I replayed everything from the past ten minutes. The explosions. The shotgun blast. It had to be a shotgun blast. Had to be, had to be ... I thought back to my conversation with Eric. Had I missed something? A detail, something sticking out of his bag? Anything? And then it hit me-the sick realization. Eric. Son of a bitch. I suddenly remembered all the articles I'd read about Jonesboro and Pearl and Paducah, and Kip Kinkel and Michael Carneal and Luke Woodham. I remembered those times when we'd laughed in speech class that Columbine was next. We'd said that if any school was ripe to get shot up, it was ours. Now it was happening, and my friend was behind it. Oh, man. No. No. Jesus, Eric, what the hell are you doing? Christ , I thought. Get it together. Come on. What if I'm the only one who knows? What if the cops don't have a name? I've got to find a phone. I have to get out of here. I heard police cars driving overhead as I hurried back out from the underpass. I looked out across the empty lots, to where the closest house was, several hundred yards away. Then I heard it. I turned around just in time to see a massive barrage of police cruisers, a dozen of them if not more, thundering north on Pierce toward the school with sirens wailing. If I needed any further confirmation that this was real, I found it when I saw half the police force of Jefferson County descending on Columbine. I ran to the first house I saw and started hammering on the door. Nothing. I ran for the next one and did the same thing, I don't know if I was yelling through the door or not. It didn't seem to matter. As I ran to the next one, I saw a woman getting into her car with her daughter. She looked like she was rushing. "I need your phone!" I yelled to her. "Please let me use your phone!" "No, no," she said, hurrying into her car. "I have to leave." With that, she barreled out of there. I think I scared her. As she left, I saw two other women outside the house. One of them was Mrs. Taylor; I knew her daughter Anna, a very sweet girl who had been in several classes with me over the years. Her mother recognized me-and saw the look on my face. "What's wrong?" she asked. "I need to use your phone." I was breathing hard, sweating, scared out of my mind. She asked me why. I said I didn't want to freak her out, but that I thought there had been a shooting at Columbine. Mrs. Taylor stayed calm. "Okay," she said. "You lie down. Lie on your back. I'll go get the phone. You just try to relax for a second." I sat down, burying my head in my lap. Then I lay back with my arm over my face, trying to regain my composure. I still didn't know for sure what was happening. I still felt panicked. Mrs. Taylor gave me the phone. I called my dad at work. "Have you heard anything on the news?" I said. "No," he replied. "Why? Brooks, what's going on?" "Well, first of all, I want you to know that I'm all right. I'm out of the school and I'm fine." "Okay ..." "Dad, I think Eric's shooting up Columbine." There was a pause on the other end. "What?!" "Dad, something's going on," I continued. "I don't know what to do." "I'll be there in ten minutes! Where do you want me to meet you?" I looked down the street, trying to place my own location. "I'll meet you by Steve's house on Upham Street. I'm right by there." Steve was my drum teacher, so my dad knew where he lived. "Okay. Ten minutes, Brooks. Thanks." My dad hung up and I handed the phone back to Mrs. Taylor. I thanked her, and apologized if I had panicked her. I knew her daughter was in choir right now. That was when I realized. My brother's still in there. My little brother Aaron, two grades below me, was also a student at Columbine. He and Eric didn't get along. If Eric was still in the school, and he came across my brother ... I felt terror overwhelming me all over again. I started walking toward Steve's house. A lot of cars were already driving by; the first thing I did was look among them for people I knew. First I saw Mr. Johnson and Mr. Bath, two of my teachers from Columbine, and waved them down. They pulled over and asked me why I wasn't in class. They were laughing. I just blurted out what I thought: Eric Harris was involved in a shooting of some kind. They both became very quiet. "You know, he's in my psychology class," Mr. Johnson said after a beat. Continue... Excerpted from no easy answers by brooks brown and rob merritt Copyright © 2002 by Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.