Bill Dismang and his teenage daughter Anna were driving on the southern edge of Denver when they came to a line of cars at a stop sign. It was early 1999.
A yellow Subaru Brat, a small truck with an open-air seat facing backward, waited in front of them. A curly-haired young man stared at Bill and his daughter from the open-air seat. It was a vacant, frightening stare, and Bill felt a chill of concern.
“You know who that kid is?” Bill asked Anna, then a sophomore at Columbine High School.
Yes, Anna said.
“He really scares me,” she said before telling her father the boy’s name: Dylan Klebold.
On the morning of Tuesday, April 20, 1999, Bill and Anna followed their school-day routine, driving from their home to the circular drive in front of Columbine. Each morning, dad hugged and kissed his daughter and wished her a great day before driving away.
“That day,” Bill says, “I just felt that there was something wrong. I really think I could sense there was evil around that place that morning. I could sense everything was being set up. It was such an odd feeling.”
At 11:10 a.m., according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Klebold parked his black 1982 BMW in Columbine’s lot. Not far away, Eric Harris was parking his gray 1986 Honda. Both were seniors who had attended the Columbine prom three nights before.
They walked together, wearing black trench coats loaded with explosive devices and guns, toward the building where they had sat for years as, by all appearances, normal students.
They weren’t normal. Not at all.
For months, they had plotted an audacious, complex, bizarre and, yes, evil mission. They planned to kill teachers, fellow students and bystanders with a combination of bombs and gunfire.
Their plans were hideously grandiose. Harris, psychopathic leader of the plot, sought to kill 600, mostly with bombs. If Harris and Klebold had been more expert in wiring the bomb timers, they likely would have succeeded in killing hundreds.
An hour after departing their cars, Klebold and Harris were dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. In that hour, they shot and killed 13, wounded 21 and created ripples of confusion and agony that linger to this day.
About 11:30, Anna scrambled into the high school’s science room. A few minutes later, Klebold and Harris looked through the room’s windows. They had just ended a 7½-minute shooting spree in the library that killed 10 and injured 12. They made eye contact with students, but did not seek to shoot their way into the science room, where one of their earlier victims, teacher Dave Sanders, was bleeding to death on the floor.
About 12:30, Bill arrived at Leawood Elementary, where dozens of parents had been told to wait for their children. He only knew that Anna was in the Columbine building. He did not know if she was alive.
Over the next four hours, buses arrived at Leawood filled with Columbine students. Hour after hour, Bill watched parents tearfully and joyfully reunite with their children. After each bus, the crowd of parents at Leawood grew smaller.
“Kids kept getting off the bus and getting off the bus,” Bill said.
But no Anna.
About 4:30, the last bus arrived, and Bill finally saw his barefoot daughter walking toward him.
“She had lost her shoes somehow,” Bill said.
Father and daughter embraced for a long moment. Bill couldn’t speak. Neither could Anna.
“It was total peace to see her,” Bill said. “Words can’t even express what goes through your mind. I just held her and cried. I just cried.”
Today, Anna is 36, happily married, the mother of four. Her father said she’s made a strong recovery from the Columbine massacre. But each time she walks into a public place, she takes a long, careful look around. Always, she checks for exits.
The total peace of their tearful reunion in the parking lot at Leawood Elementary did not last. On the devastating, haunting late afternoon of April 20, 1999, Bill drove away, Anna by his side, while thinking of parents who remained at Leawood.
Parents who waited for a bus that never arrived.
“Every time I hear anything about Columbine, I just think about the parents who lost their kids, and the kids who were injured and have lifelong injuries,” Bill said. “I just think about that and know that our lives are quite different than their lives.
“I feel for them.”