bombs are placed in the cafeteria
Between 11:14 am and 11:22 am on April 20, 1999
school day, a videotape records the activities in the school cafeteria.
Four separate cameras, catching images from four different angles, are set
up in corners of the cafeteria. Their
primary purpose is to capture on tape any general mischief, food fights or
other problems that can happen when 500 teenagers gather in one location.
Because of the cameras’ locations in the cafeteria, there are a
few blind corners that the cameras cannot “see” or record on tape.
first tape of each day begins recording scenes around 7 to 8 a.m. For the
most part, the cafeteria is empty in those first few hours except for a
scattering of students taking advantage of the quiet study area during a
free class period. The
morning tape is replaced by a second around 10:30 or 11 a.m., shortly
before the “A” lunch period begins at 11:15 a.m. and the activity in
the cafeteria intensifies.
Tuesday, April 20, the building custodian was behind schedule and was late
changing the cafeteria videotape. At
11:14 a.m., he unlocked the door to the backroom where the recording VCR
is set up. He hit the eject
button, removed the morning videotape and inserted a new one.
But the videotape to record both of the day’s lunch periods and
on into the afternoon was one that was being recycled. It had to be
rewound. While waiting for the tape to rewind, the custodian left the room
to make a quick call home. He
hit “record” on tape #2 at 11:22.
the time between 11:14 when the custodian stopped the first videotape and
ejected it from the VCR, and 11:22 when the second tape began to record
lunchtime activities in the cafeteria, two large duffel/gym bags appeared
beside two separate tables in the lunch room.
In the eight minutes it took the custodian to eject the first
videotape, rewind the second one and make a short phone call, the bags
cafeteria tapes were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lab
in Quantico, Virginia, where they were enlarged and enhanced several
times. The lab examined both tapes frame by frame.
The quality of the tapes, even when enhanced, was poor.
But lab experts are confident that in the first frames of the new
videotape beginning at 11:22, two large shapes can be seen on the floor in
spots that were empty at 11:14.
building custodian noticed nothing out of the ordinary prior to the first
lunch period. Besides
changing the cafeteria videotapes, his daily routine included walking
through the cafeteria after each class period looking for items left
behind by students using the period to study.
He felt certain that he would have noticed any large duffel bags or
backpacks left in the area before lunch began.
A glimpse into the mindset of Klebold and Harris became clearer as
investigators realized the extremely short period of time the suspects
allowed between the time the bombs were placed in the cafeteria and the
time set for them to explode – basically three minutes.
Since the cafeteria videotape shows that the bombs were not beside
the tables at 11:14 and the bombs were set to detonate at 11:17, little
leeway was allowed for the two suspects to escape from the fireball they
had planned. )
established that Harris and Klebold brought the bags containing the large
propane bombs into the cafeteria and set them beside two cafeteria tables
at the beginning of the first lunch period.
The bombs were hidden in duffel bags so they easily blended in with
the 400-plus backpacks strewn on the floor, under tables and chairs
throughout the cafeteria. Most
high school students carry some type of backpack.
Two more bags brought in by one of their peers would not raise
500 students were in the cafeteria that day.
Investigators interviewed all of them at least once, but no one
actually recalled either of the gunmen walking in with a duffel bag and
setting them down near tables (PP and QQ) where the two normally sat with
friends at lunch.
bomb technicians discovered that the bombs were equipped with timers set
to detonate at 11:17 a.m.
last entry in his school notebook gave a chilling timeline for April 20.
“Walk in, set bombs at 11:09 for 11:17.
two apparently determined that 11:17 a.m. was the most opportune time to
cause the most damage and deaths. The
timers on the propane bombs were set for 11:17.
before 11:17, Harris and Klebold placed the two propane bombs in the
cafeteria, and went back out to the student parking lots to their
respective cars. The belief is that they then would shoot any surviving
students who were able to escape the fireball.
Bombs in their cars were set to explode after those in the
of faulty wiring and poorly constructed devices, the two 20-lb. propane
bombs did not detonate. And
neither did the bombs in their cars.