Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 05:06 GMT 06:06 UK
Bloodshed in the shadow of the Rockies
A spring storm leaves a memorial shrouded in snow
By James Wall, a Briton based in Denver
It has snowed the last few days in Denver, as winter breathes its last in the Rocky Mountain West.
The only people really working have been the law enforcement officials and local and national media.
The latter have been like a militia, drafting in retired reporters to help out with the myriad of stories surrounding the shootings.
At the public relations firm where I earn my living, two colleagues were conscripted by out-of-town media. One, a former TV reporter, is working with Entertainment Tonight, a prime-time Hollywood-oriented show which is covering reporters' emotional reactions to the killings.
The other, an ex-scribe for The Rocky Mountain News, has been recruited to write a series of investigative pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer. And me, well I am writing for the BBC.
A reporter I know conducted one of the most harrowing interviews - with a teenager who'd witnessed the point-blank shooting of her friends in the school library.
Another accomplished local reporter and mother of two broke down on camera. She witnessed and reported on the seriously wounded receiving first aid on the lawns of a nearby primary school.
Lessons from tragedy?
Are there any lessons to be gained from this grisly event? One perhaps is: "Don't laugh at the class geek - he may have large calibre weaponry and a pipe bomb or two in his school locker."
In the words of a London journalist friend: "These trench-coat clowns are in no way unique. There are plenty of adolescents who have intense feelings of rebellion and alienation, and plenty suffer bullying and intimidation at school.
"The difference is that in the Rocky Mountain West, as in many parts of America, such disaffected youths can go to Daddy's gun rack, take their pick of firearms and set off on a magical murdering tour.
"Pimply British youths don't enjoy that outlet for their frustrations, thank goodness."
Right and wrong. These youths did not have such access to firearms. According to reports in the Denver Post, their parents were not gun-owning rednecks, but affluent professionals who stayed away from shooting sports.
Nonetheless, these teenagers acquired two shotguns, a semi-automatic pistol, and a high calibre rifle. Plus, they built a bomb arsenal that the local weekend-warriors would've been proud to possess.
The glut of weapons available legally and illegally in the US means that such acquisitions are a lot easier here than in many other countries.
In a bizarre twist of fate, the National Rifle Association (NRA), America's powerful pro-gun lobbying group, is due to meet in Denver next week for its national convention.
Picketing and demonstrations are expected. Undoubtedly, Hollywood cowboy and NRA president Charlton Heston will be hounded wherever he goes.
Another interesting fact is that in the weeks leading up to the massacre, state legislators debated and passed a controversial bill that would have allowed law-abiding Coloradans to carry a concealed weapon. The legislation was quickly and quietly quashed by its sponsor after news of the killings emerged.
Whatever the reasons, and these will be debated ad infinitum in the coming weeks, America's parents are fretful. In an e-mail to my boss the day after the killings, a Hollywood screenwriter recalled a conversation with his son.
"Lucas and I had a discussion about the appalling rampage in Colorado. A little later I asked, 'So how was school today?' His reply: 'Actually, it was pretty good. No-one was shot'."