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Columbine killers strike chord on Net

Visitors to Web site for Dylan and Klebold write of rage, violent thoughts over being ridiculed in school

By Kevin Flynn
Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

Amid the hundreds of cyberspace memorials to the victims of the Columbine High School killings, a few Internet sites are dedicated to the killers.

The sites about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold have drawn controversial reactions from visitors -- some visceral, others thought-provoking.

Host providers have removed some sites because of policies against offensive content.

Cindi Sterba, 34, a mother of five who lives on Travis Air Force Base, Calif., with her husband, created a Web site, "In Remembrance of Eric and Dylan," within days of the April 20 killings.

As of Friday it had more than 11,600 visitors.

"If someone had not cared enough for me when my own father did not, I could have been an Eric or a Dylan," she said.

She says she doesn't condone the killings, but she does empathize with Harris and Klebold because of her troubled upbringing. She said her father tried to drum racism into her head and she was taunted in school because of her appearance and dress.

Sterba wants to reach out to young people who need someone to talk to, she said in an interview.

"I thought as a kid I was the only one who truly hated my own life," she said.

"This and many other personal accounts in my life were what moved me to put up a memorial site purely dedicated to not just two boys, but maybe send a very powerful message out to our future Eric and Dylans. There are other ways to resolve these issues."

The site (http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3359) has animations and photos of Harris and Klebold.

It also has a guest book in which arguments have raged between those who say they understand why the two teens turned violent, and those who condemn them for it.

Pamela Schwindt, a nurse in Indianapolis, signed the guest book: "I am a mom and I am about 50 and I remember the taunting I took in high school. My heart breaks for you. I hope you are now at peace."

Contacted by the News, Schwindt said she dropped out of high school "four or five times" before finishing in the face of terrible taunting for being an outcast. She has never gone to a reunion and still feels anger at classmates.

She might have done something violent in school, except "I was too worried about getting into trouble," she said. "It was probably the most miserable time of my life."

Rory Ryan, 18, of New Jersey is a student at a prestigious art school. But his high school years were consumed by anger and thoughts of revenge against the athletes, preppies and kids in the "popular" crowd.

He says he has a great deal of empathy for Harris and Klebold.

"I do not agree with them, but I know where they came from," he said in an interview with the News through an Internet chat window.

"I went through the usual crap that a loser in elementary school goes through, and for the usual reason -- ugly clothes, glasses, in special education, etc.," he said.

"I had the EXACT same problem as (Harris) last year, and the same disorder," said Ryan, referring to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Harris was taking a medication prescribed for OCD.

Ryan wrote in Sterba's guest book: "I had specific people that I wanted to hurt or kill, and had specific plans on how I would do it. But as time went by and I became more consumed with revenge, I saw that it was tearing me apart. In the long run, I wasted four years hating people."

He said he got more involved in activities, which helped.

"There is always a choice. They didn't have to kill," he wrote.

A 14-year-old boy in Rhode Island wrote that the killers "did what they should have."

"Eric and Dylan seemed to have been good kids but the jocks drove them crazy and they did what they had to."

The News asked him for a fuller explanation. His name is Kyle.

"I think it sounds like a good idea because it scared most jocks away from people like Eric and Dylan, and now most of them don't make fun of us as much," he wrote in an e-mail. "But I don't think people should really do it again unless they end up in the same situation."

He said he is still teased over the way he dresses, and almost was expelled when he talked about bombing his school.

"My teachers are afraid of me; if I move fast they duck," he wrote. "Once they heard about the shooting, all my teachers started like being scared of me."

July 12, 1999