On the morning of the massacre—Tuesday morning—Dylan Klebold leaves the house at 5:30. His parents, still in bed, hear him call out just one word—“Bye”—and close the door behind him. The boys drive together to the grocery store to purchase additional propane tanks. By seven in the morning, the boys return to Eric’s house, where they split up to continue assembling supplies. They rendezvous once more to practice, “chill,” and get something to eat.
The boys have a “normal” morning “chilling” together even as they make the final preparations for a literal massacre. The boys’ cold, removed approach to their impending actions speaks to the horrifying banality of evil.
Several of the boys’ friends, Cullen says, recall noticing “peculiarities” on the morning of the attack. Dylan’s prom date, Robyn, noticed his absence from class, and the boys’ mutual friend, Brooks Brown, wondered “what kind of stunt” Eric was pulling by missing an important test in psychology class.
There are seeds of unease in the air, but truly none of the boys’ friends are able to predict—or even really suspect—what they are about to do.
Dylan and Eric head for school—they are already running behind schedule. Dylan wears cargo pants, a black t-shirt emblazoned with the word WRATH, and a baseball cap. Eric wears a similar outfit, but his t-shirt says NATURAL SELECTION. Both boys wear combat boots, share a single pair of gloves, and bring along heavy black duster jackets. The boys leave behind the Basement Tapes on Eric’s kitchen counter, along with some handwritten “final thoughts.”
The shooters designed every detail of the attacks down to their outfits. The shared pair of gloves seems to denote the deep bond that planning the attack created between them, and also symbolizes their shared responsibility for and dedication to the violence that was about to occur. The boys want there to be witnesses to and an audience for the attack, and leave behind evidence of their careful planning in plain sight.
After setting the decoy bombs in a field a few miles from Columbine, the boys drive to school. They are on a tight schedule. Dylan parks in his regular spot in the senior lot, while Eric parks in the adjacent junior lot. Brooks Brown, on his way out to lunch, spots Eric pulling into the wrong lot and questions him. Eric tells Brooks that “it doesn’t matter,” and implores him to “go home.” Brooks continued to head off campus for lunch, shaking off Eric’s odd comments.
Despite meticulous planning, the shooters found themselves running behind schedule. Eric’s bizarre but benevolent comment to Brooks—who was more of an enemy than a friend, as Cullen will later reveal—demonstrates some kind of “perimeter” around the attacks, or a boundary that could not be crossed—Brooks was spared as he headed away from campus, and the attacks would only begin when the boys entered the high school itself.
Eric and Dylan drop off the duffel bags containing the propane and gasoline bombs in the commons, then return to their cars to arm themselves with guns, small bombs, and knives. The bombs are timed to go off at 11:17. Cullen writes that the surveillance cameras Mr. D installed in the cafeteria should have caught the boys’ suspicious activity—however, this morning the custodian too was running late, and, while rewinding the previous day’s tapes, missed Eric and Dylan putting “Act One” in motion.
The fact that both the shooters and the custodian charged with reviewing and rewinding the security tapes were running behind schedule and did not complete their assigned tasks exactly as planned ties in with the book’s themes of failure and contingency.
Patrick Ireland heads to the library as lunch begins, planning on finishing his homework during the hour. Cassie Bernall is also in the library, studying during lunch. Mr. D is absent from the commons, about to take a meeting in which he is planning to offer a new teacher a permanent position. Robyn Anderson drives off-campus for lunch just as shots are fired on the opposite end of campus. A freshman named Danny Rohrbough and a few friends head outside for a cigarette at “the worst [possible] moment.”
Columbine students and staff, unaware of what is about to befall them, go about their morning. The simple choices they each make on this ordinary day will affect them in ways they can’t yet even begin to perceive.
Eric and Dylan presume that their decoy bomb has done the job of distracting authorities, unaware that Jeffco officials will learn of the decoy’s detonation just as the shooting begins—“nothing of consequence [will be] diverted.” The boys stand by their cars, waiting for the commons to explode.
The shooters’ first failure is happening just across town, unbeknownst to them. The morning will be full of failure, despite the shooters’ careful and detailed planning.