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Quagmire Without End, Amen

Truth is the first casualty of war -- and Columbine.

Presumably, the journal could add a great deal to public understanding of Harris and his relationships with cops, the school and his own parents. But the notebook is under seal by court order, as are the depositions of Wayne and Kathy Harris taken in a lawsuit last summer. The case, brought by some of the victims' families, was settled shortly afterward, and a court battle has since emerged over a magistrate's order to destroy those depositions.

Other secrets are being guarded by the school district. School officials are now taking heat over the "Hitmen" video; the piece is hardly a blueprint for a massacre, but what is Columbine's policy about filming simulated violence, bringing fake weapons on school property and getting school credit for shouting obscene threats at the camera? Yet that bit of auteur cinema seems pallid in comparison to the video the lads shot, using school equipment, of their target practice with sawed-off shotguns a few weeks before the attack.

As reported in Westword two years ago, the latter video was edited in the school video lab. Other materials released since that time indicate that the video was seen not simply by other students, but by a teacher, who contacted Harris's parents about the noisy display of illegal weaponry. Wayne Harris, who'd previously detonated a pipe bomb found in his son's room but left Eric's bomb-making equipment intact, apparently did nothing about the report. Neither did the school.

Now that same weaponry is headed back to the evidence vault, following its short run at the fairgrounds.

But of all that is sad and absurd about Columbine, the ongoing dance of officials trying to "move on" without acknowledging their own breaches of public trust may be the greatest travesty. To this day, no one at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has ever apologized to the Browns for vilifying them and branding them as liars.

No one has explained to the families of dead children why it was necessary to lie to them about how their kids died, or what officials knew about Columbine's most troubled students before they turned deadly.

No one in power has acknowledged that Dave Sanders, Kelly Fleming, Rachel Scott, Corey DePooter, Daniel Rohrbough, Isaiah Shoels, Matt Kechter, Steven Curnow, Lauren Townsend, Cassie Bernall, Kyle Velasquez, John Tomlin, Daniel Mauser and all of their injured classmates deserve better than that.

"The only way to honor these children is to get the truth out," Randy Brown told the reporters at the fairgrounds, "so this doesn't ever happen again."

"What these guys need to do is make a formal apology to the families," says Brian Rohrbough, Daniel's father. "The stories they told us have caused us immeasurable pain."

And the pain remains. It always will, as long as the truth is locked away.

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