- The word has been used so often this
week to describe the bloody rampage at Columbine High School.
- But one member of Columbine's now-notorious
Trench Coat Mafia invokes the same image of hell when describing life at
the school before the carnage.
- The 18-year-old, who demanded anonymity,
said he was taunted and terrorized by his schoolmates - so-called jocks
who called him "faggot,'' bashed him into lockers and threw rocks
at him from their cars while he rode his bike home from school.
- "I can't describe how hard it was
to get up in the morning and face that,'' he said.
- "Hell,'' he continued. "Pure
- Police repeatedly have questioned the
teen about his knowledge of the shootings.
- He is one of several mafia members who
at once are shying away from reporters, but also desperate to have their
- He and his parents know people will perceive
their anonymity as a sign that he has something to hide or in some way
is responsible for Tuesday's massacre.
- He's visibly grieving about the tragedy
and about what he knows are the ties students are suggesting between him
and killers Eric Har ris and Dylan Klebold.
- He said the two seniors weren't even
part of the mafia, but merely friends of one especially charismatic - and,
he notes, the only violent - member.
- They were on the fringe of the group,
the school's most outcast, most fringe clique.
- And so, the teen said, his reluctance
to speak out stems not from an association with the shooters, but from
the very reason his group of loners banded together in the first place
- out of fear of more ridicule and torment, more shoves, more thrown rocks.
- "I want to stand up and say this
is what I went through,'' he said. "But I'm scared, not just for me,
but my family.''
- By now, most of America and much of the
world have heard about Columbine's jocks.
- The student-athletes commonly wear clothes
bearing the logos of sports teams. Another indication is baseball caps
with visors worn facing forward and carefully rounded.
- Not all jocks tormented him, the teen
noted. But he said a handful of bullies held so much power that most of
the school emulated them, or at least were too afraid to voice dissent.
- "If you didn't dress like them,
if you walked to school or rode your bike, if you didn't get into sports
and weren't athletic, then you were an outcast. It's that simple,'' he
- Taunting started with the teen's appearance
which, without compromising his anonymity, is gawky - the painfully uneasy
look of so many male teens teetering between boyhood and manhood. He said
jocks ridiculed his clothes and his black trench coat, which his parents
bought for him to wear with suits on special occasions.
- The torment often became vicious.
- While the teen biked home from school,
he said, jocks would "speed past at 40, 50 mph'' and toss pop cans
or cups full of sticky soda at him. Sometimes they threw rocks or even
sideswiped his bike with their cars.
- He described waking on school days with
a knot in his stomach and the dread of having to face the humiliation.
- He would avoid certain hallways and even
make his way to classes outside the school building to escape being ridiculed
or being bashed against lockers, he said.
- In the cafeteria, he continued, jocks
threw mashed potatoes at him. He would wear the stains for the rest of
the school day.
- But he wasn't the only kid messed with
at Columbine. Other mafia members faced similar troubles. And, he said,
he knew Klebold and Harris were tormented as well.
- The teen speaks about his high school
years quietly, but angrily. He's visibly withdrawn and says he's depressed.
But he has enough perspective to understand why he joined the mafia. It
was the only place he could find friends.
- He said the core group of about seven
boys - mostly socially awkward kids, loners - started hanging out in 1996.
They gradually grew to include more students, boys and girls who called
themselves "The Anachronists'' because of their interest in the game
Dungeons and Dragons and their penchant for Goth, short for Gothic, fashions.
- In early 1998, he said, a jock branded
them with the name Trench Coat Mafia. The group accepted the moniker, hoping
the symbolism would scare their tormenters and that the nefarious aura
of a darkly dressed mob would finally give them some peace.
- "And it worked,'' the teen said.
"They did start leaving us alone.'' Members apparently found security
in numbers. They hung out together listening to music, watching movies
and commiserating about their difficulties at school. Many, he said, were
just grateful for the companionship.
- Despite widespread news reports about
their obsession with the sadist music of Marilyn Manson, he said, only
one member really was a fan of the shock-rocker.
- The teen also makes a point of noting
the group wasn't racist or interested in Nazi history or culture.
- "That's so inaccurate, the image
that we were like that,'' he said. "People just want to put labels
on us that aren't true.''
- The teen said Harris and Klebold were
less socially active even than other mafia members.
- From the outside, he said, they must
have seemed part of the group because of their black trench coats and their
similar Goth style of dress. But, speaking from the inside, he said they
weren't really members. Although they sometimes hung with the mafia in
Columbine's commons and shared sneers at the jocks, he recalled, they ate
at a separate lunch table and led very separate lives.
- Harris and Klebold didn't usually don
trench coats, he added, surmising they wore them on Tuesday because they
helped hide their guns. Further, he noted, theirs weren't really trench
coats, but actually Australian dusters - not authentically Goth at all.
- The teen is clearly rocked by Tuesday's
massacre. He swallows hard when talking about it, when seeing the yearbook
photos of his dead schoolmates and teacher beamed over national TV.
- "I'm not saying what they did was
OK,'' he said of Harris and Klebold. "But I know what it's like to
be cornered, pushed day after day.''
- "Tell people that we were harassed
and that sometimes it was impossible to take,'' he told a reporter. "Tell
people that ... eventually, someone was going to snap.''