(Copyright 1999 by The Tattoo. All rights reserved.)

The Tattoo

--- Making a Permanent Impression Since 1994 ---

May 17, 1999

Killer friendship

Colorado shooter Eric Harris' old middle school classmates remember a normal kid, not an outcast
The Tattoo

In a town of 25,000 people, no one suspects the kid
she sits next to in class may someday be a mass

At least Abi Tenebaum and Jessica Sapel never
thought Eric Harris -- now one of the infamous
Columbine High shooters -- would cause such terror
and devastation.

Harris, who with his friend Dylan Klebold gunned
down a dozen fellow students and a teacher before
killing themselves in an April 20 attack at their high
school in Littleton, Colo., was a former middle school
classmate of Tenebaum and Sapel's in Plattsburgh,

Tenebaum, now a 17-year-old senior at Mayo High
School in Rochester, Minn. and Sapel, an 18-year-old
senior in Plattsburgh, each knew Harris when his
family lived on the local Air Force base.

Plattsburgh, on the western shore of Lake Champlain
in the northernmost part of New York, is less than 25
miles from the Canadian border.

Tenebaum said Harris was a "normal sixth grader," 
and "not one of the outcasts."

Sapel called Harris  a "good kid" and "sweet."

He "never struck me as someone who would do this,"
said Sapel.

Although there have been reports that Harris and
Klebold chose the date because it was Hitler's birthday
and singled out a black student and athletes as victims
for their savage attack, both teenagers said when
Harris lived in Plattsburgh he never showed signs of
any hatred toward those groups.

According to Tenebaum, Harris dated a Jewish girl,
Sarah Davis.

Davis and Harris apparently remained friends after
Harris left town, exchanging messages via e-mail.

Contacted recently in Plattsburgh, Davis didn't want to
talk about Harris.

"It's been difficult," she said.

Sapel said she didn't believe the news that Harris had
targeted a black student. She said Harris' two best
friends in Plattsburgh were an Asian student and a
black student.

Harris was also an active athlete who played Little
League in the town. 

Tenebaum said that Harris associated with "preps," but
said he wasn't  "an annoying prick."

Sapel can't imagine how this gentle middle schooler
turned into a trench coat toting criminal, but she thinks
Harris began having problems after his family moved
from New York to Colorado, during their seventh
grade year.

"It didn't happen to him here (in Plattsburgh)," Sapel
said. "None of us can imagine what happened."

In Plattsburgh, Harris was a "nice, normal kid" who
wore "jeans, t-shirts, and sweat shirts," Sapel said.

If any group of students in the country have stopped to
think twice about the massacre in Columbine, it's the
students of Plattsburgh. 

When she heard from a local newspaper reporter about
Harris'  role in the killings, Sapel said, her mouth just
dropped. She said she was amazed that "something
like this could happen to someone I know."

At first, Sapel said, getting attention from the national
media who came to the town to talk about the
incident, "was kinda exciting."

But the attention soon became too much.

Sapel said she felt like telling the media to "go away."

"We don't want to talk about this. It isn't a news story,
it's a tragedy," she said.

Now Sapel said teenagers in her town are wondering
what might have happened "if [Harris] had stayed
here" instead of moving to Colorado just five years

"We're glad it didn't happen to us," said Sapel. "It
could have been us."