It Couldn’t Be Dylan
“Have you seen the paper, Dad?” he asked Jay Holliday. “Jess is on the front page.”
Holliday went downstairs and picked up his Denver Rocky Mountain News. On the cover was the same photo Derek had seen in North Dakota: 18-year-old Jessica Holliday, her hands clutching her head, her mouth open in a silent wail. HEARTBREAK read the headline, a word that barely expressed the emotion written on Jessica’s face.
Her anguished image showed up on front pages in every corner of the world - along with magazine covers, the Internet, television. The camera caught a pretty face so distorted by despair that only family and friends knew for certain who it was. And only Jessica herself knew what she had been thinking and feeling just then.
But that didn’t stop the rest of the world from claiming Jessica’s pain as its own.
“That picture tells the whole story,” said Jessica’s mother, Kathy Holliday. “I can’t look at it without crying.”
Jessica’s photo seemed to move everyone except Jessica herself. For her, the events of April 20 seemed unreal, and they still do.
It felt unreal when the killers walked through Columbine ‘s library, laughing and shooting, while she hid under a table and prayed.
Because Jessica Holliday is not just the girl in the picture; she’s the girl in the middle.
She knew the killers, and she knew their victims. They were nice guys. And they murdered her best friend
Jessica had seen Dylan Klebold with the gun before she ducked under the table, and it was difficult for her to reconcile that image with the quiet kid she knew.
“It couldn’t be Dylan,” she thought, even though she knew it was.
Later, she told her parents how she thought about standing up and telling Eric and Dylan to stop, as if reason might have been bullet-proof. Maybe they wouldn’t have killed her, because they both knew her.
Jessica told her mother she felt like a coward because she didn’t do anything to save her friends. But now she has accepted the fact that there was nothing she could have done.
“Nobody could have stopped them. Nobody,” Jessica said with certainty. “They didn’t have a reason for shooting somebody. They just shot. I think no matter what anybody would have done, if someone had stood up and tried to stop them, that person would have gotten shot.”
When the killers reached Jessica’s table, they had to reload. She heard them talking about cutting someone with a knife, what that would be like.Jessica, dressed in shorts, became painfully aware of her bare legs jutting out from under the table. Would they cut her? she wondered.
Instead, they left to get more ammunition.
She told her story with feeling, but no tears. Her voice resonated with love for Lauren but no hint of bitterness toward Eric and Dylan.
“I don’t have any hate,” Jessica said. “I feel sorry for the boys, because they hated life so much that they had to destroy others. I feel sorry for them. Because they couldn’t enjoy life, like me and Lauren could.”
“I can’t hate them. Because I knew them, both of them.
"But I don’t want to ever think about them again. Because they killed my best friend. My best friend, who knew every little part of my life. They took her.”
Jessica doesn’t like the photo of herself. As many times as she has seen it, she still doesn’t feel its power, even though she knows it has touched millions. It just rubs her the wrong way.
“It was weird to see myself. I didn’t like it, and I still don’t like it,” she said. “I was so sad that day, and so confused. And then here it is, right there. All the stuff I was going through, and everybody could see it.”