I Was Almost A School Shooter | Aaron Stark | TEDxBoulder

Translator: Bob Prottas
Reviewer: Leonardo Silva I was almost a school shooter. In 1996, Denver, Colorado,
I was a student in North High. In a moment of pain and anger,
I almost committed a terrible atrocity. Growing up I’d learned early on there was a strange comfort
and calmness in darkness. I was always the new kid. My family was violent and aggressive,
drug-addicted parents. We were moving from place to place,
went to 30 or 40 different schools, always seemed to be going
to a new school every other week. You woke up at 4 o’clock
in the morning by cops, to run across the country to end up
at a school for a couple of weeks and then have to do it all again
a couple of days later. I was the perpetual new kid, and since I
also had such an unstable household, I wasn’t helped by the fact that I smelled
really bad because I never had a shower, or didn’t really have any clean clothes. All my clothes were dirty and torn. I liked comic books at a time
when kids didn’t really like people who liked comic books that much. So every time I went to a new school
I was in a new set of bullies. They’d walk up to me and shoot me
with a harpoon, like I was a whale, or dump food on my head
because they said I was too fat. But the bullying wasn’t just at school.
It happened at home a lot too. I was told that I was worthless
by just about everybody in my life. When you’re told you worthless enough
you will believe it, then you’re going to do everything
to make everybody else agree with it too. I wrapped that darkness around me
like a blanket, used it as a shield. It kept the few who agreed with me close,
but it kept everybody else away. I always had heard in life
that there was good and bad people. I must be one of the bad people. So I guess I’d have to just do
what I was supposed to do. So I got really aggressive. At 12 or 13-years-old
I got really into heavy metal music, and I was the mosh pit
when I went to concerts. The abuse just never seemed to stop. I got into cutting around 14 or 15 because I figured that there was all this
extreme emotion going on in my life I had absolutely no control over. I had to find some way
to find control over something so I took to cutting myself. I still have the scars to this day. At 15, 16 years old, I ended up homeless. My parents had kicked me out because I didn’t want to deal
with their drunken fighting, so I was living on the streets. I thought I had pushed
all my other friends away, shoved them all away
by lying to them or stealing from them, doing everything that my family
taught me how to react, which was the completely
wrong way how to react. But I had no idea.
I was just doing what I was taught. Finally, at 16 years old, I’m sitting
in my best friend’s shed, who I thought I’d already pushed away too
by stealing from him and lying to him. Lying in this shed
with the roof wide open, with rain pouring down on me
into a grungy chair that was covered in cobwebs and dirt
which hadn’t been touched in months. And I’m sitting there with my arm
covered in blood, knowing that if I didn’t do something
I was going to kill myself soon. So, I did the only thing
I could think of to do: I grabbed a phonebook,
and I called social services. So I went to social services. Sadly, they didn’t just bring me in there,
they also took my mom in there too, who happened to be one of the largest
sources of my pain growing up. Since she had spent her life
running from place to place and dealing with social workers
and police officers, she knew exactly what to say
to get them to believe that I was making it all up, it was just an act,
I was just doing it for attention. Then they sent me home with her. And as they sent me home with her,
she turned to me and she said: “Next time, you should do a better job
and I’ll buy you the razor blades.” My heart just got ripped out
of me at that point. The darkness I’d been staring at
for so long, I ran headlong into it. I had nothing left to live for. I literally had nothing to lose. And when you have nothing to lose
you can do anything, and that is a terrifying thought. I had decided that my act
of doing something was I was going to express
my extreme anger and rage by getting a gun. I was going to attack either my school
or a mall food court. It really didn’t matter which one. It wasn’t about the people,
it was about the largest amount of damage in the shortest amount of time
with the least amount of security. Both those places were the right targets. So I wish I had a better story
about actually getting a gun, but that was actually
brother-business-like. There were gangbanger kids
near my school back in the mid ’90s when gangs were still a major problem
in North Denver schools. This kid had seen me, he knew my family
and he’d sold drugs to them before. He knew that I wasn’t really in school,
I was just always at school. He knew I wasn’t a narc
or anything like that. I didn’t know anything but a first name.
That didn’t take more than that. I knew they had access to guns,
they talked about it all the time. I said: “Hey, can you get me a gun?”
“Sure, get me an ounce.” “All right, give me three days.” That was it. I was waiting to get myself a gun
so I could kill a lot of people. But thankfully
I wasn’t alone in that darkness. That best friend who had saved me
when I was sleeping in the shed, he saw this place that I was in. Even though I had stolen
from him and lied to him and taken his belongings
and ruined it all, he didn’t care, he still brought me in
and showed me acts of kindness. Just simple acts. It wasn’t the kind of overbearing
kindness where they say: “Is there anything I can do for you? can I do something to make you better? How can I help you?” It was just sitting down next to me. “Hey, would you like a meal?
Let’s watch a movie.” He treated it like it was a Tuesday.
He treated me like I was a person. When someone treats you like a person
when you don’t even feel like a human, it’ll change your entire world,
and it did to me. He stopped me with his acts of kindness
from committing that atrocity that day. If you see someone who’s in that spot
that needs that love, give it to them. Love the ones you feel
deserve it the least because they need it the most. It’ll help you just as much
as it helps them. We’re in a really dangerous spot now
with this trend of arming the teachers, looking out for the kids who might
be a threat in schools, and maybe turning them in to the FBI. What’s that going to do to a kid who’s
in the position I was 25 years ago? Who’s alone, and depressed, and abused, and is just sitting there hurting, and someone thinks that they’re a threat? He gets turned in to the FBI, and one month of pain
turns into a lifetime of legal trouble because one person thought
he was going to be a problem. Instead of looking at that kid
like he’s a threat, look at him like he might be a friend, like you might be able
to bring him into the fold. Show him that it’s just a Tuesday.
Show him that he is worth it. Show him that he can exist in this pain
even though it’s intense, that at the end of it, there is a light
at the end of the tunnel. I found my light. Now I’m a happy family man.
I am a father of four. My wife and my daughter
are in the audience today. (Applause) And even bigger than that, the friend who saved my life,
he’s in the audience today too. Because friendship
doesn’t ever really die. (Applause) We have to give love to the people
who we think deserve the least. Thank you. (Applause)

About the author


  1. Not trying to get political, but this really shines truth on the cause of mass shootings. It’s not the gun, it’s the constant bullying, abuse, and neglect.

  2. If your reading this and you feel alone, unwanted, or hurt. Or just need to vent to a stranger who you know will not hold any judgement to you, please reach out to me. I leave my twitter on public and my dms are always open you don’t have to follow me to reach me. My Twitter is @BrandonBrothers

  3. I see so many instances of girls telling reporters about when they'd see a bullied teen boy being terrorized. Strangely, no reporter asks why the girls never stepped in to stop the bullying or report it, nor does the girl consider that after the fact. But by all means she'll tell the principal or someone if she overhears him wanting or fantasizing to plot revenge. This is the problem. Show him that u don't think he's worthy of human rights, then he'll deem u and any other person as just as worthless and end ur life.

  4. 😪 very touching. Thank you best friend. We need more people like you, to hold up those around us when they need it most 💛

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm glad that you were able to overcome this, and that you had someone in your corner.

  6. I wasn’t abused at home but I was severely neglected. At school after a almost half a school year of kids physically bullying I thought about it. I remember googling columbine after a kid pushed me down the stairs. It was almost me ,too.

  7. That was fuckin powerful man. Im so glad everything turned out good for him in the end, and thank you for sharing.

  8. Poor guy, no kid deserves a childhood like that. Lots of respect to him for telling his story, and to his friend for helping him out of that darkness.

  9. Main point of this story is HOW he acquired the gun… Illegally. FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON FIREARMS WONT CHANGE A THING!!!

  10. I’m 15 right now and I’m not going through all that but I’m cutting bc I found myself being a victim of sextortion.😨 not shooting a school though but it’s hard not knowing your worth, so this was relatable.

  11. After listening to a story like this how can any person honestly believe that taking away guns will help our society. The people in this guys life failed him at every single level.

  12. You’re wrong. Sometimes people kill Because they want to. I’m saddened by your story that people have a right to defend themselves against me insane.

  13. We need a world without looking for being better than everyone else. We are all just humans, we all die someday, we all have our limits, we were born how we are!!

  14. 4:11 "the least amount of security". And we STILL have people who think the best way to deal with mass shootings is to ensure that the victims are all defenseless.

  15. One guy bought 3 guns with the intention to use them when the dismissal bell rung at my high school. Luckily he told his bf hoping to get him to join in but he told the RO instead.

  16. When the teacher asks a question and the quiet kid raises his hand first to answer, but she ignores it and answers someone else:

  17. He decided not to be a murderer. I see. The fact he was even considering it is appalling. A person of good character wouldn't think about doing that.

  18. When he said what his mom told him about getting better razor blades my heart shattered. I am so glad he found peace.

  19. Guns don't kill people. It's the people that kill people. A gun is simply a tool, as is a hammer or a wrench. All of those can be used to kill a person.
    We need to stop focusing on controlling rights of people, and start focusing on mental health and well being of others.

  20. God bless, I love you brother! Hope you're walk with Christ is still real, and not just for the credit of speaking. But i can see that's not an act! Thank you, for the testimony!🙌 I pray your message reaches the ones it was addressed to! 🙏 I also pray anyone looking for Jesus and this reading this knows, "He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!"

  21. This video needs 8 billion views in every language. We're all in this together, be kind and do no harm to others. Make peace with your past, it doesn't define you. It only makes you the wiser.

  22. I know where you're coming from. I'm so glad you have a friend and life now . I'm female and having a baby at age 16 kind of helped aim . It kicked in my protection instinct for my child. So my plans were put on hold.then later I learned ,got therapy etc. And I still remember the day someone treated me like I was q human being . It was awesome .anyway just want to say I understand . Now how do we make the rest of them understand that with the steps they have been taking lately , they are only creating what they are trying to avoid ? They are literally making home grown terrorists as we speak .this government seems to want everyone in that kind of mode .they are going out of their way to abuse people , traumatize them , rip family apart and put kids in a position they will remember and want revenge .basically they are making Isis again , but this time on our own soil .its just crazy .i knew that some kind of group would emerge from their torture policy overseas . It became Isis . I wonder what they will call themselves here . I wonder if they will ever understand their own role in the making if a monster ?
    I'm glad you got saved , so did I . And when you brought up if I'm a bad person I should act accordingly ..those were my thoughts exactly . And being treated like a human being .i totally relate ..violence is caused by pain . Massive massive amounts of pain. And their remedy is to inflict as much pain on a populace as possible .crazy times

  23. Can someone tag Trump and other politicians cuz I think there's alot they could learn from this instead of blaming video games for Mass shootings

  24. I have been through the same situation and never did I ever think about killing a mass of people or killing anyone in general I've slept in recycle bins in friends basements and many other horrible places but I never thought about killing anyone

  25. Now they are saying video games make school shooters, it was obviously the heavy metal.

    Jokes aside this man raises a powerful point and much respect and admiration to him for getting up on a stage to tell his story.

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