I Was Almost A School Shooter | Aaron Stark | TEDxBoulder

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)


  1. Sir Im glad that you didn't ultimately destroy yourself or others. you are a worthwhile person bud. Sorry life had such an impossibly hard road starting out

  2. To be honest he should’ve gone through with it. Would’ve been pretty sick. Oh well, I WONT FAIL, I WILL DO IT. REMEMBER THIS COMMENT. I AM THE SCHOOL SHOOTER OF BROOKWOOD HIGHSCHOOL

  3. Very powerful and moving speech. This is what severe depression and pain can do to your mind. Unbelievable story I'm so happy his best friend was there for him. ❤️

  4. If a nut job try’s to shoot up his children’s school let’s see him treat them like a human and watch a movie with them….. listen….. I don’t care what a person is going through, if you want to shoot up my daughters school then you become my enemy and I will treat you like a dog

  5. Kudos for this guy getting on a stage to share his story. I imagine there are thousands out there who have contemplated shooting up their schools. In 1972, I and a friend drew up a map of school, made entrance and exit plans, and practiced target shooting with a 45 cal pistol, a shotgun, and scoped rifle and a semi-automatic rifle designed to look like a Thompson Machine gun. We were both angry, alienated kids who wanted someone to notice. My friend, who owned the guns, bailed when we came close to the date we'd planned to carry out the shooting. That was the end of it, thank goodness. It took me a long time find better ways to deal with my anger, but it did pass.

  6. Truly powerful statement. This man has gone through so much and had the courage to talk about it. Thank you Aaron for sharing your story

  7. “We have to give love to the people who we think deserve it the least.”
    If only everyone understood this, the world would be a much better place

  8. One question; if you lving wit no money, how do you get an ounce in order to get a gun, and I am not sure an ounce would be enough payment, although i suppose if it was Gold seal … but to buy a weapon that 'can do the ma damage in the shortest time that sounds expensive to me, I guess this is another American urban story, but it makes feel good so it bears a positive social function, like all stories have done for thousands of years.

    btw, what you Americans call a shed, we Europeans would call quite a nice home.

  9. 6:00 you can tell just how hurt he still is when his emotions spike when talking about kids today going through the same thing he had to go through.

    Hats off to you, Sir. Truly amazing.

  10. But , NEVER NEVER forget ——- it was very close to not ending this way —– we shall reap what we sow , our society has itself to blame .

  11. I would never consider shooting people but I was bullied as a kid in school. I reported to teachers and they would literally brush it off. I felt alone and desperate and ended up fighting some kids. But I can somewhat understand what he us saying. These shooters are more than likely bullied and feel alone, unfortunately, they have anger or mental issues that might lead them to these sad extremes. Family and friends are important. Im not religious and church communities matter as well.

  12. I used to work with a guy that was a roommate and he said one day. I don’t feel like I make a difference in life. I told you never now. There could be someone that is having a really bad day and thinking of doing something to them or someone else. I asked him if he had done something like holding the door open for someone and he told me yes. I told him for all you know that act of kindness could have given them hope. Kindness goes a long way for someone down.

  13. I really admire those people who changed for the better. Maybe not changing but unleashing the good in you.

  14. People always blame something for school shooting like gun control or video games but they never question that it might be the way they’re being treated by their family band other kids

  15. Greetings from Denmark!
    Wow what a brave talk Aaron! A great showcase of what the true power of empathy and attention can do to prevent chaos. I hope your friend knows that he is a hero. Best of luck in both of your future endeavors.

  16. We need answers. We are not getting them from rational people. We are getting them from the very people who wish their words incite the next mass shooting so they can gain power from it. That's the sad truth. Until the media and lawmakers are held accountable for inciting violence this will not get better. It will continue to get worse.
    Very sorry for this guy. He has a lifetime to live with his lack of a childhood.

  17. Powerful. I think this gentleman should have seriously considered though wrtting an article or speaking with his face hidden instead. The sad fact is no one is going to believe that this guy is cured in a way where he won't potentially consider doing exactly what he spoke about again. Think about it

  18. i’m sorry but i don’t think this is being brave. he’s literally telling us how mentally unstable he can get. he could hit rock bottom again and easily harm someone.

  19. This is our country!
    That conservative mindset of not taking care of any body. That horrible social idea of mental health care for all 🤔

  20. This is a misanthropy and nihilism issue. We need to understand what draws people to hate everyone and everything and help them. Thank you sir.

  21. It’s not right. No one deserves pain. Not even those who inflict it. They have been dealt the touch of pain themselves, and while that never justifies ones actions, it explains it. No one should feel the need and or want to hurt someone else, no one should have to worry about suffering more pain. All of us suffer some pain, but that can blind us to the fact that others sometimes feel worse pain than you and me could ever imagine. Pain is no joke. It corrupts more than anything else can. Eliminate pain and hatred. That’s how we stop suffering at its source.

  22. This is the worst Ted talk I’ve seen. It doesn’t take random acts of kindness to prevent mass murder. If you are capable of murder in a void of kindness then you deserve zero sympathy. I’ve known pain, and people in pain. This is yet another rhetoric about how things aren’t our own fault and other people are to blame. We’ve been dealt a bad hand. We haven’t known kindness. We came from violence. It’s no excuse. This man is a danger and should be incarcerated. His complete lack of responsibility is mind boggling. The way he justifies even his thoughts is abhorrent. I condemn this video. The speaker is a coward.

  23. I graduated high school in 1995. Thankfully, Columbine did not happen until 1999. It takes one person to commit something crazy for others to look at that even and think, "That looks like a good idea". I was that miserable and I was that kid, but in the early 90s, there was no concept of mass school shootings. However, I did know about hanging yourself and I attempted that a few times with dog chains, albeit not successful obviously.

  24. I know my comment will never be seen but I agree with this guy a ton. I was my fathers latest child he had me at 58 so all my family members hated me for being the one to inherit what they thought was their money. Almost killed my cousin who was 30 years older than me because he didn’t like me. I’m no killer but I have felt the effects of having no way out.

  25. Except that you're privileged enough to "not be alone" and to have family. Some don't have that. Some indeed have nothing to lose at all.

  26. "I was just doing as I had been taught." If this is your mentality for life then that's your true issue. You have to learn for yourself what is right and wrong, its nobody's responsibility to teach you. Man up.

  27. This brought tears to me. I wish you nothing but Gods blessing and love. I feel your pain and would be your friend. I hope your days are better than they were growing up.


  29. @ everyone else who also disliked the video. Why? I'm just curious, cause I feel like most of us did it for the same reason, but I'm not 100% sure.

  30. So powerful. Thank you for telling your story. We all know someone that's an outsider, we all could aim to be that friend. We should.

  31. Much love for you ❤❤❤❤❤ you've grown so incredibly strong out of this immense pain. I can feel it just through the video. My respect. Thank you for sharing! 🍀

  32. I like this guys story and I like what he has to say.
    That being said, I don’t think this approach is applicable to everybody looking to harm people.

  33. We are supposed to feel sorry for this guy? Other people go through the same things and don’t conspire to kill people. This guy clearly had (and statistically still would have) sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies and should be monitored.

  34. My father and mother were the 2 most hateful and cancerous people in my life. And I met dozens. Was bullied extensively myself as well.

  35. Typical strategic programming you people in the comments are sheep all these "shooters" are clones being used to push an agenda

  36. Damn man don't really know what to say but just had to say something, this hits deep. My up most respect for you man!

  37. This is why I was a little concerned (more concerned now) about the trend of identifying and completely cutting off "toxic" people from your life. I'm not saying you shouldn't have boundaries and protect yourself, but maybe people are being labelled faster and given fewer chances and that contributes to the shooting epidemic.

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