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Why New York Kids Say It Couldn't Happen Here

To many Manhattan high-school students, the hatred and cruelty in Colorado are unthinkable: The city itself preaches tolerance.


They'd met for the first time in Washington Square Park that day; they had no real plans until they hooked up, and then suddenly this seemed like the thing to do. One kid was white, one black, one Puerto Rican, one Dominican; but it wouldn't have occurred to them to characterize themselves that way. They might have said "the kid with the tongue stud." Now they were together at Johnny Rockets, a diner on 8th Street with a fifties theme, "At the Hop" playing and everything in shiny chrome. In the fifties, these kids might not have been able to sit together at a diner, sharing a plate of fries, but that also wasn't part of their worldview.

I asked them what they thought about what happened at Columbine High.

"A lot of people in my school are saying they shouldn't blame the media or Marilyn Manson; they should blame the kids in that school because they were the ones who put the boundaries and the segregation between the kids, man," said Sylvia Dejesus. She was Puerto Rican and a senior at Humanities Preparatory Academy; she wore her hair straight and black, like Madonna's new style, and had on a T-shirt that said MASTERBATE, with a picture of Pee-Wee Herman ("They shouldn't have arrested him for that," she said). "I mean, you can't blame the dead kids, but the kids as a whole had a bunch of cliques."

"Our school has cliques and whatnot," said Ted Rourke, the white kid, also a senior at Humanities. "But we don't have those kind of dividing lines and hostility." He and Sylvia had decided that since neither of them had dates for the prom yet, they would go together.

"We just say 'wassup' to everybody," said Sylvia. "Like, who cares if you're a goth? Who cares if you're dressed in hip-hoppish clothes? I'm sorry, but I have to defend the goths. The people that I know who are goths, they listen to their depressing music like the Smiths, but that doesn't mean they go around shooting and slicing people because they feel depressed."

"We don't have that same kind of atmosphere in New York like in a jock-type school in a football town," said Nicolas Peralta. He was black, and the kid with the tongue stud. "There's not so much pressure to conform here. It's a pretty good city," he added.

"There's, what do you call it, a lot of outlets where people could express how they are -- creative outlets," said Sylvia.

"That's why the Village is so cool," said Uwvie (ooh-vee-ay) Ibanez, the Dominican. "Around here, no matter how you dress or what kind of lifestyle you lead, everybody's fine with it. Nobody puts you down."

"It's, like, in New York City," said Ted, "there's so much to do. You get to walk down the streets, you see all kinds of people, there's variety everywhere. In Colorado, there's nothing going on -- those kids just download a bunch of stuff from the Internet and watch TV. There's nothing to look at but houses and grass and trees -- "

"Extra-large trees," said Nicolas. "Here it's so different. Like, I look at the high-school shows on TV or movies like The Faculty, and I sit there thinking, I don't have a locker. We don't have varsity teams, there's no parking lots at our school -- "

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