I Was Almost A School Shooter | Aaron Stark | TEDxBoulder
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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 James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “I Was Almost A School Shooter | Aaron Stark | TEDxBoulder

  1. @ 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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! 🍀

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. Look at these weak people a white man up here saying he was going to shoot up a school for what your week and look at the crowd all whites all of you are weak

  11. I had a friend that fantasized about bringing a gun and shooting people at school. He was being really badly abused and also made fun of similarly for not being clean and being so skinny from not eating. He was made to sleep in a shed in his backyard and not given food. He would put safety pins through his arms for 50 cents a piece for money for food. Everyone turned their backs on him. The teachers, the students, his parents, all for things out of his control. I totally understood why he wanted to lash out but what I don't understand, even now, is why it seems to be white males who want to react in this way. Abuse (even severe abuse) happens in all races and genders, so why the white males? Not to say it's not understandable, but why?

  12. and now imagine all your kids wife family cousins home business destroyed by American Planes and Bombs, imagine what would that make? = Monsters.

  13. I finally gave in to watching this video, it was recommended to me for more than a week. Glad I watched it, made me cry.

  14. He was wanting to become a school shooter. Just because he was bullied, doesn't mean I have to feel empathy for him. I do not want him or anyone like him near my kids..

  15. Bless you brother! I'm so thankful for your beautiful friend! You're right… sometimes just a few kind words and a genuine friend can turn it all around. Thank you for sharing your story.
    Perfect timing! 💖

  16. Omg!
    How do I get in touch with this guy.
    I have felt the same pain and been to the same dark places.
    And would love to be able to use the info i have learned from the time of my life to speak out and help those who may be there now.

  17. Just hope people don't travel back in time to the 80s thinking Heavy Metal is bad. I've had the best parenting ever, love Heavy Metal and I have never had trouble making friends and having supportive people around (and being taken for supportive when possible). Seen boys and girls struggling to belong and there was nothing I could do but showing them as much respect as I could, but my friends wouldn't be so kind to these lonely kids when they were around. Really hard to balance that.

  18. He looks like a school shooter. I know I’m not supposed to say that, but it’s hard to have sympathy for a person who was capable of almost slaughtering numerous innocents. The kind of bullying kids can go through in school is horrific, but it’s not all about appearance. If you can use bullying and being a misfit to develop character there are plenty of people who don’t look the best but have great character and great personalities who are well liked and well loved.

  19. I'm glad this dude didn't kill anyone, but I'll be damned if I befriend a threat, rather than treat it as a threat.

    This particular guy needed a friend, but that hardly includes all the rest.

  20. "I found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay… Simple acts of kindness and love."

  21. I think I cried through this whole thing. My heart breaks for u, for 12 years old u, for your drug addicted parents… Thank u for sharing your story.

  22. Amazing! He’s right “we have to give love to the people we think deserve it the least”. When my kids come home from school and I hear about other children I can immediately tell when they have no parental guidance. If you see a child I need of parental guidance whether you’re a parent or not help them out.

  23. Don't get me wrong: there's a clear correlation between gun availability and mass shootings. Having said that, banning the guns just isn't enough. Your country has huge problems that root very deep in your society. You have to change everything: how you treat addicts, how you treat kids that need help, your whole cult-like school system, everything. But banning guns would certainly be a necessary first step.

  24. "But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most, our one fellow and brother who most needed a friend yet had not a single one, the one sinner among us all who had the highest and clearest right to every Christian's daily and nightly prayers, for the plain and unassailable reason that his was the first and greatest need, he being among sinners the supremest?"

    -Mark Twain

  25. " When you have nothing to lose you can do anything " that hit my right in the chest because i once felt the same way

  26. Great speech!

    Unfortunately we need both: the kind people that help those troubled students who need to be saved, and the armed teachers for those students who refuse to get help and don’t want to turn their lives around like he did. These students NEED to be stopped when they try to shoot up a classroom. At this point, gun in hand and blood lust in their hearts, kind words and making them feel good won’t cut it anymore. At this point, the teacher has to do what they have to do and protect the other students from a tragedy.

  27. Thank you for sharing your story with us! This was truly beautiful and I'm glad you used all your pain to help others get out of painful situations too!

  28. This shows exactly why the problem is not guns it’s the people. Fix the person and you will fix the world. Not the other way around.

  29. This makes you understand these shooters. Not condone them, but understand the motives behind some of them and that can help us understand how to find a way to help them to prevent these atrocities which aren’t limited to the States or schools.

  30. Seriously, the programs of the Bernie Sanders campaign that have nothing to do with guns are programs that will greatly reduce the mass shootings in our country. Bernie 2020.

  31. Did you ever notice that this type of crime is one of the few that is almost exclusively white male? People often talk down on other cultures for causing crime, but here, we have failed way too often. I´ve never been down a low like him, but I had my share of pain, which goe beyond what most of my peers had suffered. I will never understand, how he got to the decision to kill random people, but I understand his pain and disappointment all too well.
    What I hated about my life was that my value was only determined by my performance and that when I had problems no-one was there to listen, let alone help. That´s something I´ve appreciated about many other cultures. You might not even be that close, but if something is wrong and you call at 3:00, then the other comes to help because it´s only natural for the community to help each other. Sure, having people call you that late/early is no fun, but having someone when you need him/her is invaluable.
    It literally can cure depression!

  32. I saw the title and thought, "you could animate this, slap this on an "aNiMaTeD sToRy ChAnNeL" with a clickbait thumbnail, and a narrator that completely changes the story."

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