Whether the two young men arrested this week for allegedly planning to bomb Roy High School were, as one of them claimed, smarter than those responsible for the Columbine murders is hard to know. One thing is certain, however. Police, teachers, administrators and even students are much smarter about such things than they once were.
Because of that, many lives may have been saved.
Police are calling a student who notified administrators about the plot a hero. That is a correct appellation. Her actions took a dose of courage, as well as a mature understanding of how the plot was more than just a juvenile prank or an empty boast. But administrators and police were heroic, too, in that they took seriously the warnings the girl had received in a text message about explosives, a stolen airplane and a trip to a country with no extradition treaty. Such is the level of awareness in the post-Columbine world, even though today's high school students were preschoolers when that crime took place.
On its face, the plot sounds absurd and spectacularly naive. According to police, the two suspects, 18-year-old Dallin Morgan and 16-year-old Joshua Hoggan, were planning to set off explosives during a school assembly, steal an airplane from the Ogden-Hinckley Airport and fly to a country where they could be free from the arm of the law in the United States. Their plans in this regard are unclear. The United States has extradition treaties with virtually every country south of the border. Canada currently is in a state of uncertainty over whether it would extradite prisoners who might be subject to the death penalty, which might have applied in this case. However, the idea of fleeing to safety in a stolen light aircraft with limited fuel would pose many problems, not the least having to do with modern tracking systems. Had they landed safely, they would have needed shelter and food while trying to avoid capture.
And yet the level of planning revealed so far shows that both young men had taken steps to prepare for their plan. They apparently had a map outlining the school's security cameras and blind spots. They had studied how to fly using a computer simulator. Hoggan had traveled to Colorado to meet with the principal of Columbine High under the guise of writing a story for a school newspaper. Their plot appears to have been more than just a passing fancy.
The fixation with Columbine is a mystery not easily explained. It no doubt has roots in the juvenile angst of coming to terms with a world that at times can be cruel and unfair, and it sometimes flourishes unhindered by a mature understanding of consequences or human empathy. There was talk of getting "revenge on the world."
Nearly 13 years later, Columbine still inspires copycats. To the credit of everyone who reacted to this case in Roy, they haven't forgotten this. Perhaps now, with the right help, confused and angry young minds can be healed and salvaged.