Columbine

Columbine - Dave Cullen I am so glad to be finished with this book as it kept me awake at night and I need to get some sleep. This was an easy read, yet one of the toughest books. Ever. It was easy in that I didn't want to put it down. The first 100 pages read more like a novel and I had to keep reminding myself that this nightmare was real. It really happened. And it was a nightmare come to life for all the students and faculty in that school on that day. Which was what made it so difficult.

What I learned from this book?

Well, for starters, though I've never been a big fan of the mainstream media, they are much more into "the story" rather than "the truth" than I ever imagined. I was quite impressed by Dave Cullen's ability to read through the witness' statements and see how the trauma of the event skewed their thinking vs. merely taking everything they said as gospel.

I also give Dave Cullen a lot of credit for spending 10 years studying this tragedy. I just spent 3 days with Eric Harris and I'm done. I never want to have think about him again. Although I know I will. Which brings me to another thing I learned. Eric Harris didn't just "snap" as we've come to think of school shooters. He was a psychopath and if the Columbine tragedy had not of happened, he would have very likely become some other sort of monster, a serial killer or terrorist. Not that that would be any sort of comfort to his victims. But it should release his parents from wrong doing. And I feel that the blame upon them is grossly misplaced. Were they perfect parents? Who is? Were there things they missed? Of course! But what parent would make the leap from, "hey my kid's getting into a bit of trouble here" to "I think he's planning to blow up his school"? I do wish they had granted Dave Cullen an interview. I think their insight would be helpful to other parents who maybe are dealing with some of the same issues.

Same goes with the Klebolds. Because another thing I learned, or I should say reminded of, is that teens are quite good at hiding things from their parents. Even depression and suicidal thoughts. Most parents would just chalk it up to normal teen angst, but where does this supposed "normal" teen angst cross the line? As a parent about to enter those tumultuous years, I would love to know what more the Klebolds had to say about their son. Because if all us parents are being honest, yea we watched the footage of Columbine and think of the victims and wonder if it could happen to our kids, but what we don't want to admit is that there's a part of us that wonders if our kid could be the one doing it. Eric and Dylan made their choices. And to blame the parents does a real disservice to society.

Enough about the killers. If I had any real criticism about the book (which who am I to say since I didn't spend 10 years doing the extensive research) it would be that not all of the victims were covered. Which, in all fairness to Mr. Cullen would probably add another 10 years of work. But I guess I really missed Rachael Scott as I had read the book about her not too long after it was released. She was an amazing person and if I remember correctly I thought she had been asked by either Eric or Dylan if she believed in God and she said yes, but maybe that was just another myth.

Another criticism has been the absence of pictures and diagrams. And I have to admit that bothered me at first too. But Dave Cullen explained that he wanted his writing to create its' own visual and I respect that. That and the fact that we've all seen the pictures and if you need a refresher they are pretty much all over the web and Dave Cullen has some on his website.

The pictures I didn't physically see that I can picture in my own mind and take away from this book are: Patrick Ireland dancing at his wedding, the "wall" of students and parents protecting their school from the media on their first day back, Dylan Klebold in his coffin surrounded by beanie babies, Frank D. (the principal) stepping up to speak to his students for the first time and collapsing in an all-consuming pile of emotions, only to be the one to finally tell those kids the truth, that this was just the beginning of a rough road ahead, the Eagle scout tending to Dave Sanders as he lies bleeding to death, the current Columbine students who have overcome the mystique of their school so much so that they found it more fascinating to be talking to a "journalist" from Denver rather than answer questions about the tragedy that had happened in their halls.

On April 20, 1999 I had been a mother for just less than 3 months. I remember holding my baby, riveted to the television screen and thinking how could this happen. Almost 11 years later I still don't completely understand. What human mind can comprehend such senselessness? But what I do know that I didn't know then, was that the events that transpired before me on that day in April were not even the beginning of the whole story. And I give a big thanks to Dave Cullen for bringing the whole story to light. I only hope that we, as individuals, as teachers, as parents, as a society, can learn from it.

My heart truly goes out to the victims, the victim's families, and to Eric's and Dylan's families. None of them deserved any of this.