Columbine, by Dave Cullen

I am exactly one year older than Dylan Klebold.

Exactly. Ironic that on our twenty-first birthday foreign terrorists made homemade bombs by flying planes into buildings. At one time, two years before, Dylan would be credited with that idea. It would be the first of many myths circulating about the attacks.

I’ve always been fascinated with Columbine. Morbid, maybe. But the human spirit is fascinating and I remember thinking after the school attacks not really about the victims, but about the shooters. I wanted to understand them – I was fascinated with why they decided to go into their school several weeks before graduating and fire upon innocent people. No, I didn’t want to shoot up my school, but I wanted to know how they could. What brings that much rage into your heart that you open fire on the school library? I was disgusted that “jocks” were targeted – realizing quickly that if it had been at my high school, my Dad would be the main target. He was, after all, leader of the jocks – the Head Football Coach.

Dave Cullen reveals in “Columbine” that there wasn’t a planned target. “Humankind” was to be eliminated if Eric Harris’ plan went the way it was supposed to. Thirteen died-that was a mere speck on the damage that Harris had planned. And Columbine wasn’t a school shooting. It was a genocide. Bombs with the potential to kill hundreds of people – including on lookers around the “perimeter”- were set to go off on timers long after Eric & Dylan had committed suicide. That was the plan. But it didn’t go as projected – Columbine, from the point of view of the killers, was an epic failure.

The plan, outlined extensively in Eric Harris’ personal journal, revealing not the thoughts of a bullied weakling, but the calculated desires of a misanthrope. A psychopath. Eric Harris was psychotic. At least, that was what the FBI concluded. I concur.

Dylan Klebold was depressed. Severely depressed. Eric’s follower, but his journals reveal that while he went along with Eric’s plans, he never intended to participate. He planned on committing suicide way before the attack. Eric was the one who financed, procured, and built the arsenal that they brought into the school. I am not abdicating Dylan of responsibility – I am just saying that based on both boys’ writings, Dylan only desired to really kill one person – himself. The majority of the dead were killed by Eric. The majority of the wounded were hurt by Eric. Eric Harris unloaded his gun significantly more than Dylan Klebold. Dylan mainly stood and watched the mayhem.

When looking at the boys’ journals there was a stark difference: Eric’s was filled with writings of HATE. Dylan’s was filled with writings of LOVE.

Again, I am not abdicating Dylan. As Dave Cullen reveals, Dylan was full of rage. Dylan participated in the plan. Dylan showed up to school in a trench coat hiding semi-automatic weapons on 20 April 1999 and fired upon his peers. Like he said in his farewell video: He made that choice. He and Eric are responsible.

Some of the most chilling revelations in this expose were the debunking of myths surrounding the mass murder – myths that eleven years later, I still took as truth. Things like:

The conspiracy. Besides getting people to purchase ammunition/weapons, Eric & Dylan conclusively acted alone.

The martyr. So many people have heard the story of the girl, when faced with the question, “Do you believe in God?” she said “Yes” before she was shot. That did happen. But the girl lived. Cassie Bernall, the dead girl given the martyr title, never professed her faith.

The Hitler Connection. Most people think the attack happened on 4/20 because it was Hitler’s birthday. Not true. It was originally scheduled for 4/19 but had to be pushed back a day so that Eric & Dylan could get more ammunition.

They snapped. The media portrayed these boys as being bullied and they snapped and just came to school and shot their aggressors. Not true. The planned this attack for almost two years. They had rage issues. They were aggressive. They were depressed. There was no real “trigger” to set them off – this was totally calculated, premeditated murder. And they had fun.

Cullen spends a lot of time on the victims & survivors in his book. The massacre has changed all of them. However, the most interesting “characters” besides the two shooters, were their parents.

The Harris’ have been the least forthcoming. The police gained access to Mr. Harris’ private journal he kept on Eric before the tragedy and Cullen uses it to paint a picture of both father and son. It seems to me as if Mr. Harris knew something was off with his son – why would he keep a journal of his behavior?

The Klebolds were the more forthcoming. I recently read an article Sue Klebold wrote about her son in O Magazine. The Klebolds gave one public interview with the press in the last 11 years – insisting on referring to the massacre as a suicide. They maintain that they had no knowledge of the depression, the bad behavior, the rage.

Neither families take responsibility.

Something I didn’t know – and I don’t think is public knowledge outside of Littleton, CO, was that both the Harris’ and the Klebolds were deposed as a part of a settlement agreement of a civil suit brought on by the victims’ families. Their deposition was sealed. It remains in the National Archives and will be unsealed in twenty years. 2027. My daughter will be 18 – the same age as Eric & Dylan when they shot up their school.

This book was highly informative. The research was top notch and credible – and the narrative was sensitive – both to the victims, survivors, and killers. I felt that Cullen did a great job weaving together all the loose ends that seem to have unraveled. He exposed the coverups of the Jefferson County Sherriffs Office along with the infamous Basement Tapes.

There is so much more to learn about these boys – and I think that so many people wish that legal justice could have prevailed. But I also see that both of these boys were sick – Eric probably would have killed at some point in his life, Dylan could have been saved given treatment. Really, though, we’ll never fully know or understand that inner workings of these two mass murders.

I highly recommend Cullen’s book. Not only is it informative, it gives you much to think about by asking significant questions about our children, our parenting and our schools. So many people are to blame for so many elements of this tragedy. Perhaps the most poignant of the blame is taken by Eric Harris – in his day planner, on Mother’s Day of 1999, he writes, “Bad sons come from good wombs”.

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