Thursday, September 17, 2009

What we know of Columbine

It became one of those moments. One of the “I remember where I was when I heard the news” times.

I remember where I was when: the Challenger exploded (at my first real job in Indianapolis); Oklahoma City was bombed (in my office in Alabama); the Twin Towers fell (getting kids off to school in Illinois); and Columbine High School came under fire (in my car in St. Louis).

Columbine quickly became a household name. It was no longer an affluent community in Colorado or a high school of roughly 2000 kids. It became synonymous with every parent’s worst nightmare: that you might one day send your child to school and later be asked to identify his or her body.

I first learned about Dave Cullen’s book, Columbine, through a literary agent’s Web site. Later I bought the book and couldn’t put it down.

What we learned from the media turned out to be so far removed from the truth. The boys, Eric and Dylan, didn’t target jocks or Christians. They weren’t bullied or outcasts. Dylan attended prom just days before he would place bombs beside his classmates. Dylan was a depressed, suicidal kid easily influenced by others. Eric was a homicidal psychopath. Their friendship proved lethal.

They spent more than a year plotting their assault. On April 20, 1999, they didn’t plan to shoot kids in their school library; they planned to blow the place up. The body count would have been staggering. Fortunately, they were lousy at building bombs. Regrettably, they had a backup plan. Before they would shoot themselves, they would murder 12 students and one teacher, injure 24 and stun a nation.

I won’t attempt to summarize Cullen’s story here. You can watch this short video below and then I urge you to visit his Web site. Then read his book. If you do read it, I suggest you flip back to the Notes portion (beginning on page 363) to help you understand the research behind the findings.

Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene and spent the next ten years reviewing evidence and interviewing survivors and the community.

What I learned was this: As parents we have every right to know what our kids are doing—who they socialize with, what they stash in their closets, what they write in their journals. The amount of evidence both boys left behind is staggering.

We also must persevere to right any injustice we see. A classmate’s mother repeatedly complained to police about Eric Harris—kids knew the boys were making bombs and amassing artillery. A search warrant for Eric’s house was written up and then never executed. So many police blunders and cover-ups would ensue. The boys’ antics slipped through the cracks and people died.

Columbine is a riveting story you’ll never forget. And one I hope to never read again.


Dave Cullen said...

Thanks, Pamela. I really appreciate that generous review of my book.

Joan Mora said...

It's a shame there are so many instances of "where I was when..." This sounds like a must read. Thanks for the recommendation.

Renee said...

Wow, when I first started reading this post, I immediately said, "I'm getting this book." I'm bored with Christian self-help. I can't seem to finish a novel lately. Maybe this one will hold my interest as your post did. Yes, Columbine is such a tragedy. One reason why we homeschool. Not really, but ok maybe a little bit. But church kids can blow up the youth building the same way kids can blow up the school. So I suppose all we can do is trust in God to protect us!

Have a great day friend!

Pamela Hammonds said...
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Pamela Hammonds said...

There are mornings when I catch myself memorizing what my boys have on, in case I need to describe what they are wearing to police or rescue personnel. Pretty dark, right?

I reported on high schools for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch right when all this was going on. Suddenly student ID badges were mandatory. SROs (cops in polo shirts) were hanging out in parking lots and around exits. And East St. Louis High installed metal detectors.

Now my kids talk about lock-down drills in addition to tornado and fire. Sad to think we live this way.

That's why I think Dave's book should be required reading for anyone associated with kids--teachers, principals, counselors and parents too. It will change how you view your kids' peers and attitudes.

starviego said...
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