In many ways, the Columbine school shootings have the same milestone effect on society as do events like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombing. Columbine forever changed the way we look at school safety and the mental health of students. But unfortunately, much of what we "remember" about the event is inaccurate due to media hype and official stonewalling. Dave Cullen reveals the actual story behind the events with exhaustive research in his book Columbine. When I finished reading, I had to seriously re-examine many of the convenient reasons that have been given for what transpired. It's a complex story with few easy answers that go beyond knee-jerk reactions.
Culllen spent ten years of his life living this story, combing through over 250,000 documents and conducting countless interviews. I was immediately impressed that all the dialog and conversations that are recounted are either verbatim quotes from interviews or documented exchanges by the different parties. Too many of these types of books are littered with "creative license" when it comes to filling the gaps in the story. Not so here... There's no problem when it comes to determining what is fact and what is fiction when you wonder who said what. Furthermore, there was little evidence of the author having a particular platform to push or axe to grind in coming to conclusions. He takes on many of the "facts" such as Cassie Bernall's "martyrdom" or the existence of the "Trench Coat Mafia." While Bernall's story made for inspirational religious material, evidence shows her face-to-face dialogue with the shooter never occurred. Media loved the existence of the Trench Coat Mafia angle as it hinted at a wide-spread dark conspiracy. In truth, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold acted on their own, motivated primarily by rage towards all people, not some specific group as was generally thought. Cullen looks deep into the minds of Harris and Klebold during the years leading up to the shootings, and presents a very disturbing view of two kids who became obsessed with ending their lives on a very bloody stage.
After reading Columbine, I understand a bit better how hard it is to draw the line when it comes to being "safe." There were signs, such as Harris's online writings, that would have led one to think that authorities needed to intervene. In fact, police officials were aware of many of these signs, but never completely followed up on them. And when they were followed up on, Harris exhibited psychopathic behavior by convincing everyone that he was truly sorry or that things were not as they appeared. So while intervention did occur, it ultimately failed to prevent the tragedy. Could or should more have been done? Obviously, after the fact the answer is yes. But do we have the resources to follow up on *every* report and suspicion that is leveled against anyone? No. And somewhere in there is a very blurry line that can never be clearly defined.
Columbine is not an easy book to read. But it's an essential read for understanding the events that occurred on April 20th, 1999, as well as the people who were behind it. And with that knowledge, perhaps we'll be better equipped to understand and respond in time to intervene before someone else decides to follow the examples of Harris and Klebold. History since 1999 has shown us that we'll never be able to prevent them entirely, but we'll never know about the ones that *didn't* occur due to better understanding of what to look for.
I still remember sitting in front of the TV on the morning of April 21st, 1999, as I did every morning before leaving for school. I was 15 and had just started my 10th grade in a school in Dubai. Columbine was on every news channel that day. It was scary. A crime, the kind of which I had not heard of. It made me realize that even schools weren't safe. I had not given it a thought before, but the news of that day acutely sharpened my antennae. Columbine by Dave Cullen, was … more
Why? A simple question but one with no real answer. A question which many people asked in the aftermath of that day, April 20, 1999, when two students opened fire on their fellow classmates at Columbine High School, killing 13 and injuring 24. The answer to "why?" was very elusive; one which some people may have simply shrugged off. I believe that the answer has been provided in Dave Cullen's outstanding book, Columbine. Exhaustively researched over the course … more
Quickly…what do you know about the Columbine school shootings from 10 years ago? Here’s what I knew: The shooters snapped one day and went on a rampage; they were picked on a lot by the school jocks and, therefore, targeted them, their family lives were horrendous and they chose April 20th because of Hitler’s birthday. Is that about the same as your list? Well, if so…we were wrong, and this book proves it. I have now been reviewing non-fiction books here for … more
We all remember, or know of, what happened on April 20, 1999 at a high school in Littleton, Colorado named Columbine. Two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened gunfire on their classmates and teachers - killing 13 and injuring dozens of others. Dave Cullen is a journalist who covered the massacre for over two years. In this book he sheds light on all the commonly held myths about what really occurred that day, and fits it all together for us in a timeline that unfolds … more
Thomas Duff, aka "Duffbert", is a long-time member of the Lotus community. He's primarily focused on the development side of the Notes/Domino environment, currently working for a large insurance … more
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