Columbine High was buzzing with post-prom excitement. Mere days away from graduating, the seniors of CHS were enjoying their last days of high school glory. Some were getting ready for college, others were planning summer road trips or family adventures…and hidden among those graduating seniors were two boys harboring a dark secret that would completely change the lives of everyone in the small town of Littleton, Colorado.
Toting jackets and bags stuffed with bombs, guns, and knives, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High on April 20, 1999 with one goal in mind…destruction. They made a pact to take out as many students and faculty as they could before blowing up their high school for good. Though most of their plan actually failed, there’s no denying that the Columbine tragedy has gone down in American history as one of the worst domestic attacks of our generation. It left 13 students and faculty dead and several more wounded, both physically and emotionally. It was a horror story that left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, turning one high school, thought to be a safe haven for students, into a bloody hunting ground.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the Columbine tragedy is the insurmountable amounts of unanswered questions…the most prevalent being why. Armed with 10 years of reporting on the Columbine disaster, as well as a keen investigative eye as to the make-up of Eric and Dylan, journalist Dave Cullen attempts to answer that question. Filled with amazing stories about the victims, the survivors, the killers and the facts of what actually happened that day in April, Columbine aims to shed light on this horrible tragedy and perhaps offer some sense of closure for those who were affected by this terrible act of aggression.
I was 15 years old when Eric and Dylan attacked Columbine. I remember kids talking about it in the hallways and parents discussing it at PTA meetings. Councilors were available near 24/7 for any student who wanted to talk about it and security was at an all-time high for my little high school which still sits on the boarder of Illinois and Wisconsin.
Before Columbine, the thought of a school shooting never even entered my mind. I couldn’t comprehend how someone could do that to their friends and teachers. School was supposed to be a safe place, somewhere I could go where the biggest thing I had to worry about was what to have for lunch. I never felt in danger there, never looked at anyone twice or thought anyone at my high school would have the balls to do what Eric and Dylan did. And really, most people at Columbine felt the same.
From beginning to end, I was completely mystified, engrossed, and disgusted with Columbine. It is a brilliant, honest, and intricate account into the lives of Eric and Dylan and a true and unsettling retelling of the events that unfolded on April 20, 1999, as well as the days leading up to it.
Interspersed with the story, Cullen also offers a look into the lives of those who were taken on April 20th, including Rachel Scott, Cassie Bernall, and the beloved coach, Dave Sanders. After several hundred interviews with family members, witnesses, police officers, and others who were on the scene that day, Cullen attempts to rebuild this broken story in the hopes of offering some type of understanding as to WHY Eric and Dylan did what they did.
There are no excuses…no reasons…no explanations to completely satisfy this burning question, but Columbine does shed light on the lives of two troubled teens who felt so lost, so unaccepted and unloved that they were eventually driven to horrible deeds. A story told with amazing respect and fairness, Columbine does not point fingers, it does not cast unfair blame or generalize in any way; rather, it offers what everyone has been searching for these last 10 years…the truth.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.