Thursday, February 25, 2016

(19)A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold


It has been nearly seventeen years since the tragedy that shook the world and made "goths", violence, and bullying, in school a household discussion. All you have to do is say Columbine and everybody immediately thinks of that high school in the suburbs of Denver.   I remember coming home from work that spring day and watching live on CNN as terrified students fell out of the windows of the library.  I cried as the events of the day were released and I thought, like many people did, where were the parents of those two kids that wreaked havoc on their school.  Why didn't the parents pay attention to what their kids were doing?  It is a common reaction anytime there is as tragedy.  We all thought it after Sandy Hook.  How could parents raise such a monster?

Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the Columbine shooters has written a book to share her regret, her grief, and her deepest heartache over the destruction her son created.   Sue gives us a better understand of her family and their relationship with Dylan.  She admits she failed to recognize signs of his depression, but is adamant that she never in a million years would she have believed Dylan capable of such destruction.  She doesn't make excuses for Dylan, nor does she make excuses for herself as a parent, but more than once she says that she believes that Dylan was a follower, not an instigator.  There are a lot of accounts that back up that theory and I got the impression that knowing that gives her a bit of comfort.  Sue goes on to detail those early days after April 20, 1999 and the fog of grief and disbelief that colored their world.  They had friends and family that supported them, but they also had a lawyer who would not let them eat food prepared by well meaning people for fear that it had been poisoned.  It was a world that she couldn't fathom living in.   Sue Klebold devotes a large part of the book to discussing mental health, specifically the mental health of her son.  After reading his journals Sue discovered that Dylan had been suicidal for quite sometime.  She had no idea.  She chalked a lot of the warning signs up to "just being a teenage boy".  She even discusses, at length, her own mental health issues following that day.   In fact, Sue Klebold has said that she will donate all profits from A Mother's Reckoning to mental health research and charities.

Bottom line - I believe that our world changed on April 20, 1999. Much like 9/11 it had a pivotal impact on how we think about school safety.  One of the best books I ever read was Columbine by Dave Cullen and it was in that book that I shifted my mindset about the parents of kids like Dylan Klebold.  Between these two books what I have learned is this, the parents are not monsters, they did not set out to raise monsters, they were  are deeply destroyed by the actions of their children, and they forever grieve for the lives lost and the lives taken by their children.  Sue Klebold opened herself up to a lot of criticism by writing this book, but I think her story is an important one to tell.

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I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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