29 April 2014

Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine was riveting.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt that about a nonfiction before.  I had a hard time putting Columbine down.

Somehow, Dave Cullen made the book compelling, despite the fact that we all knew how it was going to end.  Indeed, he made the smart choice of depicting the actual attack on Columbine High School in the first third of the book; the rest was taken up with the lead-up, the aftermath, and, above all, the search for the reason why.

I was a freshman in high school when the events of Columbine took place.  I remember the security at our school increasing significantly over the course of a week.  I remember “zero tolerance” policies springing up.  I don’t remember the media coverage that Cullen depicts; I don’t remember ever hearing the theories about motive.  In my mind it had always been a crazy act committed by crazy students.  Strange that my na├»ve perceptions ended up being so close to the truth.

Columbine did an excellent job humanizing all the players in the event, from the victims and families to the investigators to, most surprisingly, the killers themselves.  Cullen was able to synthesize a lot of material that was released years after the murders and paint a fairly compelling picture of the two: Eric Harris, a young psychopath, and Dylan Klebold, a young depressive.

I struggled with depression myself in high school, so I definitely had empathy for Dylan Klebold.  It was disturbing to read as Cullen laid out the path that the killers followed on the road to mass murder.  At every step, I wanted the killers to turn away and find another route.  But of course, this wasn’t fiction, and the ending was already written.

The stories of the victims - and the survivors - received no less attention.  Cullen was especially careful to highlight the story of Dave Sanders, the only teacher to die in the attack, and his widow, struggling with her own unique pain in the aftermath.  

I picked up Columbine after seeing it mentioned on Janet Reid’s blog in a four-year-old post I somehow got linked to.  I doubt I would have found it otherwise; it’s not something I have given much thought to over the years.  I’m glad I did, though.  It was a rewarding read and a great book.

Apparently there is a paperback version with an afterword about forgiveness, which I will have to see if I can find some time; I read the hard cover.


Books: Finished The Death Cure, and I am a few pages short of finishing Why Buildings Fall Down.  About to start on The Covenant of Primus (yes, I am a huge Transformers nerd) and then The Kill Order, a prequel to The Maze Runner.

Bottles: Shared a bottle of Saxum 2008 James Berry Vineyard again!  AMAZING!  Also Dashe 2012 Late Harvest Zinfandel.

Writing: Nearing the 20% completion mark of the digital edit.

Guitar: Today should see the start of a new project.  Maybe the acoustic version of "Everything is Awesome" from the LEGO Movie soundtrack?  That would be fun.