Columbine by Dave Cullen

I was not in the United States when Columbine occurred. Although it made world wide news it wasn’t obsessively covered overseas like it was here. After I came back, frequent reference was made to Columbine whenever there was a shooting. Eventually, I saw Bowling for Columbine by Michael Moore.

It was the events at Sandy Hook that had a really profound effect on me. I recently watched a Frontline special on the survivors of Sandy Hook and a brief reference was once again made to Columbine. I decided I needed to read about this seminal event in more detail.

One thing I can say is that this book does an excellent job of debunking many of the myths that seem to have sprung up about Columbine. I felt that I understood in a much more clear and concise manner the role the media played in hyping this tragedy and reporting incorrect or speculative information that has since become enshrined as “fact”.

I also felt that I got a much better picture of the victims and each of the individual perpetrators. Although the two who caused the tragedy are lumped together, after reading this I realized they were two distinct personalities, with different issues and that their coming together, created the conditions for this tragedy.

The victims and their families were better delineated and what each went through as they struggled to come to terms with the events and outcomes at Columbine High School. The survivor’s stories were very powerful and speak to the ability of the human species to triumph while never forgetting what happened.

The worst part of this story was the role the media played. Incorrect reporting, constant live footage, perpetuating it year after year in ways that did not allow survivors to heal and move on, and the hype around the perpetrators that mythologized their actions creating blueprints for future tragedies.

This is a heavy book and I am glad I read it with some time behind these events. I fear with the 20th anniversary coming up, these events will be dredged up by the media yet again. I don’t believe that is a good thing. It gives weight to what the perpetrators did and dishonors those who died and those who survived.

I urge those who have questions to abandon internet searches and read the book. It delves more deeply into the mental health issues and truths surrounding these events and debunks some of the myths and misunderstandings about this tragedy. A great read, but very heavy material.

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