Just the name Columbine sends shivers down every parent's spine. At one point, it was the scene of the most shocking display of school violence we had ever heard of. In a new book, the parents of Dylan Klebold open up about their son and his notorious high school massacre.
For Far From the Tree author Andrew Sullivan sat down with Tom and Sue Klebold to find out what it was like to raise a child who could do something so unimaginable. What he learned about Dylan and his family was both chilling and heartbreaking.
After the incident, with Dylan and his accomplice Eric Harris dead, most of the anger was directed at their parents. People felt that they must have known how disturbed their children were or somehow be to blame for the shooting. In fact, when Sullivan first set out to interview the Klebolds, he expected to uncover some dark family dynamic that led to the gruesome crime spree that left 12 students and a teacher dead. To his surprise, what he discovered was a loving, caring family, who he believed had no idea about their son's plans.
In fact, the crime has plagued the parents since the moment it happened. They have been filled with "what if"s and regrets. "Sue said to me, 'Once I understood that it was Dylan who was doing this, I had to pray that he got killed before he hurt any more people. If he goes down, I want to know it was his choice so I hope he kills himself,'" recalled Sullivan. Can you imagine praying that your son would die so that he couldn't murder more innocent people? As a parent, my heart goes out to her. That must have been the most horrific moment of her life. When asked what she would say to Dylan if he were here now, she said, "I would ask him to forgive me for being his mother and never knowing what was going on inside his head." So very sad. Though this may be her most heartbreaking admission:
While I recognize that it would have been better for the world if Dylan had not been born, I believed it would not have been better for me.
That was such a startling reminder that this woman is a mom. Even when a child does something so unimaginable, so grisly, we want to hold on to the memory of the good things about him or her. We want to remember them as a blessing, not some monster that terrorized the world. Though it certainly doesn't seem like Sue is deluding herself. She knows very well that there was something tragically wrong with her son.
It's very interesting that the Klebolds didn't move far away from that town, where I imagine many people still feel they are guilty in some way. The reason they stayed? Sullivan said they felt that if they had moved, everyone they met would have only thought of them as the parents of that killer, but in Columbine, they still had friends who loved them and who loved Dylan. They needed to hold on to that. It's just so heartbreaking.
People don't want to admit that Tom and Sue Klebold were victims of Dylan and Eric as well. Parents whose children commit heinous crimes carry a very unique burden. They are blamed and maligned for something that their children did, and in many ways their lives are destroyed too. Sure, we can say they should have paid more attention to what their son was up to, but that does no one any good now. Isn't it possible that they were actually decent parents who had a very troubled child? I can't imagine living with the fact that the person you gave birth to could do something so monstrous. I sympathize with this mom. All the parents of children killed that day have suffered immeasurably -- and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, that includes the Klebolds too.
Learn more about Andrew Sullivan's book:
Do you think the Klebolds are to blame for what their son did?
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