Columbine - Book Review
"The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . " So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of "spectacle murders." It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.
What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we "know" is wrong. It wasn't about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world's leading forensic psychologists, and the killers' own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.
I picked up Columbine a year before I started reading it – I found I still needed time. I was in elementary school when the Columbine massacre happened and I still remember watching footage on television as the story unfolded. It became one of those situations that stuck with me but over time, it became another tragedy that I had to “accept”. When I picked up this book, I was intrigued as it mentioned that much of what the public knows about that day is not the real story – and not for the reasons you would think.
This book quickly soared to the top of my all time favorite reads – which feels morbid but it is an incredibly raw and fascinating read. I find myself more and more gravitating towards books that are real because I can feel their weight. I read not only for enjoyment or escape but also to learn and grow. This book did that for me.
It is hard to provide a personal synopsis on this book, as the text is so deeply rich that I would never do it justice. However, I will try to give a few thoughts. For those of you unfamiliar with Columbine, it was a school shooting in Colorado in 1999. Two students went to school, set up bombs and had an arsenal of guns. They killed many people, but far less than they intended. The author, Dave Cullen, goes into an incredible amount of detail regarding the day of the massacre as well as the years leading up. He explains why most of the public has the wrong story – massive confusion from the media paired with the investigation report that came out far too late after the public had already moved on. I found myself in awe of the entire story and all of the people involved. You learned about the killers, their families, the victims and the community as a whole. I mourned for those who lost their lives. I became scared of the killers who themselves are also deceased and can’t even hurt me. This book made me feel – truly feel – more than any book ever has.
If you are at all interested in non-fiction, I can’t recommend this enough.