We all remember, or know of, what happened on April 20, 1999 at a high school in Littleton, Colorado named Columbine. Two teenagers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened gunfire on their classmates and teachers - killing 13 and injuring dozens of others.
Dave Cullen is a journalist who covered the massacre for over two years. In this book he sheds light on all the commonly held myths about what really occurred that day, and fits it all together for us in a timeline that unfolds along with our understanding of what really happened and who the killers really were.
So let me give you a rough estimate of what I remember Columbine was about (I was 20 at the time and I remember being so distraught over what was unfolding live on television - a boy dangling from a window; the students running out of the school single file with the help of the SWAT team, the tears, the memorial services). But more than anything else, I remember: two teen boys who were bullied by the cool kids (the jocks, cheerleaders, etc.), they couldn't take it anymore so they grabbed some guns (obviously because they are so easy to come by for underage kids) and decided on taking revenge on the whole lot of them. They were part of some gothic/emo club called "The Trench Coat Mafia", listened mostly to Marilyn Manson music and watched the movie The Basketball Diaries over and over for inspiration. They were loners with little to no friends and their parents weren't in the picture. At one point they actually asked one of their victims if she believed in God and upon answering "yes" she was killed.
Now here's the shocker, NONE OF THIS IS TRUE!
I think that's why I was so interested in reading this book. It's like knowing the ending of a story but needing to re-read the beginning because what you thought was right was wrong. Mr. Cullen gives you extensive "insider" information on not just the killers and their victims, but the parents of both, the teachers, the lack of organization with the school and the foul-ups from the law enforcement, the easy access to firearms, the willingness of authorities/adults to overlook signs that might have avoided the whole thing. He even gives you detailed information on the extensive journals, videos, and online postings that were left behind by both Eric and Dylan.
I will confess that this is not a happy book - obviously you know how it all ends. And I will confess to feeling sad, outraged, scared and even depressed while reading it. I couldn't sleep all that well and just kept thinking about it over and over. Who were the Harris's & Klebold's of MY school... and was I on a list somewhere? Or could I have been Harriet? (Harriet = a girl that Dylan obsessively mentions in his diaries; a dream girlfriend).
I had to Google the whole thing since there were no pictures throughout the book (which annoyed me at first - I would have settled for a map of the school). In the end I think the lack of pictures gave it a more serious tone.
It is still a touchy subject, but we all know the Columbine massacre is something that will always remain in our heads -- you might as know the real story. I know that this book might not be for everyone, but for someone who is interested in getting the facts about America's most notorious school shooting, this is definitely the book you'll want to read. It is well-written, gripping and in the end, enlightening.