Book Review: Columbine

Columbine

Columbine

Columbine is a book written by Dave Cullen about the Columbine shootings on April 20, 1999.  I read this book because of what it has done in helping us understand youth culture, youth ministry and the mayhem that occurs when violence enters our schools.  Dave Cullen spent years gathering and gleaning through tons of information to compile a very compelling, and by all accounts very accurate.  I highly recommend reading this book for yourself for it really has blown my mind on what went on that day and in both the preceding and proceeding days following the shootings.

Mythbuster

Cullen blows away many myths in this book.  While I won’t go into all of them or all the detail, I will highlight a few that I found particularly compelling.

  • For all you video game people out there: Eric got the idea from a book.  (yes, it is discussed in the book).  
  • Eric and Dylan were not part of some trench coat mafia.  Eric’s dad bought him that for Christmas right before the shooting and Eric only started wearing it because it would help him conceal the ammo and bombs he was carrying.
  • Even though the publishers and Bernall’s were informed, Cassie’s “I am” remark that she was a Christian was proven out via 911 tape and witness reports to be from a survivor who was in the library near Cassie.  Cassie was hiding under a desk across the room where she was found.  The last words spoken to here were from Eric “Peek-a-boo.”
  • The remarkable story still remains of her rebound from a downword spiral.  She was out of control by all accounts, rebelling on all accounts, but attended a Church Camp and through persistence actually had shown about 5 months of completely changed (positive) behavior.
  • This was not about Goths and jocks, this was about psychopathology.  The amount of unexploded ordinance and Eric’s tapes and plans revealed this was a kill’em all plot, because Eric was narcissistic, believing he was above the entire human race. 
  • Warning signs were missed, however, Eric was so advanced in his psychopathology that he was able to play professionals at all different levels of law-enforcement, judiciary, counselors, teachers and parents.  Dylan, his accomplice was much more the pawn, yet still rather guilty.

Media

  • Media did thousands times more harm than good.  (duh.)  
  • They contaminated the witness pool to such an extent that many of the myths were self propagated by the media and self-fulfilled prophecy.  Media would speculate, students heard, students fed it back to the media.  (Media then had their “corroboration”).
  • Media were en masse blocked from much of the retaking of Columbine the next year.  Thousands of volunteers came from around the county and blocked the media from getting close to the events of that day.  Only a few were allowed in a requisite “bullpen” where they weren’t allowed out and only students who chose to approach them were allowed to be interviewed. 
  • Remember when you’re watching breaking news, that the networks, etc are probably getting 99% of it wrong.

Perspective

  • I write this a few miles from Columbine High School and it’s memorial.  In fact, I can see the fireworks that are set off in clement park (right behind the school) from my kitchen window.  
  • This event inspired me to get training in counseling and Critical Incident Stress Management.  I’m happy I’ve gotten the training I have had.  I was in college when this happened, and even from Cortland, NY this event changed the trajectory of my life.
  • I’ve worked with some students who had siblings live through it or were entering school at that time.  There is still a sense of solidarity at that school.  
  • I’ve included pictures from the memorial, below, because I think the stories there need to be told.  Read them to take what lessons you can from this tragedy.

 


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