On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into their high school in Littleton, Colorado and committed what would forever be remembered as one of the worst high school shootings in America. Twelve students and one teacher died and twenty-four were injured before the boys took their own lives.
In the days, months, and years that followed many questions were asked about how such a horrific incident could have happened. People looked for places to lay the blame and they did so everywhere they could find. One of those places was on the parents, and Dylan’s mother Sue completely understands why. For the last sixteen years, she has wondered how her loving and caring son could turn into a hateful and violent young man. She asked herself, like many others did, how could she not have known that something was wrong? She spent years searching for clues she might have missed and answers she would never find.
A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold, is an honest and heartbreaking story of how one mother was forced to come to terms with the most horrific of realities.
I’ve mentioned in other places that the Columbine shootings are forever seared in my memory. I was in the same grade as the boys and I can never forget the feelings we all had returning to school the day after watching the terror unfold on the news. For months on end, we were bombarded with media coverage, question after question being asked.
From the point of view of watching it through the media, one couldn’t help but question the role of the families in the tragedy. But now, as a mother, I can see how tragic and difficult it must have been for the parents. And this book shows just how easy it can be for any parent to miss the warning signs when they don’t know that they should be looking for.
Sue Klebold doesn’t write this book to make herself look better or to try to absolve her son. This book is written to help other parents recognize when a child is in distress, understand the importance of brain health in adolescents, and to help other families who are grieving the loss of their child, especially those who have lost their child in a manner in which they are responsible for the loss of other lives. This book shows us that hindsight is 20/20 as Sue writes that when she looks back at the time, she can see some of the warning signs. But at the time, Dylan was able to hide from everyone that he was suffering from depression and was suicidal. As well, he went to great lengths to cover up his plans to carry out the attack from his family and his best friends.
This is a very emotional read for so many reasons. Readers will relive the tragic day through the eyes of Sue as well as learn more about the investigation and what it uncovered. I found myself often crying at the generosity and support she found in those around her and the people from far away who reached out to share their stories. Even after reading the book, I still can’t imagine the grief she felt or how she made it through.
I can understand why some people may criticize Klebold for writing this book but it doesn’t sensationalize what happened nor does it try to make any excuses for what happened. In the past few years, Sue has found her place in the mental health and suicide prevention community and this book is aimed at showing people what to look for in their loved ones and how to help them. All profits from the book are being donated to mental health initiatives.