On Friday, Sue Klebold gave her first television interview since the events of Columbine High School. Her son Dylan was one of the shooters who rampaged through the school taking the lives of thirteen of their classmates.
Columbine was a turning point. I remember being in high school at the time, watching news coverage that seemed surreal. It was the first of the major school shootings and it prompted many copies. People pointed fingers at the parents of the shooters, mental health issues, even violent music.
Large wounds create a search for answers.
I’m not a Michael Moore fan but, in his documentary Bowling for Columbine, he asks musician Marilyn Manson if he’d have any advice for parents out there. (Manson was a favorite of the shooters). He replied that he’d tell parents to listen to their kids. It was a profound response from one of the main targets of society’s disapproval.
That summer I attended the Creation Festival held in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania. It is the largest christian music festival in the country meeting in two forums, one on the east coast and one on the west. On a hillside during the festival stood thirteen crosses, the original thirteen taken from Columbine to memorialize the victims.
In the seventeen years since, we still look for answers. We debate issues of gun control and mental health. We digest the concept of forgiveness. We think about the value of listening and wonder if the world will ever get back the innocence lost that morning in Colorado.
Childhood is not what is used to be. I spent a few months working in alternative education (part of the school system for students who cannot exist in the regular population). The stories broke my heart more than once. Each moment I’d think that could never happen, then I’d talk to a fellow employee and find out that it did and a certain kid had survived horrific abuse or worse.
Klebold is writing a book about her experience and donating all profits to mental health research. I look at my boys and could not imagine. Where does the scale tip? The questionable new friends? “Aggressive music”? Wanting to be alone? In all the months of planning and acquiring weapons and resources, where do you miss the chance to stop it?
How do you live without massive guilt?
Or do you?
We are called to forgive. In many ways, it is the door to second chances. We must be attentive. We must build bridges, especially as fathers with young boys. We must listen to our kids.
Small actions have huge consequences. One conversation can inspire your child to help another. One outstretched hand can create a second thought that stops violence. One embrace, a bridge built, can inspire hope.
In the years since Columbine, when reality has shattered childhood as we attempt to rebuild it, hope is needed. I pray that Klebold’s interview and book might get out there and help a parent prevent an act of violence, that it will create conversation as parents and kids figure out this thing called life.