could Columbine have been prevented?
Dylan Klebold lived in two dramatically different worlds. On April 17, 1999 Dylan attended his high school prom with his friend Robyn, and told his mom that “he’d had the best night of his life.” His external world looked good.
His inner demons came out three days later, when Dylan and his friend Eric entered Columbine High School, Colorado at 11:19 am carrying propane bombs and guns. Within an hour, they had killed 13 people and injured 21. Their carnage ended when they each died by suicide, events graphically captured by the school’s video monitoring system.
How could this happen?
I looked forward to reading “A Mother’s Reckoning” written by Dylan’s mom, hoping for some insights about this tragedy that would help us be better parents or more effective professionals. My uncomfortable conclusion is that it is virtually impossible to identify and prevent someone like Dylan from taking the horrific actions that he did. Dylan didn’t allow us into his inner world.
In retrospect, this young man certainly had very serious problems. Two years before the Columbine tragedy, he wrote “oooh god I want to die soo bad…such a sad desolate lonely unsalvageable I feel I am….Let’s sum up my life…the most miserable existence in the history of time.”
In the years leading up to the Columbine carnage, Dylan got in trouble with the law and was treated in a Diversion program. He wrote an essay at school that gave his teacher grave concerns. He was at times sullen and disconnected from his family. However, according to his mother, he was planning to attend college and was working after school. He was regularly involved in activities with his family, and closely supervised by his mom.
Dylan’s behaviors, in retrospect, were suggestive of a deeply disturbed and depressed young man. However, at the time they were occurring, they were interpreted by parents, teachers and others as typical teenage angst.
Dylan, like all of us, led two lives. His external life was generally cooperative, engaging and funny with occasional bouts of misbehavior. His internal life was only revealed after his death, discovered in his recorded videos and writings. That inner existence was one of depression, anxiety, hatred, and evil.
Dylan was a superb actor, saying and doing what others wanted to hear in order to restrain his internal turmoil and misery. As far as we know, he never permitted any adult entrance into his private world. Dylan only allowed us some subtle glimpses into his sick and disturbed inner life.
Let’s be cautious about blaming society, parents, media, or our culture for Dylan’s horrific actions. Columbine was the result of Dylan never trusting any adult to see him as he really was.
Next Week: Basketball coach Mike Kryzewski?