When Sue Klebold learned that her son, Dylan, was involved in the Columbine High School massacre on April 20, 1999, she prayed not for his safety, but for his death—"the greatest mercy" she could imagine. That prayer was answered when Dylan, along with fellow shooter Eric Harris, committed suicide in the school's library after killing 12 students and one teacher and wounding 24 others. In A Mother's Reckoning, out Monday, Klebold apologizes to the loved ones of her son's victims, provides an account of her family's life after the shooting, and catalogs the warning signs she failed to see. "Most of all," Washington Post critic Carlos Lozada writes, "it is a mother’s love letter to her son, for whom she mourned no less deeply than did the parents of the children he killed."
Here are some of the "painful and necessary" insights and details from the book:
- Dylan was "easy to raise … a child who had always made us proud," but hard on himself when he failed, "and his humiliation sometimes turned to anger."
- Klebold says her son is responsible for his actions, but the "role depression and brain dysfunction can play" must be acknowledged.
- She resisted blaming Eric Harris for years. "Given what I have learned about psychopathy, I now feel differently." From the book's introduction by Andrew Solomon: "Eric was a failed Hitler; Dylan was a failed Holden Caulfield."
- Visiting the school library after the shooting, Klebold recognized her son's shape marked on the floor. Weeping, she knelt and "touched the carpet that held him when he fell."
- Klebold was never angry with her son, she tells the Guardian, until she saw the videotapes he and Harris had made before the shooting. "He was trying to latch on to things that made him feel angry. But I just couldn’t sustain that anger."
- On the morning of the massacre, Klebold says her son's shouted goodbye to her had a "flat, nasty" sound. "Was he saying to me, you were a bad mother?"
- Regarding Dylan's depression: "If we had known enough to understand what those signs meant, I believe that we would have been able to prevent Columbine."