memoir / nonfiction / true crime

A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold


Sue Klebold’s book was the story of an ordinary woman who raised one of the shooters in the Columbine school shooting. Her son, Dylan, and his friend killed twelve students,  a teacher and wounded twenty-four others.

I remember the shooting quite vividly, I was just a couple years older than the shooters and had rather recently graduated myself. It was streaming live even here in Maryland and I could never forget the sight of the students jumping from second-floor windows to escape. Sue Klebold’s experience was a little different. Police came to her house, guns drawn and she was kept in the dark for hours while they searched her house and questioned her and her husband. She knew something was going on at the school that involved Dylan but not exactly what. She wasn’t watching the live stream like a lot of us were and it was quite late in the day before she realized what happened and that her son had committed suicide. The bulk of the book is a look into their lives leading up to the killings and her complete denial of what happened. For many weeks she was rationalizing what he had done and even thought perhaps that Eric Harris had done all of the shooting or that it was somehow a prank gone wrong. Of course, the truth was much worse.

One of the experts in the book said that Dylan was a person who wanted to die and accepted that other people would die too while Eric was someone who wanted to kill people and didn’t care if he died himself. As was also outlined in another book about Columbine, Eric was psychopath and Dylan was very, very depressed. Aside from some minor incidents his junior year he was never in trouble, had lots of friends and even went to prom just days before the shooting. He also, when out of sight and earshot of Eric, warned friends and let at least four go without shooting them. Of course, he did shoot several students and planted bombs (that mostly didn’t go off) that would they have worked would have meant the deaths of hundreds of students. Sur Klebold outlines the guilt that she had over raising a killing and how difficult it was in the aftermath–their distinctive last name meant that were ever she went, people knew exactly who she was. She eventually starts working in suicide prevention and helping other parents note the warning signs that she missed.

The book was well-written if perhaps a little too long. She brings up some of the same facts and feeling repeatedly, including some odd details that bothered her like the fact that the aerial shots of her house made it looked huge when really it was a crumbling fixer upper that they were still fixing up. She seemed to be really bothered by being portrayed at wealthy, bad parents. Understandable but she mentioned it quite a few times. Of course, a lot of the book was about suicide but some of the points she made were repeated often. This might not have been as noticeable to someone who read the book more slowly, I read it in one sitting so it was pretty obvious when she repeated herself because I had just read the passage minutes before.

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