Columbine by Dave Cullen

credit to wikkipedia

credit to wikkipedia

Spoilers

The Columbine Tragedy, which occurred on 20 April, 1999, has left a scar on the American Imagination which is continually ripped open again and again every time a school shooting strikes the nation. Just the word “Columbine” is enough to bring images of news clips filmed from a helicopter above a school showing streams of students running from a building which is surrounded by police with guns drawn. The worst part of this is that despite the infamy on that name and the events that occurred at the school that bares that name is that the public a large doesn’t know much that happened there. There are many myths and misconceptions that surround the tragedy as well as the perpetrators that carried the crime out.

In the book Columbine, Dave Cullen, one of the many journalists that covered the event, attempts (and in my opinion largely succeeded) in dispelling the many rumors and myths that surrounded the perpetrators, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, as well as the events that occurred inside the school on that April day. One myth that Mr. Cullen quickly proved false is that a group of “goth students” known as the Trenchcoat Mafia was in some way linked to the event. Another more controversial myth is that one student, Cassie Bernall, affirmed her belief in God after she was asked whether she believed in God by Eric Harris before she was shot. As a result of this belief many Christians as well as her family view her as a Christian Martyr. In Columbine Mr. Cullen proves through witness testimony that while Cassie Bernall was praying at the time of her death Eric Harris never posed this question to her, but to another student, Valeen Schnurr, who survived the shooting.

The narrative tells the story in five parts which attempts to explain the events that led up to, during, and after the event. The book is written to seem almost like a fictional story. The author attempts to get into the minds of the killers through the writings and videos they left behind as well as through discussions with psychological experts. He presents evidence that the first perpetrator, Eric Harris was in fact a psychopath and that the second shooter, Dylan Klebold was suicidally depressed and was just following Harris’s lead. The author also goes on to describe the legal and religious implication that occurred on the local community around Columbine. He also profiles many of the victims as well as their families.

This is one of the few crime books that I have actually enjoyed. The book is beautifully written as well as well researched. The author obviously has sympathy for all those involved including those who perpetrated the event, but while his sympathy is obvious he goes to great lengths to keep the work impartial. This book is a hallmark of the true-crime genre and I believe that it is comparable to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

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