Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Book review: Columbine

I wasn't sure that I actually wanted to read the book Columbine by Dave Cullen.  Obviously it covers a difficult topic and I knew that it would be difficult to read.  But as much as some parts of it were hard to get through, there were others that were strangely comforting, such as the description of SWAT team members who were patting down the students  as they were coming out the school to make sure they weren't armed and then hugging them.  It's amazing how much this book expands your thinking of the Columbine shooting and the people involved.  It really explains the difficulty that everyone involved (the survivors, the killer's parents, the local churches, the police, the SWAT teams) had with how to handle the shooting and the aftermath.

Before reading this book, I didn't realize how much of what people think they know about the Columbine shooting is wrong.  The killers were not involved in the Trench Coat Mafia. They were not targeting specific groups of students. They were not planning on shooting in the school at all, instead they planned on blowing it up using homemade bombs, shooting students as they ran from the school, and then driving their cars (which had more homemade bombs in them) into the groups gathered around the school trying to assist the injured and survivors.

I am completely in awe of Dave Cullen and the research he did for this book.  He spent ten years of his life researching and interviewing people involved with the shooting.  Reading the book was difficult enough for me and that only took me a week and a half.

For me, I think the book was summed up in two quotes.

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places."
- Earnest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

"You can't really teach a kid anything: you can only show his the way and motivate him to learn it himself."
 -Frank DeAngelis, principal of Columbine High School

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