There were a lot of things I do not know about Columbine before I have read this book by journalist Dave Cullen. For sometime, the term “Columbine” evoked from my mind images of carnage and blood and psycho killers and a Christian martyr and aside from these, I have no further knowledge. So upon seeing a hardcover copy of Columbine one random Booksale visit, I curiously browsed through the pages and decided to buy it. A Php60 hardbound book certainly doesn’t hurt much, right? 😉
In 1999, I was a 17 year-old struggling freshman in the university, battling homesickness and peer pressure and all other loads that strain a college freshman who was away from home for the first time. On April 20, 1999 I might have probably been at home spending my summer vacation sleeping or reading, I cannot already recall. While I was perhaps enjoying the short respite from the demands of college life, 12 students and 1 teacher were killed in a massacre and more than 20 were injured in a high school in Colorado. These were the thoughts that kept running inside my mind for most of the time that I was reading Columbine.
Columbine was published in 2009, ten years after that fateful day on April 20,1999 in Columbine High School, of Jefferson County, Colorado. Indeed, after that tragedy, Columbine ceased to become just a name of a high school but became synonymous with the tragedy. “Another Columbine” was how reporters and news would thereafter label similar incidents in the future. Through this book, Dave Cullen thoroughly explained every single detail that surrounded the gruesome catastrophe and deeply probed into the lives and backgrounds of each individual involved.
Columbine was a revelation. It straightened out the myths of the Trench Coat Mafia and the alleged martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. It was an honest report of the blunders and cover-ups of the police and the apparent contribution of the media to the wrongful perception of facts. It built a comprehensive profile of the two young killers and proceeded to explain depression and pschopathology and how they affected the lives of these two deeply troubled highschoolers.
Reading Columbine, I sometimes forget that I am reading a story about a real event, and not just a piece of fiction. Although there was no effort to make the story more dramatic than it already was, as Cullen writes in a way like he is reporting the facts (what do I expect, anyway, Dave Cullen is a journalist), Columbine contains just the right amount of suspense to hold my interest, in fact, I have lost several hours of sleep because I cannot put the book down, I just have to read that “one more chapter.”
Dave Cullen did a great job of chronicling the events before and after the Columbine tragedy. Armed with firsthand information from police reports, personal interviews with the survivors, newspaper reports and other files from the media, and more importantly, information direct from the journals and videotapes of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine is probably the most complete and comprehensive report on the incident as of this date.
I thoroughly enjoyed Columbine, despite the fact that this is not included in my to-read list for this year. I am not unhappy that I violated my self-imposed reading challenge by buying and reading this wonderful book before the “right time”.
9/50 Goodreads 2011 Reading Challenge.
Book cover image from this book review.