photograph by J-K Photography
Columbine. It's one of the few "I remember where I was when ____________" moments in life. (Although, I feel like our generation has had more of these than necessary.)
And I do remember where I was. In the on-campus apartments at Gardner-Webb University. Watching. All Day. For several days. As the events unfolded and it all began to come together. What had just happened? How? Why? We didn't want to watch, but couldn't look away.
So when I saw that Sue Klebold was doing an interview for 20/20 I was totally intrigued. Mrs. Klebold is the mother of one of the two shooters, Dylan Klebold. (For the record, I really struggled with whether or not to use his name. That's always a discussion in these situations. And although she will never read this, I wanted to resepct Mrs. Klebold- and her family. He is not nameless to them.)
It has been six days since I sat down to watch the interview. (On Demand, of course, cause after all my great desire to watch, I forgot.) And 6 days later, my heart is still so drawn to that mama. Her pain. Her memories. Her regrets. Her love for a boy that messed up. But not in the way that most boys will mess up. This wasn't vandalism or a missed curfew. He didn't fail a class or "get a girl pregnant." He killed people and changed a culture. How in THE WORLD do you reconcile that as a parent? I have lost sleep and shed numerous tears when my child lies or verbally assaults a sibling or misses the point of my three minute lecture. How in THE WORLD do you cope when the phone call says, "there's been a shooting... and it might be our son"? And then what do you do when it's true? How do you go on?
I don't know any of these answers. And truly, my heart's cry is that I never have to encounter them. But I want to learn from the Sue Klebolds. I want to find something in all of this for me and the world I live in.
Here are some of my thoughts:
A post- Columbine World brings new understanding.
Before the disappearance of Adam Walsh in 1981, children wandered by themselves in Sears. Before 9/11, we waited for family at the gate of an airport terminal. Before Columbine, we didn't know how carefully we needed to examine our children for mental illness. Mrs. Klebold's interview was dripping with regret and hindsight. OF COURSE she would have done something... if she had known. Now we know, we can know. We can probe and investigate and intervene. Columbine has taught us to butt-in to the lives of our kids and don't be afraid to ask for help.
We need to be kinder to parents.
I always say, "I was a great parent before I had children." Meaning: I could judge and critique with the best of them. Then I realized how hard it was and how black and white it wasn't. But that judgement was with a temper tantrum in the mall. Multiply that by a mass shooting spree. Oh the guilt that "we" heaped on her. What if "we" offered more grace than blame and more love than hate? What if the only shame Mrs. Klebold had to work through was from the inside, not the out? I know, I know. Her son murdered and harmed a lot of people. And I am NOT making light of that. But as the mother of an 18 year old adult, how much of this was hers to wear? I know my answer is much different than a family member who has suffered through this tragedy. My hope is whatever tragedy I walk through, will not change my belief in forgiveness.
There is evil in the world.
I realize evil is a "religious" word, not a judicial word. And Mrs. Klebold stated she didn't believe in evil. I guess with admitting there is evil would come the feeling that she would be labeling her son as such. That would be horrific. I am not quite sure what else to call it. Dylan Klebold was invaded by evil and committed evil crimes. I don't think it has to be his identity, but we need to recogonize evil.
I will never be a proponent of shielding my child. It's just not the way I think. However, I will know my kids' friends. As best I can. Dylan Klebold may have made a crucial error in the choice of his friend. And it may have altered everything about that day at Columbine High School. Is it all Eric Harris's fault? No way. But two unhealthy kids, headed down the wrong path together, is a recipe for disaster. My prayer is that my children always be surrounded by friends that build up and push forward and seek right. And my other prayer? That I notice if they aren't.
Something has to change.
I don't know how to do it. I don't have the answers, but something has to change. Honestly, I've had enough of gun violence. I am not at all thinking we need to violate the precious Second Ammendment, but I am asking us all to reasonably think this through. The fact is, if he hadn't had a gun, this wouldn't have happened. If we had known what he was into, it could have been prevented. My husband lives by this principle, "My faith system is built on the sacrifice of One for the good of many." How can I apply that here? What if my laying down a gun, was for the good of many? Just "what if?"
So here's what I pledge: I will do my part. I will learn to listen to my kids. I will watch and pray and pray and watch. I will know their friends, open our house, and ransack their rooms. I will watch for signs of depression and suicide and anger. I will teach them Truth and how to respect people and all about guns and how they can hurt others. And I will teach them about the least, the last, and the lost and how to look out for the "little guy" and pay attention to what's around. I will make sure they know to tell someone if they see a friend who is in trouble or may cause trouble.
And forgiveness. We will forgive.