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Columbine by Dave Cullen is utterly engrossing, disturbing and moving. Exhaustively research and intricately told, this story about sadness, violence and its aftermath pulls the reader in from the first paragraph and keeps its hooks in until the last. The players in the story become more than characters, they become people we know and understand. The events of the tragedy become more than plot points, the become signposts of change in the lives of those directly affected and in ours. Columbine is a brilliant piece of investigative journalism that sheds light on a crucible moment when, it is not too hyperbolic to say, the world completely changed.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the book should not shock us anymore: the narrative of the attackers and the attacks is almost entirely wrong. Much of the misinformation and myth of the story of the Columbine High School shootings is being dispelled, especially as we approach the 20th anniversary of the massacre, but the pieces that hang on – the ideas of outcast gunmen, the trench coat mafia, the targeting of specific students, the girl who said “yes” – remain almost fixed in place as if dispelling them would somehow to a disservice to the memories of those who were lost and changed by this day.
As a high school administrator, I can say that my colleagues should, conversely, read this book immediately and avoid it patently. We should read it to allow ourselves into the important what if journey and to open ourselves to the more critical what can we do question. We should not read it because it is a terrifying and maddening experience invoking sadness and confusion and helplessness.
I am not one to avoid truths and there are many to uncover in Columbine. I can write with certainly that I am forever changed having read it.