In the thirteen years that have passed since the Columbine High School tragedy, when twelve students and one teacher were killed, shooter Dylan Klebold's parents have never spoken publicly about their thoughts and feelings upon living a parent's worst nightmare . . . until now.
In a shocking confession, Sue Klebold claims that on the day of the massacre, April 20, 1999, when she discovered that her son Dylan was one of the shooters, she prayed he would kill himself. "I had a sudden vision of what he might be doing. And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else."
This break in the Klebold's silence comes as part of Andrew Solomon's new book, Far From the Tree, an exploration of atypical children. Solomon spent eleven years researching the book, which contains a controversial chapter on children who commit crimes. In the months following the Columbine tragedy, many people demanded to know the reasoning behind Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's actions. Desperate for answers, they blamed their parents, assuming the shooters must have been brought up in unhappy, even violent homes. But Solomon claims the Klebolds are loving and kind.
In remembering that day in April, Sue Klebold explains the agonizing decision she had to make when she realized her son was one of the shooters. "I thought that if this was really happening and he survived, he would go into the criminal justice system and be executed, and I really couldn't bear to lose him twice. I gave the hardest prayer I ever made, that he would kill himself, because then at least I would know he wanted to die and wouldn't be left with all the questions I'd have if he got caught by a police bullet. Maybe I was right, but I've spent so many hours regretting that prayer: I wished for my son to kill himself and he did."
The Klebolds still live in Littleton, Colorado, in the same house they lived in back in 1999. In fact, when Solomon traveled to interview them for the book, he slept in Dylan's old bedroom. In speaking to the Klebolds he found them very open, a stark contrast to the other parents interviewed for the crime chapter. Tom Klebold said, "We are able to be open and honest about those things because our son is dead. We can't hope for him to do something else, something better. You can tell a story a whole lot better when you know its ending."
If anything, the Klebolds' testimony in this book proves that the power of parental love overcomes the unimaginable. When asked what they would say to Dylan if they could speak to him now, Tom says, "I'd ask him what the hell he was thinking and what the hell he thought he was doing!"
Sue's answer is a revelation. She says, "I would ask him to forgive me, for being his mother and never knowing what was going on inside his head, for not being able to help him, for not being the person he could confide in."
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Visitors at Columbine High School Memorial Site, April 29, 1999