It turns out a lot of what most of us know about Columbine is wrong. Some headliners: the "trench coat mafia" was not involved, and bullying plays only a minor role in the story. Also I was totally unaware that the main thrust of the attack was actually a propane bomb intended to knock out a support pillar in the cafeteria during lunch. Investigators believe that had the timing device worked, the bomb would in fact have toppled the support and the death toll would likely have been in the hundreds. There's an awful lot of interesting stuff in this book.
Unfortunately, Cullen has decided to make this the definitive account of the Columbine massacre and so there's a lot of uninteresting stuff too. I appreciate Cullen's desire to tell the story of the victims on the moral premise that they deserve their stories told more than the killers deserve theirs. There's a logic to that, but ultimately I just don't care whether the third student who was shot wanted to be a lawyer or a pilot. Sorry. I don't make my listening decisions based on that sort of moral calculus.
And that encyclopedic focus coupled with Cullen's other odd choice, to tell the story out of chronological order, makes this a difficult listen. One chapter tells the very important story of why a warrant that was sworn out against Dylan was never actually executed, and then the next goes on at great length about how different churches in town held competing services in the wake of the attack. If you do get the book, I recommend using the audible app to skip the less interesting chapters.
In case you don't decide to listen, and overall I recommend against it, the takeaway is this: Dylan Klebold was a sadistic psychopath and the main force behind planning the attacks; Eric Harris was a depressed young man, like many depressed young men, who fell under Dylan's sway. Just why this particular pair ended up perpetrating what would have been, except for Dylan's ineptitude with fuses, the second (to 9/11) largest peacetime mass killing in American history is not entirely clear. But there were plenty of warning signs, and one family in particular (the Browns) deserve more notice as the unsung would-be heros of the story. They repeatedly contacted Dylan's family, the school, and the police to warn of the dangers of the budding psychopath, but their warnings were not taken seriously.
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