(Dave Cullen at the Borders Bookstore, Boulder, Colorado 4/10/09)
“He told them he loved them.”
With that, the handsome, affable and beloved member of Open Salon, Dave Cullen closed his book, Columbine, and looked at us all and said that that was the extent of his book reading.
There was nervous laughter in the crowded space with standing room only. Dave proceeded, despite the difficulty of his subject matter, to make everyone feel at ease.
He explained that these were the words of the Columbine principal spoken to the 2000 students of Columbine High School. Ironically, these words were not uttered after the unspeakable mass shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher, wounding 23 others and causing untold grief for hundreds. The words were spoken the Friday before the infamous massacre, the Friday before April 20, 1999, the Friday when then were 36 hours left before the annual junior-senior prom.
The principal’s concerns were not ones of unimaginable violence and mayhem perpetrated by 2 teenage boys gone bad. They came from the heart of a man who knew the dangers of drinking and driving and he told them, not from a place of judgment, but from the place of a loving and generous heart, that he wanted to see every single one of them alive on Monday morning.
He did...but then Tuesday happened.
As Dave recounted the past 10 years and the exhaustive research he did on the book, he brought not only his writing and a book that has received accolades from Time Magazine, Vanity Fair and the New York Times, just to name a few. He brought himself and the arduous process he submitted himself to in order to give to his readers, to us, the most accurate and fair description of what happened that terrible day.
(Dave showing the journals of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.)
Dave brought the objectivity of a seasoned journalist along with the heart of a man who had suffered a heavy price to himself and his psyche. He shared about the 2 bouts of secondary PTSD he endured after spending 10 years conducting countless interviews, tireless research and meeting for hours on end with the parents and friends of students who had died or been injured.
The hour felt like a minute and Dave’s presentation made us all wanting for more, despite the nature of his book. Standing in line to have Dave sign my book, the room felt like a church. People spoke in hushed tones and whispers waiting to meet the man who had the courage and care to write a book about an event we would all like to pretend never happened.
(Dave Cullen and me)
Dave is on a whirlwind book tour. Check out www.davecullen.com to see if he is coming to your city.
The students and families of Columbine deserve the work that Dave did.
As a writer, Dave deserves the literary praise he is receiving.
As a person, Dave deserves a hug.