reinvented's Blog

The good and the wise lead quiet lives -- Euripedes


Littleton, Colorado, USA
July 28
I'm a parent of three, one a now-deceased Columbine victim (Daniel), a perfectly lovely 23 year old woman who works in youth services and recently graduated from college, and a gifted and adopted Chinese daughter, age 9. I was an English major, with an abiding interest in literature and writing. I think I'm retired from the world of work. Mostly, I have been a parent (I was never good at multi-tasking anyway). I have a feisty and loving husband, who was a strong advocate of gun control and was instrumental in getting Amendment 22 passed here in Colorado. Even though gun control became passe particularly in the Bush years, it still has a lot of resonance for me (although we Americans seem to adore our weaponry). I'll be blogging some on issues of grief and healing, since these have become areas of particular interest to me since the murder of my son.

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APRIL 6, 2009 6:26PM

Reaction to Dave Cullen's "Columbine" by a Victim's Parent

Rate: 115 Flag

I was in the bookstore today here in Littleton, Colorado, looking for Dave Cullen's new book on Columbine.  I should mention I am the parent of fifteen year old Daniel Mauser, one of the deceased victims.  To say that I had looked forward to the release of this book is not exactly true, but I do have an ongoing interest, for obvious reasons.  I guess I did look forward to the release in that anything that sheds light or insight on this particular atrocity I see as helpful.  I didn't look forward to it because . . .  well, does that really require explanation?

I had expected that the book would be on prominent display at my local Barnes & Noble.  Several months ago a prior book which touched on Columbine (Wally Lamb's "The Hour I First Believed") had an entire rack dedicated to it, with a couple of eye-catching signs.  Today, I strolled around the store several times and was about to conclude that I had the release date wrong.   I was starting to look for a clerk when I saw three copies lying rather discreetly on top of the desk where one asks for information.  It made me wonder whether there is still some tangible revulsion for that particular day in Littleton, and the bookstore managers concluded that they didn't want to further wound sensibilities with a prominent book display.

I commenced browsing the book.  Thanks, Dave, for dedicating the book to the victims.  It appears to be quite comprehensive and well written.  I appreciate the fact that he did not take us through yet another rehashed shot-by-shot account of the shootings.

I thought Dave took a fair look at the Cassie Bernall controversy.  I myself was never offended by their claims.   I do think Misty quite sincerely believed that Cassie said what she did.   Misty never made the claim that Cassie was some sort of pure angelic character.  I read the book "She Said Yes" a number of years ago, and she portrayed her as a somewhat alienated, troubled girl.  The Bernalls had hoped to help turn her life around by getting her into a church youth group and apparently succeeded.  I would probably have done things a bit differently, not being of an evangelical bent, but I don't want to scoff at what was an apparently positive outcome.   And, as their pastor pointed out, even if she didn't actually say the words of a martyr, she did manage to get her life back on track, and I think that should count for something.   I believe the book was written out of love and care for her daughter as well as the actual belief that Cassie said what she purportedly said. 

Of course I had to check all the entries in connection with our name.  I had to chuckle again (although on one level it makes me very angry) about accusations that my husband somehow was "profiteering" from our son's death as was mentioned in the book.  This was an accusation made largely by pro-gun people against my husband, who was working hard to try to get Amendment 22 passed here in Colorado.  If profiteering can be construed as having drawn a paycheck (equal only to what he was making as a manager in the state transportation dept.) for one year, then I guess he profited.  However, he also took a leave of absence from the state for one year to pursue this work.  SAFE Colorado (the local gun control organization) authorized him a salary, which he earned through very hard work. 

I have not finished reading the book yet, and will probably not finish it until after April 20 has passed, but a couple more things struck me.  Dave referenced Chuck Green, a local columnist, who ranted in a column about the "millions received by the Columbine victims."  I would just like to correct the impression that some people may have drawn from this.  Most of the "millions" (and I would question how many millions -- I'll bet not more than 2 or 3) went to the families of the severely injured, and none are exactly millionaries, from my best understanding, especially considering the number of injured victims -- 23 in all.   Of the $1.6 million in settlement received by all of the Columbine victims, each family of the deceased received not very much at all.  I don't recall the exact amount, but I remember telling my husband that we wouldn't be able to even afford a new Ford Taurus with the settlement amount.  Families of the deceased did receive $50,000 from the United Way.  Severely injured students received substantially more (but not a huge sum if you're looking at lifetime paralysis).  A lot of money was donated to the Never Forgotten Fund, which provides scholarships for 13 students from local high schools every year.  This was NOTHING like 9/11, wherein families of deceased people really did get a million dollars or more each.  In fact, I remember the trial judge saying at the conclusion of the settlement something to the effect that this is a travesty (that Columbine victims got so little).

We were not ever a part of any lawsuit, and the lawsuits that were filed against the Klebolds and Harrises were dismissed.

I haven't studied enough about psychopaths, as Harris was purported to be, to really have a strong opinion as to whether one can simply be born that way.  I'd like to think that nurture could be a strong counterbalance, but it's possible that bad brain chemistry can win out sometimes.   I suppose evil will always be a bit of a mystery.

Apart from the book, my own feelings this time of year are quite predictable.  In late March or early April I can usually count on at least a couple of graphic nightmares and a few bouts of insomnia and general sense of impending doom.  I rather suspect that they will be with me always.  I'm always relieved when April 20th has passed. 

Daniel, we miss you. 




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I am so very sorry for your loss. Peace to you and your family.
Thank you for your honest and open comments. Blessings to you and your family.
God. I cannot imagine what you went through, and what you continue to go through in a dull-ache kind of way every day.

Thank you for a balanced and generous post about a fellow blogger.

I've physically had the book for five days and haven't been able to bring myself to start reading.

Peace to you and yours.
My cousin is Patrick Ireland, sometimes referred to as the "boy who fell through the window." I am so sorry for the loss of your son. My family too, always experiences pain and awful memories this time of year. May you find peace and always be blessed.
In memory of Daniel. God Bless. Rated.
I am impressed by this post in very many ways. It took a lot of courage to write it, and I cannot fathom the fortitude it takes on a day-to-day basis.

Pax vobiscum

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Thank you for your honesty and reasonableness in talking about what has to be a hellishly personal matter for you.
Peace to you. Thank you for your words.
Thank you for your grace and for sharing your unique and insightful perspective on this tragic event that has affected you, and your family in the most personal of way.
Your grace at this reminder is inspiring. I wish you peace.
I wish you peace, and thank you for your grace. I'd be interested to see Dave's response to the issue about your husband, and I'm curious if he had ever interviewed you at any time during the past decade.

I'm so sorry for your loss, I have that fear in my own life in that I pray my own children outlive me. I cannot fathom what you had to go through. Thank you for your stark honesty.
Wow. I have no words. Peace to you and Daniel.
I am a thousand miles from Denver, and a billion miles from the depth of your loss, and your story still knocks the wind out of me. I humbly accept that my condolences can't touch the severity of this tragedy for you. I do thank you for sharing your experience.
I am sorry for your loss and respect you very much for posting here and letting us know your thoughts.

Thank you.
I'm sorry for your loss. Thanks to your husband for his efforts to make our world safer.
Thank you this post must have take a lot out of you. I always wonder about the victims' families and how they are doing, and your post has shed some light on that.
Once again, thank you.
Thank you for sharing your experience. It is never easy to lose a child, and I can't imagine how hard it must be to do so in such a public way. Peace and strength to you and your family.

Re: the book, I finished it a few nights ago and it is still with me. I think Dave Cullen did an exceptional job balancing the accounts of the victims, the families, the police, and the shooters. In the book, he was pretty clear about the amounts that were divided. I did not get the impression that it was "millions" and after the reading the book, I was struck by how little it was.
I admire the fact you express yourself so well in light of all you have experienced.

To lose a child in any way is horrible enough; in this fashion I cannot imagine. May you find some peace. Thank you for your perspective.
Thank you for such a thoughtful and informative story.
Nothing need be said other than wishes to you and your family for as normal a life as is possible.Much care and rated.
bless you for sharing your views of the book with the OS community Dave is a part of ...your calm and measured respect is humbling given all you have been through. I wish you and your husband peace and happy memories, a fading to black of the nightmares....
Thank you for this, and bless you for your continued courage.
You are obviously a very strong person. As a former teacher, I know what happens to families when they lose a daughter or son. You wrote about this very bravely. Best to you and your family.
I am sorry for the tremendous loss suffered by you and your family. I am also sorry for the hurts and insults that have been put upon your husband and your family. Sadly, it is part of the standard strategy of people such as the anti-gun control lobby to attack grieving family members with accusations such as "profiteering." Please know that many (hopefully most) average Americans see through that nonsense.

Peace be with you and your family and I hope that reasonable gun control does one day become reality in this country.
Thanks to all of you for your kind comments. In answer to bbd, no, I was never contacted by Dave for an interview, although I have gotten several nice comments from him on prior posts.
I really have no words . Blessings
Your perspective is appreciated on this, I am sure. So sorry for the continuing loss and I know it must be difficult to see facts rehashed but at the same time the issue needs to have continuing attention.
Wonderful post and all the best wishes your way...
I imagine your "pen name" has something to do with this experience. I cannot imagine and you have my warmest thoughts and sympathies.
I lived in Arvada at the time (that is another Jefferson County town north of Littleton for those of you reading this out of state) and recall my feelings quite clearly, as I had 2 in HS that day.
I heard the book discussed on the radio this morning by David Sirota. Seems that it is being judged realistic and a valuable addition to books written about this horrific event. Mental illness, of the kind Eric Harris must have suffered from, shatters many lives.
ps - I meant to add my admiration for you - your honest writing, and to your husband for his work with SAFE.
The word "grace" comes up a lot in the comments here by my fellow OS'ers. I cannot add any more than that, you are full of grace. Thank you for sharing this.
I'm so sorry for your and your family's loss. I appreciate you sharing with us what your experience has been and also your reaction to Dave's book. Your straightforward, open-hearted writing about what must be such painful matters was very impressive and touching. I hope to read more of what you write here, on any subject.
I cannot even imagine what it feels like to lose a child and like you have. Your courage astonishes me. Your ability to write her so beautifully is a tribute. I am so sorry for the loss of your son and so amazed by you.
I feel privileged to read your words here. Of all that I've learned and heard of the Columbine victims, for some reason your son Daniel has stayed with me the most. He was such an accomplished young man with such a bright future ahead of him. His loss, as well as the losses of the others, is tragic beyond words.

I have not yet Dave Cullen's book (although it is next in my must-read pile) but I appreciate your balanced and objective reaction to it. It must be so hard for you and your family that such a book has occasion to be written at all. Reading it and reliving those horrible events all over again must be unimaginably painful for you.

Thank you so much for reaching out to this community. I wish you and your family much peace, healing, and comfort.
Thanks so much for writing this. And for this blog, which I really admire you for writing.

This is obviously a tough time for you, and I hope the writing helps in some small way. I'm really sorry about Daniel.

I knew years ago that I wanted to dedicate the book to the victims. I had always planned to dedicate my first book to my parents, and my mentor Lucia, and possibly people like Joan who helped me learn to write. But I didn't expect this to be my first book. Once I got going, I realized I could thank those people elsewhere and dedicate other books to them. This one had to be for the people who paid so dearly.

I also thought the profiteering charge was ludicrous, and that series of Chuck Green columns really mean-spirited. I hope that came through in the book.

Good luck with the next few weeks. I hope it passes quickly, at least.
I'm very sorry for your loss -- I can't possibly imagine what you must feel. I wanted to say thank you for offering up this very sincere reading of Dave's book. I just bought it myself and have started reading it as well. I appreciate hearing from someone directly involved and your thoughts on Dave's work. As an outsider, Dave seems to have done a very in-depth job with his research.

God bless.
Thanks to Lisa for your comments about my son Daniel. He was indeed a young man with promise and very sweet to boot. It's still hard to wrap my mind around the immense waste -- not only of him but the others as well. Dave, I didn't take offense; generally I thought the book was sensitively written (although I haven't finished it yet). As they say, grief never ends, and I still need to wade through the next several weeks. Those recent shootings in NY and PA have exacerbated the queasy feeling I have in my stomach this time of year.
Thank you so much for putting your thoughts out in the open for us to read here. You are the true meaning of what grace is and I also send along my sympathies for the tragedy that you've gone through.

I look forward to more of your writing here on OS.
Thank you for bringing a very personal element to this story. It is impossible to put ourselves in your shoes. That you have walked as many miles and will continue to do so for years to come should serve as a reminder that we never can never know how this irrevocably has changed your life. This post has changed mine. Rated.
I'm so very sorry for your loss.
thank you for sharing your perspective. i wish you peace.
Thank you for your courage. May you and your family find peace someday.
After reading your post, I am at a loss for words. I just want to let you know my heart goes out to you and your family. Your son sounds like he was a wonderful kid.
I am also very sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for this piece which must have been so difficult to write.
As everyone else has already stated, I'm terribly sorry for your loss of Daniel. It was a horrible tragedy. Your reason and kindness shines through this post. I can understand your relief when April 20th passes for another year.

I have some compassion for the Harris and Klebold families, also, who will have to live with the knowledge of what their sons did and that it can never be undone.

Thank your husband for his hard work on behalf of SAFE Colorado.
I can't add to what others have already said, but thank you for posting at OS.

Susan Mitchell, it wasn't the anti-gun lobby that made the profiteering claim as it clearly says in this blog post. It was the gun lobby, and yes, that kind of loathesome attack is right up their alley.
This is a post that I found really informative. I had only just read about the new book today and wondered what it was like, and what people connected to the tragedy would think and feel about it. I'm curious to know your reactions to the rest. Maybe I'll read it myself. I like to know the truth about things whenever possible.
There is nothing, I know, that I can say that amounts to much, but I am very, very sorry for what you have lost.
I remember watching the whole thing that awful day. Like
everyone here, I wish you well and a healing heart.
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing with us so eloquently. You are indeed an exceptional person and I know without a doubt that the world is just that much better off for having you in it.
Words seem so weak in the light of such tragedy. There is nothing I can say that is not already expressed so well by others. Try to take some small comfort in knowing that so many are with you and will continue to be.
Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing your inside take on the book with us -- it couldn't have been easy. As a parent, I can only imagine what it must be like to see that date coming around every year. Best wishes to you and your family.
All I can say is, thank you for sharing your experience and perspective.
One will never know your family’s loss, but you continue to honor your son by keeping watch over the books written about this tragic senseless ordeal. My prayers are always with you.
I too am very sorry for your loss. Thanks for opening up and talking about this on here and I'm glad people like your husband speak up against guns. My sister in law was murdered via gun in 2006 on Mother's Day and when Mother's Day gets near my wife goes into a depression and PTSD. I empathize with what the date brings to you and your family each year and I hope for peace inside of each of you although I know it's so, so hard.
God Bless
Peace be with you and your family.
My mistake, Emma, and thank you for correcting it. I did indeed mean the gun lobby.
much love to you and your family
my heartfelt prayers go to you and your family
I just went through your previous posts and am stunned by the heat and frustration that emanates. Too, they are brimming with gems of wisdom from a world-weary traveler. I hope you find a slice of peace here on OS where people are intelligent and kind. You will fit right in.
i am so sorry for your loss and i hope that these years are slowly bringing a peace to you and your family . i, too, have been taken slightly aback at the lack of prominence this book has been given in area bookstores and have thought that maybe people here still think "too soon, too soon...", and i, myself, have felt an odd reluctance to pick up the book although i very much want to read mr. cullen's account of her years of interviews and research.
as a former student at CHS (from way back) i am always struck with such a great sadness around the spring - the loss of life, and the loss of innocence in the community...ah, i can't articulate.
thank you for weighing in here. your honest and forthright and thoughtful comments are appreciated and i look forward to hearing more from you.

peace to you and your's
Thank you for having the courage to write this, and for having such compassion for all the parties surrounding this tragedy.

Thank you to you and your husband for turning your grief into positive action around gun control.

No matter how much or how little money victims' families receive in compensation, it may cover expenses but nothing else.

I wish you and your family peace and comfort.
It is heartwarming and encouraging to read all of the positive comments here. Maybe someday I will write about something different on OS. I am sure some are bored and maybe even just appalled at the topic of Columbine, but I find wrestling with it now and again helps. To Kind of Blue: sorry to hear about your sister-in-law. I would not expect your wife's PTSD symptoms around the murder date to dissipate any time soon, which you probably already realize.
I can't imagine the grief you must endure having lost Daniel. Thank you for posting it.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
I am sure some are bored and maybe even just appalled at the topic of Columbine, but I find wrestling with it now and again helps.

I would hope that people aren't bored. Appalled would be good, as we need to keep these kinds of incidents in the forefront of our memory. If there is ever a way to be more vigilant, to be in a position to prevent such a catastrophe, it will come about through the continued remembrance of those whose lives were abruptly ended.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, at this time and always. As a parent, I cannot imagine losing one of my kids - it just doesn't parse.
So sorry for your loss.
I'm sorry for your loss. You're brave to post about it.

I read most of the book Sunday and I think Dave Cullen is very respectful of the victims, while at the same time trying to clarify facts and to take a look at the myths.

I think there is value in helping all of us to understand this horror better.
Several posts have used the word "grace" here and I can't think of a better term for both what you said and the way you said it. The serenity with which you write is nothing short of amazing. I won't insult you by calling it courage, because courage implies a choice and you've never really had one since that awful day; you show something beyond that.
Your son, I'm sure, is proud of both you and your husband.
Please accept my sincere condolences for your unthinkable loss. Knowing his dedication to reporting the truth and honoring the victims by doing so, I hope Dave's book will give you a small piece of closure even though it reopens discussion of the tragedy.

Nothing will ever replace your child. Like Dave, we all know that. And like Dave, we all wish you and your family whatever peace you can find in continuing to celebrate Daniel's memory.

Thank you for sharing your personal insights and information here. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.
One of my biggest fears is losing one of my children. i cannot imagine much worse. I am so sorry this happened. Please know that so many care for you, your family, and your community. We wouldn't wish that experience on our worst enemies.

I admire the grace with which you write and the way you honor your son. Peace be with you.
Note to Faith: Obviously money is no compensation for the loss of a child & can only cover expenses, as you said. However, quite a number of us experienced real difficulty in working, a need for continued counseling (although some free counseling was offered initially), and had to pay for such things as unpublished phone numbers to save us from the crazies and burial expenses. In our case, I feel our lifetime earnings were most definitely impacted, since my husband has mostly lost the desire to advance in his career although opportunities have arisen. He has no wish to burden himself with further responsibilities. Many family members of victims felt that their ability to endure further stress was compromised. Money cannot bring back a family member, but it can ease some difficulties.
Reinvented, if nothing else, I think your wrestling with this candidly now on your blog will sends a powerful message on grief and PTSD:

That it takes a long time. It lasts a long time.

I've been stressing this in a lot of my interviews, but I don't think people fully get it, nor are they going to, coming from me.

I think people hear "a long time" and think months, God, maybe even a year or two.

When they hear that after ten years, you're just now being able to wrestle some of that down--and once they learn that is a very common timeframe--I think that will really hit home with people.

I think that is a huge contribution, just for getting started on it out in the open.

I've read your earlier posts and of course they've gone way beyond that. I highly recommend that people go back. There's so much to learn here.
As a parent, my heart goes out to you in ways that cannot be expressed. Your loss is unimaginable and your presence, writing and attitude is beyond impressive. Your husband's dedication to changing the law is the type of response that shows the inner strength of a person tested beyond reason. The two of you are testament to the strength inherent in all of us. Grief of the loss of a child never ends. My heart goes out to you this most vulnerable time of the year.
My prayers go to you and your family in this time.
I'm impressed and grateful that you and your husband have been inspired to help others as a result of your loss. God bless you.
Thank you for the thoughful post. I'm so sorry about your loss. Columbine deeply affected a lot of us.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book. My heart aches for your loss.
Best wishes as you go through this time of year. I also want to honor your husband's courage in taking a stand for gun control, which is not popular in Colorado.
Just a thank you for a very clear, eminently sane evaluation of most of the book (as far as you've gotten with it) and for being here, for keeping on. You're a gift to each of us. I wish you peace.
My nephew was caught up in some post-Columbine hysteria a number of years back, and was actually arrested and charged with sedition, I think, due to emails he wrote to a friend about kids in his school that were bullying him. His mother subsequently wrote and self published a book: Scapegoating for Columbine. Her child has thankfully come out of that time period intact.

I'll read David Cullen's book.

I'm so sorry about your son.

Thank you so much for talking to us about this. Your writing is thoughtful and you seem more at peace with this...enough so that you communicate peace to me. It is something that can never be forgotten, and I am so glad your husband took the year off to work for gun control. That is one of the best gifts you could give your son. Other civilized countries like Japan and England do not have weapons (of mass-destruction) readily available. We should not either. I'm so sorry for your loss. Peace be with you and yours.
Peace to you. Know that this awful event still resonates in the mind of many parents.
My heart hurts. Words fail me. Peace be with you and your husband and children.
I am so sorry for the loss of your son in such a horrific way. My sister just lost her son (altho in an entirely different way), so I know how painful it is, and how much you miss him everyday. I hope and pray for peace with yur family.

Thanks for sharing Daniel with us.
Google Columbine Family Request
I'm so sorry for the loss of your beautiful son. It's unfathomable.

I finished Cullen's book a couple of days ago, and (aside from unanswerable questions about the killers) one of my burning questions had to do with what you and your family thought of it. I went looking for an answer and was fortunate enough to find it here. Every death that day was a tragedy, but Daniel's is the one that has always stuck with me.
good to ¨hear¨ your voice again. Peace always and btw, ¨THe First Hour I Believed¨was one of my top-rated books this year.
I appreciate your perspective, as do all of us, I'm sure. Peace to you in this New Year. And bless you.
Thanks to all who recently commented. I posted this piece awhile back, so was surprised to see more comments. In the meantime I have met Dave Cullen and was deeply impressed with him. It was quite a cathartic experience, actually.