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