Who Was Daniel Mauser? A Memoir by a Columbine Parent
The above is a picture of our boy Daniel at four. Never thought he'd grow up to be a murder victim at 15. Still less that he'd be murdered in what I always considered sanctuary: the high school library (at Columbine).
All things considered, we're still better off having known Daniel. I was glad that Dave Cullen in his new book "Columbine" didn't attempt to profile all of the victims in depth. That's something difficult to do, especially when one didn't know the victims firsthand. They can end up seeming like caricatures, somehow. You know, the jock, the rebel, the valedictorian.
Daniel was in many ways quite a conventional adolescent. Generally he liked keeping a low profile. He grew into a rather gangly young man, 5'10" and 145 lbs. at 15. He had just edged past his father in height and could quite literally fill his father's shoes. His father would actually wear Daniel's shoes at various gun control rallies.
Daniel had a certain "shy guy" myopic charm that was slowly starting to attract certain girls. He hadn't had any dates yet, but was inexorably moving in that direction. For some girls he undoubtedly would have been under the radar or maybe even a little nerdy. Daniel wasn't by any stretch a typical "man's man" or in this case a "boy's boy." I think the cross country coach barely knew who he was. He wasn't terribly athletic, although he enjoyed running. His French teacher clearly adored him. He had a well-developed feminine side which can be quite appealing to some females. He was sensitive, and his English teacher wrote that she always appreciated his wit. He was well mannered and gentle in demeanor. He would roll his eyes at his sister, a budding thespian, and in an exasperated tone exclaim, "Theater people! Oh my God!" I think he prided himself on being a rational sort of fellow, not given to drama of any sort.
Daniel travelled to France with some other Columbine students in the spring of 1999. I was always so glad that he was able to take that trip. He stayed with a family right outside of Paris. The condolence letter we received from his host family contained the notation that they considered him "tres gentil." The last photo I have of him is with the Columbine French students.
His childhood wasn't trouble-free, but darn near. I was worried for him in the 6th grade. He started struggling somewhat with depression, a condition that runs in my side of the family. I was concerned and sent him to a therapist to try and avert difficulties. He was feeling somewhat stressed since he'd had a bout with pneumonia and had missed a lot of school. His teacher was pressuring him. The poor kid was still just about coughing his lungs out after several weeks, although the doctor had given his o.k. for a return to school. Fortunately he recovered and mostly seemed to snap out the depression after a few months.
Daniel did show some precocity in junior high, placing 6th in general science knowledge in the seventh grade, and 2nd in the eighth grade. To my chagrin, he received a low grade in science that year because he failed to turn in an assignment. He was a bright boy who struggled a bit with organization, and I helped him. It worked. In his sophomore year his biology teacher told me a couple of weeks before he died that he had been selected to receive a Stretch for Excellence award in biology. That award was given to the outstanding student in a particular subject area. Daniel had also just applied to the National Honor Society. Unfortunately he died before he could accept either award. By that time, he had morphed into a straight A student. He seemed happy and spent a lot of time with his best friend Jeremy and other kids on our block.
Daniel spent a couple of summers working in the pharmacy at Swedish Hospital as a volunteer. I thought pharmacy work might be a possible career path for him, but we'll never know.
Daniel had a strong interest in and was a participant in debate and current events bowls. Oddly enough, several weeks before the shootings, he mentioned to his dad that there were loopholes in the Brady bill, one of them being the lack of background checks at gun shows. My husband was later to help close this loophole through passage of Amendment 22 in Colorado.
Because of Daniel's interest in debate, he wanted me to buy him a nice suit, which I did shortly before he died. He wore it once -- at Easter -- and was buried in it, along with photos of his favorite cat and first pet, Alfred, and Star Wars videos.