Just as baby boomers remember where we were when President Kennedy was assassinated, so do Coloradans know where they were during the Columbine High massacre 10 years ago Monday.
I was parked in front of a television with the late great Sue O’Brien, my boss at The Denver Post, tracking developments, choking back horror and collaborating on our editorial angle.
But my reporter friends were smack dab in the chaos, assigned to interview stricken students and shocked parents.
These heartsick reporters showed sensitivity and respect even while churning out coverage that won a Pulitzer Prize.
Some who reported on this tragedy intensively for the long haul had to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder.
As their friend and former editor, I ached for them. And as a mother, I wept for the families of the slain students and teacher, for the wounded and even for the kids who got out alive but lost all innocence.
I had scant empathy, though, for the parents of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teens who killed 12 students and a teacher, wounded 24 more and then killed themselves.
These parents should have known what was up with their kids, I suggested in a column April 30, 1999, just 10 days after the massacre.
After all, the killers had built 67 bombs over the course of a year, we were told. Eric had threatened to kill a student. Dylan had seemed depressed.
“Somewhere along the line,” I wrote, “the adults in the lives of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold decided not to look at reality.”
I regret those words.
When I wrote them, my child was not yet 4. Now she’s 13, and I’ve learned what a messy process parenting is.
A lot of good parents are starving for help, guidance, answers.
Parenting columns and books by doctors and pseudo doctors are hot sellers, as we scour the landscape for a simpler way, a more certain way, some assurance that we’re doing the best that can be done.
We’re not. We’re just doing the best we can.
And in the blinding glare of 20-20 hindsight, I believe Eric and Dylan’s parents were doing the best they could, too.
These poor people were victims as well. Their children also died.
But their terrible loss was compounded by the unimaginable horror, shame and guilt of knowing their sons had wrought the worst school tragedy yet.
Their very own boys. The sweet children they loved, I’m certain, as much as any of us love our own.
Yet in the emotional turmoil of that time, a governor, a sheriff, a Denver Post columnist and more rushed to judgment.
So we heaped a little more blame, shame and pain on four tortured souls whose lives had just been shattered beyond comprehension.
I’ll regret it till the day I die.
And wherever Wayne and Kathy Harris, and Tom and Susan Klebold are today, I hope they are finding some healing, some peace and much grace.
Reach Billie Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4664.