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Editor’s note: The following may contain triggers regarding violence, guns, and mass murder.
I have always heard people say they need a “mental health day,” but yesterday I truly understood what that meant. I woke up feeling mentally exhausted, like I didn’t want to get out of bed. I definitely didn’t want to open my computer and work.
I am so grateful to have piles of work to do. I’m grateful that my services are needed. But I’ve been working 12+ hour days for a little more than two weeks now. So far, it’s been going fine, but Tuesday, I was overwhelmed with drama from my part-time job, and general, unnecessary chaos.
It was more than I could handle.
So, I stayed in bed pretty much all day. I got some rest. Watched TV. And I tried not to feel guilty about taking a break.
I also finished reading “A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold, which is not a choice I’d recommend when you’re taking a mental health day (but it was due back at the library last night).
If you’re not familiar, Sue Klebold is the mom of one of the Columbine killers.
I have actually had this book on my TBR list for a long time, but was waiting for the right time to read it. I’m honestly not sure if there’s a right time to read it.
Before I dive in, I want to note that I’m someone who is a recovering news junkie. I love reading true stories, I do read true crime (here and there), so I have a bit of a thicker skin for books such as this one.
The shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 changed my life. I was in 8th grade in Indiana and to this day, I will never forget when my dad picked me up from school that day.
He had the radio on — news, of course — and said, “Some students shot their classmates,” and turned up the volume. When we got home, we sat in front of the TV and watched that same reel we’ve all seen: the students running out of their high school with their hands behind their heads.
From that day on, life at school was different. In addition to fire and tornado drills, we had active shooter drills. When I got to high school, there were many threats of school bombs and shootings. At times, the school was evacuated (for smoke bombs) and specific students were warned to stay home on “Bomb Your School Day” after a “hit list” was found in a bathroom.
I feel very lucky that I never had to witness any such violence, although it seems everywhere, even now, 22 years after Columbine.
Several years ago, I read “Columbine” by Dave Cullen, and wow, that’s a book that’ll change the way you look at news coverage after a mass killing.
The book also contains a lot of factual information about what happened that day in April. Before reading Sue Klebold’s book, I’ve also read “Parkland” by Dave Cullen.
While I’m certainly not an expert on school shootings, I’ve watched countless hours of news coverage, and done the reading. But I knew Mrs. Klebold’s story would certainly offer a different perspective.
I wasn’t aware of this, but from the sound of it, the Klebold family faced a lot of harassment after the shooting. They were blamed for their son’s part in killing 12 students and 1 teacher, before killing themselves.
I am not surprised to read that many of the parents said “Good parents would know if their children were planning something like this” or anything of the sort. But from Sue’s perspective, her and her family were blindsided.
Honestly, throughout the entire book, I had lots of mixed emotions. There was a part of me that felt for Sue. No one should have to bury a child. Plus, her home was ransacked by the cops and her family was sued many times over. They lived in hiding for many years, and I believe they still are not very public.
But of course, there was a part of me that can understand that families of the victim’s may grimace seeing this book on the shelves. Does she really have the right to complain of what happened to her, after what happened to them?
I also feel like there’s room in my heart to feel pain for both kinds of victims: the killer’s family, and those of the victims.
This book was published in 2016 — Sue donated all of the proceeds to mental health charities — many years after the shooting. And, it’s still chilling to read the details she shares, even knowing all that we’ve known and seen about mass shootings.
Out of confusion and guilt, Sue went back into her memories and journals over the course of her son’s entire life, searching for the moment it all went wrong.
But, there was nothing to be found. In fact, her son wasn’t showing many of the signs that we’re taught to look for regarding mental struggle and suicide. She especially had no idea he was purchasing weapons and had been planning the shooting for months.
I do think it’s admirable that Sue did as much as she’s done. She wrote letters to all of the victims’ families, she’s spoken at countless conferences and events about suicide and mental illness, and she wrote the book and donated to charity.
She could have just hidden her entire life, and at times, she said she suffered with her own wish to end her life.
Was this an amazing book? No. I do appreciate the perspective though.
What books have you read that left you with mixed feelings?
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