Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Afterword Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Columbine victim Daniel Mauser’s mother, Linda, still experiences “failures” ten years later which she attributes to the constant, enduring pain from the loss of her child. She is still angry at the school, and at the cops who she feels mishandled the tragedy and failed to prevent it. She is particularly angry at the “Evangelical[s] who cast Columbine as religious warfare” and at Eric and Dylan’s parents. Eventually, her husband Tom met with Sue Klebold, and then, together, Linda and Tom both met with Eric Harris’s parents. Wayne and Kathy Harris “accepted” that their son had been a psychopath, and had fooled them completely. Linda finds the Harrises “sincere,” and at the end of their conversation tells them that she forgives their son. Linda forgives the Harrises, too, but chooses not to tell them during the meeting.
The shadow of violence and trauma that Columbine cast continues to cause grief, failure, and pain in the community, even ten years later. There is some healing, too, as the Harrises begin to open up to the victims’ families and the Klebolds continue to apologize for their role—and their son’s role—in the unceasing storm of grief.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Val Schnurr, a survivor of the library massacre, is “deliriously” happy. Dylan hit her with a blast from his shotgun, and the pain, physical therapy, surgery, and counseling she underwent to recover from her injuries left her a “mess” even at the five-year anniversary. However, shortly after that milestone, Val realized her dream was to become a counselor herself. By the time the ten-year anniversary rolls around, she “loves her life” and has “let go” of her anger. There is “almost nothing about Columbine” that makes Val feel “emotional” now—though at the time of Craig Scott’s false statements about Cassie Bernall professing her faith in the library, when Val was actually the student who had done so, she was angry. Craig has since apologized to her, but it has taken her longer to forgive him and Misty Bernall than it took her to forgive the shooters.
Val’s journey of recovery differs from many survivors—she let go of her anger at the killers long ago, but retained her anger at having been cast out and deemed a liar for contradicting Cassie Bernall’s story. Val has had to overcome a dual setback—her physical injuries from the attack, and the fallout of her struggle to make the truth of her experience known and understood.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Religion: Escapism, Evangelism, Opportunism Theme Icon
Val is relieved that it was Dylan and not Eric who shot her—she knew Eric personally, but was not even aware of Dylan’s existence. If Eric had shot her, she says, she would have constantly questioned whether she’d “provoked” him. Her happiness and success, she feels, are the “biggest F-you[s]” to the shooters,” and she has found “forgiveness [to be] life-saving.” Though she bears extensive scars from her old injuries and for years could not see past her own disfigurements, now she does not “need” to look away from them anymore.
Val’s desire to overcome the violence that was perpetrated against her and her community and to live the best life she can live is an act of resistance in the face of trauma, and a refusal to give in to failure, hatred, or fear.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon