Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank DeAngelis, a former coach who is now principal of Columbine High School, addresses the two thousand members of the student body at the end of a prep rally. He tells the students that he loves “each and every one of them” and that “his heart would break to lose just one of them.” It is Friday, April 16th, 1999, and the weekend of Columbine’s prom is here. Frank, wanting to refrain from “lecturing,” tells stories of his college friend and teenage daughter’s respective motorcycle and car accidents, imploring his students to be safe over the weekend. He instructs them each to look to their left and then to their right, and to repeat after him the words “I am a valued member of Columbine. I’m not in this alone.”
Cullen depicts Columbine before the massacre as a welcoming place where students were told that they were loved and worthy members of their community. Their principal urges them not just to consider but to actively look out for one another, and to see their classmates as individuals despite the very large student body.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Frank, also known as “Mr. D,” then leads the students in a rousing chant: “We are… COL-um-BINE!” All two thousand students, says the narrator, journalist Dave Cullen, will return to school safely on Monday. On Tuesday, April 20th, 1999, however, the “worst school shooting in American history” will have occurred on Columbine’s campus. “The boys [who were] just then finalizing their plans,” Cullen says, would be “appalled” by that “characterization” of their efforts.
Cullen’s foresight—and his audience’s—allows a window into the very near future, which reveals that though the students of the Columbine community do, perhaps as a result of Mr. D’s attention, value and respect their own lives and the lives of their classmates—there are two of them who do not. Also note that the two boys would be “appalled” by the description of their efforts—this is because they were planning something even more horrifying than what actually took place.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon