Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Columbine can help.

Columbine: Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Onlookers and reporters, as well as more and more policemen, continue to arrive at Columbine. Among them is Misty Bernall, mother of the Evangelical student Cassie Bernall. Realizing she cannot get close to the school, Misty heads for one of the designated rendezvous points nearby—the public library. At each of the safehouses, sign-in sheets have been posted at the entrance. Misty waits impatiently for a fax from another nearby rendezvous point to arrive—a fax that contains the names of all the children who are safe there. Cassie’s name is not on the list, and Misty frantically questions the other kids who have gathered at the library.
Misty’s frantic search for her daughter Cassie is just one example of the chaos, desperation, and fear that thousands of parents felt on the morning of the massacre.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Religion: Escapism, Evangelism, Opportunism Theme Icon
The newly-elected sheriff of Jeffco, John Stone, is in command—this is his first murder case while in office, and he is not a popular local figure.
John Stone, already an unpopular official, will become even more controversial as the investigation unfolds.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
At 12:06 p.m., the first SWAT team to approach the school breaches the perimeter. One of their lieutenants, unfamiliar with the school’s recently-renovated layout, leads his team into an area which is not at all what he thought it would be. They move through the school, working slowly and methodically toward the killers. Though the shooters are still active at the moment, Cullen says that it will take the teams another three hours to find Eric and Dylan—and by the time they do, the shooters will have killed themselves. 
It has taken over forty minutes for officials to get inside the school. When every second counts, many parents and families of victims will see this time frame as a crucial failure on the county’s part. The SWAT teams breaching the perimeter have no idea what they are walking into due to the confused nature of student witnesses and the excessive amount of ordnance still being fired or going off throughout the school.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
On the other side of the school, paramedics and fire department teams go in for the bodies on the lawn that still show signs of life. Among them are Anne Marie, Lance, and Sean. Danny Rohrbough is pronounced dead and left on the sidewalk, while Rachel Scott is brought as far as the fire truck before she, too, is pronounced dead. Richard Castaldo is brought to safety.
The losses begin to mount, and officials struggle to handle the staggering number of injured students.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Get the entire Columbine LitChart as a printable PDF.
Columbine PDF
A “terrified” Nate Dykeman breaks down and calls the Klebold residence. Dylan’s father Tom picks up, and assures Nate that Dylan is in school. Nate tells Tom that Dylan didn’t show up for school, and that there has been a shooting—he also tells Tom that the shooters were described as kids in trench coats, and that he believes Dylan is involved. Tom runs upstairs to check Dylan’s closet for his trench coat—it is missing. Tom calls Sue, his wife, and tells her to come home, but withholds what he suspects of their son from her. Before she arrives home, he calls 911 to warn them of Dylan’s possible involvement—then he dials a lawyer.
As the reality of the situation begins to set in for Dylan and Eric’s friends and classmates, Nate makes the situation known to Tom, Dylan’s father. Tom responds with controlled horror, but is already looking toward the future, and seeking to protect himself and the rest of his family from the onslaught that he knows is going to come.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
The television coverage lags—the networks are about “thirty minutes to an hour” behind on the most recent facts. They continue to report that cops have “sealed off the perimeter.” By 12:30 p.m., the networks show the first footage of the “grisly” carnage coming out of the scene. Included in the disturbing images is a view of a classroom—someone is holding up a dry-erase board to the window, and on it is written “1 [ONE] BLEEDING TO DEATH.”
Though the media and the SWAT teams don’t know it yet, the shooting is over by the time the first images of its carnage are being broadcast to the nation. Though the danger is over, the horror continues, searing itself into the minds of those still trapped inside and those watching on television across the country. 
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon