Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 41 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Fuselier is confident in his diagnosis of Eric as a psychopath, he knows there will controversy and “resistance” over diagnosing such a young man. Three months after the attack, the FBI organizes a summit on school shooters, at which Fuselier briefs attendees on the inner workings of the killers’ minds and then tentatively posits, to minimize controversy, that Eric Harris was “a budding young psychopath.” As Fuselier waits for blowback, a psychiatrist in attendance speaks out: “I don’t think he was a budding young psychopath. I think he was a full-blown psychopath.”
Fuselier’s theory is vindicated by his peers. He feels confident in his diagnosis of the situation, and firm in his ability to view and interpret the Columbine massacre through the lens of Eric’s “full-blown” psychopathy.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Though the killers’ motives are now known, Fuselier is not permitted to talk to the public, as the FBI has prohibited him from speaking to the media. However, “failure to address the obvious” has begun to eat away at the Jeffco sheriff department’s already-waning credibility. Jeffco is covering a lot of things up—like the disappeared affidavit, which, Guerra attests, was “purged” from the system in the wake of the attacks.
Fuselier and other investigators are prevented from sharing what they know with the media and the grieving public by a sheriff’s department desperately trying to disguise its own failures.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Patrick Ireland struggles to regain movement of his legs. He is rebuilding the frayed signals in his brain. He makes steady progress each day, and within a few weeks, he is on his feet. It will take him “months to hold a pen without shaking,” but he is on his way to normalcy. Another injured student, Anne Marie Hochhalter, receives less positive news. After weeks “delirious on morphine with a ventilator and a feeding tube keeping her alive,” Hochhalter finally asks a nurse whether she will ever walk again, and the nurse tells her she will not. She joins Patrick and several other survivors at the Craig rehab.
Once again, Cullen uses Patrick Ireland’s journey of recovery as a barometer for where the larger Columbine community is in their recovery process. Anne Marie Hochhalter is stalled in her recovery, and will have to cope with the injuries she’s sustained for the rest of her life—her journey, too, mirrors some of the survivors and witnesses of Columbine.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Families of the library victims return to the scene of the crime with investigators. School officials and families all realize that the library must be rebuilt—sending any child back in is “unthinkable.” Students, however, continue to fight for the idea of getting their school back—not as a tragedy, but as a high school. Tourists begin to arrive, angering the students further. On June 2nd, students are finally allowed to return to the building to collect the belongings which have been inside the school since the attack. The students are then “kicked out” again for another two months while the interior is renovated. Fall enrollment increases. Students want their school back. The library renovation will be total, but the rest of the school will be redesigned in a “balanced” way that will “surround [students] with changes too subtle to identify.” 
The school must decide how to handle reintegrating students into an environment that has now become a place of violence and trauma for so many. Failure to properly reintroduce students to their school—or to make it visually unrecognizable and therefore emotionally inaccessible—will constitute yet another failure on the school’s part.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
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The parents of the thirteen victims form a group to support one another—the Thirteen—as one of the victims’ families files a wrongful death suit against the killers’ parents for a quarter of a billion dollars. The family insists that the lawsuit is a symbol, but the other victims’ families are largely repulsed—they have been spending the months after the attack rededicating their lives to social justice and activism, not seeking financial recompense. As relief funds pour in, families fight about how the money is allocated, and eventually the Healing Fund announces plans to distribute 40% of the 3.8 million raised to direct victims. The Thirteen will receive slightly more money than the survivors.
Though money can never repair the trauma that the Thirteen have had to endure, they are nonetheless desperate for anything that will ameliorate their grief or bring them a sense of justice and resolution. They are also angry at the county and at the school for what they perceive as major failures to prevent the attack. Barely a month after the attack, the amount of compassion people have for the victims’ families attempts to get justice has waned.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
On May 28th, Kathy Harris writes condolence letters to the Thirteen. She sends all the letters in one envelope to a clearinghouse for victim correspondence. The school district turns the letters over to the sheriff’s department, who keep them as evidence.
Kathy Harris’s attempts to connect with and apologize to the victim’s families fail. Kathy is still an outcast, and reviled in the community.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
Sue Klebold also writes apologies, and mails them directly to the Thirteen. Misty Bernall is moved by the letter she receives, and describes Sue Klebold’s act of writing it as “courageous,” recognizing that the Klebolds have no comfort whatsoever in their grief—at least Cassie died nobly.
Though people are still angry with the killers’ parents, some begin to recognize their uniquely lonely place in the tragedy, and the lack of redemption available to them.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon