The six-month anniversary of the shooting is “unnerving.” Additionally, surveillance video of the killers inside the cafeteria has leaked to the media. As injured students continue to “fight their way” toward recovery, a friend of Eric and Dylan’s is arrested on October 19th after starting a rumor that he planned to “finish the job.” Authorities recover an “incriminating journal” and diagrams of the school, but no signs of any serious planning of an attack. 450 students call in sick on October 20th, the six-month anniversary. Anne-Marie Hochhalter’s mother commits suicide inside a pawn shop.
The chapter’s title, “Aftershocks,” speaks to the continuing waves of trauma that rock the Columbine community. As those who wish to cause harm and destruction come out of the woodwork around the six-month anniversary, ripples of the attack are still seen throughout Jefferson County.
The weekend after the anniversary, the Columbine mental health hotline is “flooded with calls.” Many people are rattled by the anniversary, and news of Carla June Hochhalter’s suicide has upset many, who believe she killed herself because of Columbine and her daughter’s injuries. The Hochhalter family reveals, however, that Carla had been struggling for a long time with clinical depression and bipolar disorder, and had been suicidal in the past.
While the Columbine massacre seemingly did not push Carla June to suicide, it certainly didn’t help her state of mind. She is the most visible, tangible example, at the six-month anniversary, of the ways in which people are still “rattled” by the attack.
With the threat of Eric and Dylan’s friend, the total number of expulsion proceedings in Jeffco since April has reached eight—there is a zero-tolerance policy for threats of any kind. The boy, who had dreamed of plowing into Columbine as a suicide bomber, is sentenced to a juvenile diversion program—just like Eric and Dylan.
Jefferson County continues to potentially mishandle and underestimate the threats of disturbed teens, though they have instituted a zero-tolerance policy in their schools.
The six-month anniversary also marks the deadline for anyone who wants to sue a government agency for negligence. Twenty families file. Among them are Tom and Sue Klebold, who charge the sheriff’s department for failing to alert them about its investigation of Eric’s troubling behavior. Sheriff Stone publicly denounces the Klebolds’ claim, calling it “outrageous,” and blaming “their parenting” for Dylan’s role in Columbine.
Members of the Columbine community continue to seek answers as to why the attacks occurred, and blame the county and the sheriff’s department for failing to do their part in preventing the violence.
In September of 1999, Misty Bernall embarks on a book tour in support of She Said Yes. The Rocky Mountain News breaks the long-hidden story of the truth about Cassie’s “martyrdom,” and the Bernall family feels “humiliated and betrayed.” The “vast Evangelical community” refuses to accept the evidence, and continues to hail Cassie as a martyr.
Though the Bernalls face the personal humiliation and failure of learning the truth of Cassie’s story, their more opportunistic religious community continues to trumpet the tale of her martyrdom.
The Jeffco sheriff’s department refuses to release reports on Eric’s journal, though a passage of it leaks through Kate Battan. The victims’ families demand to see the journal, as well as the Basement Tapes, and are further outraged when a reporter gets to view the tapes first. Sheriff Stone continues to delay the final report, but “insist[s] that his department [will] be exonerated” by it.
Victims’ families want answers, and to see the media that Eric and Dylan produced. The county keeps the materials close, however, hoping to use it for their own means rather than share it with those who are mourning and grieving.
Before Christmas, a bomb threat shuts down the school, and finals are cancelled. In the new year, a young boy is found dead a few blocks from the school. In February of 2000, two students are shot two blocks from Columbine, at a Subway sandwich shop. The “star” of Columbine’s basketball team commits suicide. Students believe they are “cursed.” Many are still suffering from PTSD.
Things are bleak in Columbine, and the specter of violence and trauma still lingers throughout the entire community.
Patrick Ireland does well in school and keeps his status as valedictorian in sight. However, he begins to suffer seizures, and doctors say that too much stress on his brain, which is still in recovery, could kill him. Patrick, who had dreamed of architecture school, realizes that the demands of an architecture program will weaken and threaten his brain, and a “cloud” appears over his future, though he is socially enjoying his senior year and still experiencing all the normal joys and dramas of any high school student.
Once again, Patrick Ireland’s struggle onward mirrors the Columbine community’s struggle toward grace, recovery, and understanding.