Columbine

Columbine

by

Dave Cullen

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Columbine: Chapter 47 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In April of 2000, Jeffco has still not released their final report on Columbine. The families of the victims and the school administration alike are deeply frustrated, and the statute of limitations on lawsuits aligns with the first anniversary. If the sheriffs’ department delays the report past April 20th, families will no longer be able to sue. On April 10th, two families file a request to see the report—all of it. The District Judge grants the request, and allows the families to read the report, along with access to “hundreds of hours” of 911 tapes and video footage. Many see the agreement as “too little, too late,” and fifteen families file lawsuits against the department that week. The Klebolds and the Harrises choose not to sue.
The families of the victims of Columbine, angered by the county’s mishandling of the attack and of its aftermath, continue to seek justice. They are incensed by the sheriff’s department’s failure to give them the answers they so desperately want.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
Though most of the lawsuits are expected to fail, Dave Sanders’ daughter Angela is believed to have a chance—she is charging Jeffco with having allowed her father to die. Other suits follow similar logic, but will be difficult to prove. The anniversary arrives amidst all this animosity and legal trouble, and the school is closed for the day—many of the Thirteen leave town.
There is clear evidence for Dave Sanders’s death having been a result of neglect—had law enforcement breached the perimeter and saved him, he might very well be alive. The anniversary of the shooting, which should be a time for healing reflection, is marred by anger, unhealed wounds, and “animosity.”
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
The district judge continues to order releases of tapes and reports. He releases everything, including the boys’ diaries and The Basement Tapes, though the Harrises and Klebolds attempt to stop him. Jeffco releases its official report on May 15th. It avoids the central question of “why,” and covers up the botched investigation into the Brown family’s reports of Eric’s disturbing and violent behavior. The report is ridiculed.
Even when the report is released, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s department continues to fail its community by keeping dangerous secrets and avoiding the truth behind the attacks—and all that led up to them.
Themes
Failure Theme Icon
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
The press accuses the families of “milking” the tragedy—this, Cullen says, is “compassion fatigue.”
The public’s sympathy for Columbine survivors and the families of victims has seemingly run out.
Themes
Media: Misinformation and Sensationalism Theme Icon
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Political opportunism emerges along with the reports—efforts toward gun control are pushed by Tom Mauser, the father of one of the victims, but “no significant national gun-control legislation [will be] enacted in response to Columbine.”
The government continues to fail in the wake of Columbine as gun control, a major issue in the massacre, is sidestepped and ignored.
Themes
Violence and Spectacle Theme Icon
Failure Theme Icon
On May 20th, Patrick Ireland graduates as valedictorian of his class, and delivers a hope-filled valedictory address in which he describes the world as a “loving” place.
Patrick is one of the largest symbols of hope in the Columbine community, and the whole school watches as he overcomes his trauma and finds peace and success.
Themes
Memory, Bearing Witness, Trauma, and Testimony Theme Icon