Frank DeAngelis plans to retire at the end of the 2002 school year, once the last class of freshman who were present for the shootings has graduated. He has no idea what he will do when he is done, and is busy trying to keep ahead of any more aftershocks. As angry parents—Brian Rohrbough, in particular—continue to blame the school administration for the killings, Mr. D develops a heart condition from all the stress. He is “riddled” with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The years following the tragedy are busy, and packed nonstop. There is a lot of emotional upkeep with the traumatized students, and Mr. D’s focus on them leads him to neglect some of his staff. He joins a bowling league with his wife, but has trouble opening up to or interacting at all, really, with his family. He and his wife divorce in 2002—the year it is time for Frank to move on from Columbine. He decides he doesn’t want to, and announces his intentions to stay on at Columbine.
Cullen uses Frank DeAngelis’s story in the years following the massacre to illustrate the ways in which the community is struggling to heal. While Mr. D suffers from debilitating post-traumatic stress, he continues to try and rebuild a safe home for his students. He must shoulder the burden of many parents’ blame, though, and is constantly afraid of another threat against his school. Nonetheless, when it comes time for Frank to move on, he finds that he does not want to—or is unable to.
Jeffco continues to release reports pertaining to the shooting, and information on their cover-up of the dropped ball on looking into Eric emerges. Anger and contempt grow, and a federal judge orders Jeffco to hand over key evidence to a federal courthouse in Denver.
Jeffco’s cover-up comes to a head. The public is incensed over their role in enabling the shooting to happen, and their rights to retaining the evidence in the Columbine case are taken away.
Agent Fuselier steps away from the case, returning to his role as head of domestic terrorism for the Colorado-Wyoming region at the FBI.
Agent Fuselier, too, as involved as he was in the case and its aftermath, is “ready to be done.”
Sue Klebold struggles to return to daily life—even shopping is difficult for her, as her name is instantly recognizable. Don Marxhausen, who remained close with the Klebolds, is forced out of his job and unable to find another. He eventually takes a job as a chaplain at a county jail.
Sue Klebold is reviled for her proximity to her son, and Don Marxhausen is reviled for his proximity to the Klebolds. As all-encompassing as the religious community is in Jeffco, it is not as tolerant as it claims to be.
The messy lawsuits continue on for years. A series of defendants are added, including school officials, the manufacturers of Luvox (the antidepressant Eric had been taking at the time of the massacre,) and anyone at all who had come in contact with the guns used in the massacre. Most of the charges are dismissed by a federal judge. A federal judge keeps on, though, at Dave Sanders’ case, agreeing that the county was in the wrong. Angela Sanders is eventually paid $1.5 million. Meanwhile, the Klebolds and the Harrises agree to a deal—suits against them will be dismissed if they agree to answer the families’ questions. The parents of the killers agree, and are deposed for several days in July of 2003. In 2007, a judge, after a lengthy process of deciding whether or not to make the testimony public, agrees that it should be kept confidential—at least for a time. The depositions will be made public in 2027.
Those affected by grief and loss continue to lash out in search of answers, retribution, and reparations. They are not yet ready to be done with the tragedy. For some, this is effective—it allows the legal system to see how deep the trauma of Columbine runs. For others, it is healing—the parents of the Thirteen finally get to have some closure from the Klebolds and the Harrises. The timing of the unveiling of the depositions, though, far in the future, is highlighted in order to demonstrate how perhaps the fallout from Columbine will never really be “done.”
Patrick Ireland attends Colorado State University, and graduates magna cum laude with a degree in business. He has a friend build him a custom boot that allows him to waterski once again, finally.
Patrick Ireland’s story of recovery and forgiveness continues to signify hope in a community still torn asunder.
The country braces for copycat killers, but school shooting deaths drop 25% in the next three years. However, Eric and Dylan do inspire several attacks which feature “terrorist tactics for personal aggrandizement.” Several Columbine-esque plots are foiled around the country, and many schools adopt a zero-tolerance policy for possession of firearms or jokes about attacks.
Eric and Dylan’s failed bombing nonetheless inspires a pattern in the attacks that come after Columbine. The large-scale violence they perpetrated has become more and more normalized in the years since the massacre.
The FBI and the Secret Service release guides advising faculty not to focus on identifying “outcasts” as threats—there is no profile for a school shooter. Despite this fact, school shooters at the time of the study were 100 percent male. 93% planned their attacks in advance, and 98% had “suffered a loss or failure they perceived as serious.” Dylan, Cullen writes, viewed his entire life as a failure, while Eric was driven to murder by his indignation over his arrest. The FBI releases a list of warning signs “including symptoms of both psychopathy and depression,” but cautions that “most kids matching the criteria need help, not incarceration.”
Research supports the idea that it is impossible to “profile” a potential school shooter—however, school shooters do share a staggeringly high percentage of common traits when it comes to the planning of and motivation for an attack. While signs indicating psychopathy, anger issues, and depression can be helpful, not every child suffering from anger and depression is harmful, and they should be helped rather than harmed further.
Columbine changed the way police respond to attacks of its ilk—“no more perimeters,” Cullen says. New protocol demands action in the case of an active shooter, and old protocol in the face of a “passive” shooter who is alive but not firing. This new protocol, in which cops or guards rushed in to stop shooters, saved lives at some of the increasingly devastating shootings that would unfold over the next decade.
The massive failure at Columbine to extract still-living victims from within the perimeter has led to change in the way active and passive shooter situations are handled.