The fifth-anniversary commemoration does not draw as large an audience as many expected, and this “pleased” most people—it means many have moved on. Anne Marie Hochhalter attends, citing the turning point in her grieving process as the moment she accepted that she would never walk again. She forgave and moved on, and has now come back to Columbine to “share her hope.”
The struggle between the desire to move on and the desire to properly grieve and commemorate the violence that occurred at Columbine continues to pull at the community. The lessening of the intensity of many people’s grief seems to have begun in earnest.
The memorial was budgeted at $2.5 million, but by the time fund-raising began in 2000, “goodwill had been tapped out” and the funds were difficult to come up with. Scaling the project back one million dollars helped, as did a large donation from Bill Clinton, but the project could not seem to gain momentum.
As many people moved on from the memory of Columbine, those who were still grieving, and who still desired a memorial, were seen as extending or milking their grief.
On the fifth anniversary, an analysis of the case by Fuselier and other leading experts from the FBI is published. Angered by the report, Tom and Sue Klebold agree to a media interview—the first any of the boys’ parents had given. They admit that they are not qualified to “sort out” their son’s motive, but assure the public that Dylan took part in the shooting “in contradiction to the way he was raised.” They do not admit to having “induced Dylan’s suicide,” but feel they “failed to prevent his suicide.”
Tom and Sue Klebold were completely caught off-guard by their son’s involvement in Columbine. In their first media interview, they profess that shock and horror once again, and assert that they had no idea what was going on—their failure to understand their son resulted in the failure to stop one of the deadliest attacks in American history.
Patrick Ireland still sees many of his friends from high school, but they do not really discuss the massacre—it is not emotional anymore, he says, just “boring.” Patrick does not even realize, these days, when the anniversary of the attack rolls around.
Patrick has recovered both physically and emotionally. He has moved on almost completely from the shadow of trauma that fell over Columbine in the wake of the attacks.
Dave Sanders’ wife Linda, on the other hand, has felt every single anniversary acutely. After a long grieving period, she got sober and reconnected with her family and friends. Linda was deeply isolated, as Dave was the only teacher to die, but still receives letters “now and then” from people who tell her how impactful Dave’s story was for them. She draws strength from these letters.
Linda Sanders was alone in her grieving process—all of the other victims were students, and she was isolated from the kind of grief that the other Thirteen families felt. Now, years after the attack, she has finally achieved a measure of peace and comfort.
In September 2003, the “last known layer of the cover-up” of the investigation into Eric comes out. The new sheriff of Jeffco, Ted Mink, orders the Colorado Attorney General to conduct an investigation. John Stone refuses to participate. The probe reveals that the cover-up went deeper than expected, and implicated Division Chief John Kieksbusch in the destruction of evidence after the Columbine attacks. Kieksbusch “unequivocally denied” all of the allegations.
Years after the attacks, there is finally confirmation that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office was responsible for covering up the fact that they had knowledge of Eric Harris’s violent ideology and possession of sophisticated, dangerous ordnance, and did nothing.
School shootings died down for many years after Columbine, but return “in an uglier form” in late 2006 as a series of spectacle murders take hold of America. Various aspects of the killings resemble Columbine closely, and shooters even cite Eric and Dylan’s “legacy” as inspiration. Cullen writes that over eighty school shootings took place in America in the ten years after Columbine. At the Virginia Tech shooting, Seung-Hui Cho killed thirty-two, plus himself, and injured seventeen others. The press, Cullen says, “shuddered at the idea of turning school shootings into a competition, and then awarded Cho the record.” Eric and Dylan were mentioned in the manifesto Cho left behind, and though Cho appeared to have been struggling with “a powerful psychosis,” the Columbine shooters left an undeniable impression on him.
Cullen, who has made the argument that Columbine was a massive failure over and over again throughout the text, explores how despite its status as a technical failure, it “succeeded” in inspiring another generation of mass murderers who sought to replicate what they believed was glory—glory that never came for Eric or for Dylan. Spectacle murderers will always see loss of life as triumph, even if the circumstances which enabled that loss of life were circumstances of a failure. Cullen also condemns the media for contributing to the false idea of “glory” for mass murderers by “awarding” them the fame and rankings they desire.