It’s the end of a 4-day weekend, and the wind is blowing so hard that I know it’s not safe to be out and about, so what do I do? Watch Sue Klebold’s interview with Diane Sawyer.
I have never felt anything but sympathy for Sue. Maybe because I taught her son, and all I ever saw was a sweet, quiet boy. Granted, that was two years before the shootings, but that was the only Dylan I could bring to my mind’s eye. My own son was 8 at the time of the shootings, and I remember looking at him and wondering what he would be like at 17. What would I fail to see in him? What was Dylan like at 8?
There are other things about me that keep me from judging her as so many others do. First, I came home to both of my healthy children after the event. I do not judge the victims’ parents who judge her. I have no right to judge anyone in any direction. Also, I remember very vividly who I was the morning of April 20th. People who weren’t there who now insist that they would see what Sue Klebold did not do not remember as I do. You see, the me I was then died that day. Some parts have since been resurrected, but I know what I buried—the denial, the steadfast belief that nothing like that could ever happen to me, that I would see such a thing in one of my students. I totally get her denial while Dylan was alive. I get why she didn’t rifle through her son’s room, why she believed that no child she loved so could ever be so messed up. I have nothing but compassion for her, as well as for those who hate her for what her son did to their children or to themselves as kids, physically and/or psychologically. I don’t give a shit about the judgments of anyone else. If you weren’t there, you don’t know jack.
For those who are so certain they could never be in her shoes, I ask, how do you know? My son went through bouts of depression as a teen. As one of Dylan Klebold’s former teachers, it worried me horribly. In the end, my son was a normal kid, going through the normal mood swings of adolescence. Depression can be a part of that, you know, regardless of how loving and aware parents are. Where are the bright lines: this side normal, that side suicidal, over there homicidal?
My daughter seemed moody to us. We knew she was introverted, physically in need of time to herself, but we worried about that, too. Later, she told us about the darkness of her depression, but she didn’t tell us at the time, and we were close, the kind of parents who would have listened without judging. It’s just not all black and white.
I have been a teacher of teens for nearly 30 years, and let me tell you, every one of them has a secret internal life that parents can never know. If you think you know everything about your child, you are the one in denial.
What have we learned? At least kids have learned that they can and should tell on each other, whether they worry that a friend is suicidal or possibly dangerous. Last year a kid came to me to tell me he thought his heroine-addicted friend was using again. We called the friend’s mom. He was using again. His mom knew. She wasn’t in denial. She got her son treatment, listened to him, loved him, was tough when she needed to be. He died this past year of an overdose. We do what we can. We do more now than we did in ’99. The world is still fatally imperfect.