Quotes and passages from the Tom and Susan Klebold interview in the book Far From The Tree.
"I had a sudden vision of what he might be doing,” Sue said. “And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else. I thought if this was really happening and he survived, he would go into the criminal justice system and be executed, and I couldn’t bear to lose him twice. I gave the hardest prayer I ever made, that he would kill himself, because then at least I would know that he wanted to die and wouldn’t be left with all the questions I’d have if he got caught by a police bullet. Maybe I was right, but I’ve spent so many hours regretting that prayer: I wished for my son to kill himself, and he did.”
“I thought about Dylan being dead,” Sue said, “and I thought, ‘He was young and healthy and maybe he could be an organ donor.’ And then I thought, ‘Would anyone want the organs of a murderer?’ That was my first taste of how the world would see my son.”
Tom said. “I wanted to be a part of the community. And I thought we could all grieve together.”
“You’d read something, and you couldn’t respond to it,” Tom said. “You knew that it was false, misleading, inflammatory.” Sue said, “It was just like constantly being hit, and being hit again. And you couldn’t fight back.”
"To me, the only way to heal this community was to try to have a one-to-one relationship with each of the victims,” she later explained. “My journey is not complete until I can say to these people, ‘If you ever want to speak to me, I am available to you. I will meet in your home, a pastor’s office, with a mediator if you want. If it would help you to talk to me, I’m here.’”
“Unless you were a part of the in crowd and had your athletic résumé, you had no status,” Tom said. “So Dylan had to be resentful. The only thing that would certainly have prevented Columbine would have been to eliminate the chip on his shoulder, and the chip sprang from that school. He and Eric didn’t shoot us, and they didn’t shoot up Kmart or a gas station; they shot up the school. The whole social pattern at Columbine was unfair, and Dylan couldn’t do anything about it. That would cause enough anger in a sensitive kid to make him retaliate.”
He had come home one day with ketchup spots all over his shirt, and when his mother asked what had happened, he said he’d had the worst day of his life and didn’t want to talk about it. Months after his death, she learned of an incident in which Dylan and Eric had apparently been shoved and squirted with ketchup by kids calling them fags. “It hurt so much that I’d seen the remnants of that day and hadn’t helped him,” she said. When Tom went to pick up Dylan’s car from the police station a few weeks after the event, one of the officers said to him, “My son came home from that school one day and they’d set his hair on fire right in the hall— his whole scalp was burned. I wanted to take that school apart brick by brick, but he said it would only make it worse.”
“Dylan’s writing is full of ‘I’m smarter than they are,’” Sue said. “He experienced disdain for the people who were mistreating him. He liked to think of himself as perfect, I think, and that grandiosity came through in the shootings. He started being more withdrawn and secretive in the last two years of high school, but that’s not so unusual. The stereotype that he and Eric were these miserable little kids who were plotting because they were so isolated is false. He was bright. He was very shy. He had friends, and they liked him. I was as shocked hearing that my son was perceived as an outcast as I was hearing that he’d been involved in a shooting. He cared for other people.” Tom demurred, “Or he seemed to.”
“I can never decide whether it’s worse to think your child was hardwired to be like this and that you couldn’t have done anything, or to think he was a good person and something set this off in him”
“I could read three hundred letters where people were saying, ‘I admire you,’ ‘I’m praying for you,’ and I’d read one hate letter and be destroyed,” Sue said. “When people devalue you, it far outweighs all the love.”
“No, it never was. That was the easy part. Trying to understand was hard, coping with the loss was hard, reconciling myself to the consequences of his actions was hard, but loving him— no, that was always easy for me.”
“What are you going to do?” he said. “He felt that he had a reason. He suffered the ultimate: he’s no longer here. I’m sorry for the pain my son caused other people, but we had more than our share of pain in this, too. We lost our son; then we had to live with his memory being attacked.”
“I used to think I could understand people, relate, and read them pretty well,” Sue said. “After this, I realized I don’t have a clue what another human being is thinking. We read our children fairy tales and teach them that there are good guys and bad guys. I would never do that now. I would say that every one of us has the capacity to be good and the capacity to make poor choices. If you love someone, you have to love both the good and the bad in them.”
“I felt that they were just like my son. That they were just people who, for some reason, had made an awful choice and were thrown into a terrible, despairing situation. When I hear about terrorists in the news, I think, ‘That’s somebody’s kid.’ Columbine made me feel more connected to mankind than anything else possibly could have.”
The Klebolds had letters from kids who idealized Dylan, and from girls who were in love with him. “He has his own groupies,” Tom said with an ironic half smile. They were heartened by unanticipated kindnesses.
“We kept clinging to the belief that he hadn’t really killed anybody,” Sue said. Then came the police report. “It just launched my grief all over again, because I didn’t have denial anymore. They could talk about which people he’d killed. Here’s the little map of the school, with all the little bodies on it.”
“Seeing those videos was as traumatic as the original event,” Sue said. “All the protective beliefs that we’d held on to were shattered. There wasn’t hate talk in our house. I’m part Jewish, and yet the anti-Semitic stuff was there; they were going through every derogatory word: a nigger; a kike. I saw the end product of my life’s work: I had created a monster. Everything I had refused to believe was true. Dylan was a willing participant, and the massacre was not a spontaneous impulse. He had purchased and created weapons that were designed to end the lives of as many people as possible. He shot to kill. For the first time, I understood how Dylan appeared to others"
“If I could say something to a roomful of parents right now, I would say, ‘Never trust what you see,’” Sue said. “Was he nice? Was he thoughtful? I was taking a walk not long before he died, and I’d asked him, ‘Come and pick me up if it rains.’ And he did. He was there for you, and he was the best listener I ever met"
“How could he keep it so secret,” Sue wondered, “this pain he was in?”
In the wake of so many enormous stresses, Sue was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I don’t believe in chakras,” she said. “But you think about all this heart pain, and failed nurturing, and losing a child. I finally had an opportunity to meet some women who had lost children to suicide. There were six women, and three of us have had breast cancer. I used to laugh and say it was my version of comic relief. Because after all we’d been through, the breast cancer seemed like sort of a nice, normal thing.”
“I was fortunate that Dylan did not turn on us. The worst thing he did to us was he took himself away from us. After Columbine, I felt that Dylan killed God. No god could have had anything to do with this, so there must not be one."
“I sat next to someone on a train a while ago and we had a really wonderful conversation, and then I could feel the questions coming—‘ So, how many kids do you have?’ I had to forestall it. I had to tell him who I was. And who I am forever now is Dylan’s mother.”
"We are able to be open and honest about those things because our son is dead. His story is complete. We can’t hope for him to do something else, something better. You can tell a story a whole lot better when you know its ending.”
When I say that, I am speaking of my own pain, and not of the pain of other people. But I accept my own pain; life is full of suffering, and this is mine. I know it would have been better for the world if Dylan had never been born. But I believe it would not have been better for me.
The Klebolds needed three years to clean out Dylan’s room and to remake it into the pleasant guest room in which I slept on my visits.
Every year on Dylan’s birthday, Tom goes up to the place where the two used to hike and takes a Dr Pepper, because Dylan loved Dr. Pepper, and the stuffed koala that was Dylan’s childhood favorite
I was particularly struck by a video of Dylan on his way to his prom, three days before the massacre. He’s a little churlish in the mode of adolescents, but also has a sweetness about him; he seems like a nice kid. It would never have occurred to me that he could be on the verge of wanton destruction. His long hair pulled back in a neat ponytail, he’s adjusting his rented tuxedo and complaining that the arms are a little short, smiling while his date puts on his boutonniere. “Dad, why are you filming this?” he asks. Then he laughs and says, “Well, someday I’ll watch it again, and I’ll wonder what I was thinking.” It was impressive dissembling, because he imparts the feeling of someone who will one day remember being dressed up, with a pretty girl, on the way to the biggest party of his life. Near the end of the video, he says, “I’ll never have kids. Kids just mess up your life.” The sudden angry moment comes out of nowhere and evaporates just as fast.
She recounted a recent trip to the supermarket when the checkout clerk had verified her name on her driver’s license. “And then she says, ‘Klebold . . . Did you know him?’ And I say, ‘He was my son.’ And then she started in with ‘It was the work of Satan.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Please, let’s bag the groceries here.’ As I leave the store, she’s yelling out after me about how she’s praying for me. It wears you down.”
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light