Here is the full transcript of Sue Klebold’s Talk on My Son was a Columbine Shooter. This is my Story at TED conference.
Sue Klebold – School counselor
The last time I heard my son’s voice was when he walked out the front door on his way to school. He called out one word in the darkness: “Bye”.
It was April 20, 1999. Later that morning, at Columbine High School, my son Dylan and his friend Eric killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded more than 20 others before taking their own lives. Thirteen innocent people were killed, leaving their loved ones in a state of grief and trauma. Others sustained injuries, some resulting in disfigurement and permanent disability. But the enormity of the tragedy can’t be measured only by the number of deaths and injuries that took place.
There’s no way to quantify the psychological damage of those who were in the school, or who took part in rescue or cleanup efforts. There’s no way to assess the magnitude of a tragedy like Columbine, especially when it can be a blueprint for other shooters who go on to commit atrocities of their own.
Columbine was a tidal wave, and when the crash ended, it would take years for the community and for society to comprehend its impact. It has taken me years to try to accept my son’s legacy. The cruel behavior that defined the end of his life showed me that he was a completely different person from the one I knew.
Afterwards people asked, “How could you not know? What kind of a mother were you?” I still ask myself those same questions.
Before the shootings, I thought of myself as a good mom. Helping my children become caring, healthy, responsible adults was the most important role of my life. But the tragedy convinced me that I failed as a parent, and it’s partially this sense of failure that brings me here today. Aside from his father, I was the one person who knew and loved Dylan the most.
If anyone could have known what was happening, it should have been me, right? But I didn’t know. Today, I’m here to share the experience of what it’s like to be the mother of someone who kills and hurts.
For years after the tragedy, I combed through memories, trying to figure out exactly where I failed as a parent. But there are no simple answers. I can’t give you any solutions. All I can do is share what I have learned.
When I talk to people who didn’t know me before the shootings, I have three challenges to meet. First, when I walk into a room like this, I never know if someone there has experienced loss because of what my son did. I feel a need to acknowledge the suffering caused by a member of my family who isn’t here to do it for himself. So first, with all of my heart, I’m sorry if my son has caused you pain.
The second challenge I have is that I must ask for understanding and even compassion when I talk about my son’s death as a suicide. Two years before he died, he wrote on a piece of paper in a notebook that he was cutting himself. He said that he was in agony and wanted to get a gun so he could end his life. I didn’t know about any of this until months after his death.