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Columbine 12 Years Later… Do We Still Blame The Parents?

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the Columbine School Massacre, when 13 people plus the killers died and 24 were wounded in a shooting rampage that still makes people wonder:  why did this happen and who is really to blame?

Like so many other events that have happened in our life times, most of us remember where we were that day. I was on the air when our news director rushed out of his office and instructed us to turn on our televisions in the studios.  We all watched with mouths wide open in disbelief as the tragedy played out. Students and parents sobbed. Interviews with classmates of the killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, described their experiences inside the school and their relationship/experience with the shooters. All of us asked, why?

In the days that followed we all came to believe the reason why was “excessive bullying”. That this was their way of getting revenge on those who treated them poorly. In the 12 years since the shooting, however, we’ve learned that they themselves had been bullies and had planned this attack out for over a year. It was a case of premeditated mass murder. Planned and carried out by two suicidal psychopaths hell bent on killing as many people as they possible could.

What’s scary is the carnage that COULD have been had their plan actually worked. The two had intended to explode two bombs in the school, one in the lunch room and another in the kitchen, then pick off survivors as they tried to flee. Had these two bombs gone off, everyone in the cafeteria would have most likely been killed and it probably would have brought the second floor of the building down on top of those who weren’t killed by the blast. They also had their cars rigged with explosives in hopes to take out police, journalists and others who would inevitably rush to the scene once the carnage began. Fortunately, Harris was a terrible bomb maker and none of the bombs went off. The two then improvised their plan and started their shooting rampage.

He was so bad at wiring those bombs, apparently they weren’t even close to working,” says Dave Cullen, author of Columbine,

After the tragedy, the easiest targets to cast blame towards were the parents. In the months following the shootings, some claim that up to 85% of Americans believed the parents were responsible (Note: I have yet to find these specific polls, only articles referencing them. This poll from April of 1999 shows 20% of respondents blamed the parents and 25% believed criminal charges should have been filed against them.)

”They ask us if we blame the parents?” he thunders. ”Who else do we blame? I taught my son right from wrong. My son wasn’t shooting people up. My son was in the library doing what he was supposed to do.” -Michael Shoels, victims parent

Given all that we know now, I find it really hard to blame the parents. By all accounts, these parents were just like most of us. Trying to raise their kids the best way they knew how. It looks like these kids were actually just really good liars and even bragged in their “basement tapes” about hiding what they were doing from their parents.

“I could convince them that I’m going to climb Mount Everest, or I have a twin brother growing out of my back,” says Harris. “I can make you believe anything.” (Times Article)

I really feel for these parents. Not only did they lose their children, but they have to live with what their children did for the rest of their lives. My daughter once stole a pair of underwear at the mall and I felt so bad and responsible for what she did, I can only imagine what those poor parents have gone through knowing their children were responsible for taking the lives of 13 others.

As bad as I felt when my daughter committed her crime, however, I’ve since come to the conclusion that; we as parents cannot go through life blaming ourselves for everything our children do. Nor should we go around just automatically blaming other parents for their kids mistakes. We have to teach our children to be responsible for their own actions and when they mess up, we have to leave the blame firmly placed on their shoulders.  We just simply can’t (nor should we) hold their hands through life. We can monitor them, check their cell phones, search their rooms, etc. But at the end of the day, the most important things we can do is teach them right from wrong and pray that they make the right decisions.

I really hope those parents have come to the same conclusion. But, something tells me they still relive their nightmare each and every day.

“Good wombs have borne bad sons. – Eric Harris, farewell video to his parents.”

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