Sue Klebold, mother of a Columbine shooter, is publishing her memoir, "A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy." She is donating all of her profits from the book to research and to charitable foundations with a focus on mental health issues.
Personally, I'm optimistic that Sue's story, and her courage to tell it publicly, will stir important conversations around mental illness and how we can better help one another. There surely will be heated debates, unproductive finger-pointing and mean exchanges, but I hope we pay attention to the themes of forgiveness and healing.
A friend and classmate, Anne Marie Hochalter, was shot and paralyzed at Columbine. On her Facebook page, Anne shared her thoughts about Sue's memoir:
Dear Sue Klebold,
I was injured at Columbine High School in 1999. As you know, your son Dylan, and his classmate, Eric Harris, killed 13 people and then themselves. You are releasing a book and appearing on the TV program 20/20 to talk about what happened and what your son did. I have only two instances to form an opinion on you.
1. You and your husband wrote me a letter a few months after I was paralyzed saying how sorry you were. It was genuine and personal. The Harris letter, on the other hand, was four sentences long on a folded up piece of paper, and was cold and robotic. To refresh your memory, it read like this:
Dear Anne Marie,
Our prayers have been with you each day as we read about the terrible ordeal you and your family have experienced. We read that you had been transferred to Craig Hospital, and we were so thankful that you had progressed to the point where you could enter a rehabilitation facility. Though we have never met, our lives are forever linked through this tragedy that has brought unspeakable heartbreak to our families and our community. With deepest humility we apologize for the role our son, Dylan, had in causing the suffering you and your family have endured. Your recovery process will be a long and difficult road, and we hope that the support of people all over the world will help you find strength and courage as you meet the many challenges you have yet to face. When we read reports of your progress, we marvel at your resolve. It is still terribly difficult for us to believe that the son we knew could play a role in causing harm to you and others. The reality that he shared in the responsibility for this senseless tragedy is beyond our comprehension. We offer our love, support, and service as you and your family work to gain control over your lives. May God watch over you during your recovery process and beyond. May each day bring you successes, however small, that bring you hope and encouragement.
Sue and Tom Klebold
2. I was contacted by ABC to comment for the 20/20 special and they told me that any proceeds from your book (aside from publisher's costs) will go to helping those with mental illness. Six months after Columbine happened, my mother, Carla, committed suicide. She was already suffering from depression so the shootings didn't directly cause her to do what she did, but it certainly didn't help. It means a lot to me that you wouldn't keep those proceeds for yourself, but to help others that suffer from mental illness.
I think it's appropriate that the program that you are appearing on is named "20/20." Hindsight is truly 20/20 and I'm sure you have agonized over what you could have done differently. I know, because I do the same thing with trying to think of ways I could have prevented my mother's death. I have no ill-will towards you. Just as I wouldn't want to be judged by the sins of my family members, I hold you in that same regard. It's been a rough road for me, with many medical issues because of my spinal cord injury and intense nerve pain, but I choose not to be bitter towards you. A good friend once told me, "Bitterness is like swallowing a poison pill and expecting the other person to die." It only harms yourself. I have forgiven you and only wish you the best.
Anne Marie Hochhalter
Resilience is an underlying characteristic found in trauma survivors. I recognize resilience in my Columbine classmates and applaud their courage to share hard-won life lessons. If you're stuck in a tragedy, communities like ResilientHope.org can help pull you through.