A few months after her son, Dylan, stormed through Columbine High School and killed 12 students, a teacher, and wounded 24 others, Sue Klebold wrote to one of the young survivors.
Anne Marie Hochhalter was paralyzed that day, April 20, 1999. The letter she received from Sue, as she recovered from her devastating injury, was “genuine and personal,” she recalled, according to the Denver Channel.
“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. 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.”
Klebold’s feelings about the Columbine shooting 17 years ago haven’t changed much. In her first ever TV interview, Sue will sit down with Diane Sawyer on ABC’s 20/20 to talk about Dylan, her denial about his troubles, and the reminder, everyday, that he “brutally killed people in such a horrific way,” ABC News reported.
Sue has also penned a book about the Columbine shooting from her point of view — the mother of the killer. All book profits from A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy will go towards mental health research and charities.
After the shooting at Columbine, Klebold realized — far too late — that her child was troubled. Her efforts to keep him safe from the world around him weren’t enough, she said, because the “gravest danger” came “from within,” according to CNN.
“I wish I had known then what I know now: that it was possible for everything to seem fine with him when it was not, and that behaviors I mistook as normal for a moody teenager were actually subtle signs of psychological deterioration… Most of us do not see suicidal thinking as the health threat that it is. We are not trained to identify it in others, to help others appropriately, or to respond in a healthy way if we have these feelings ourselves.”
All this time later, Sue has no idea why her son wanted to hurt so many people.
Dylan, then 17, and his friend Eric, 18, opened fire at Columbine on April 20, 1999. In 49 minutes, they killed 13 people and injured 24 more. They had planted homemade propane bombs in the cafeteria, which were meant to explore during lunch but failed. Bombs in the cars, which were supposed to go off when emergency responders showed up, also failed to detonate.
After it was done, Klebold and Harris killed themselves. Littleton, Colorado, a community not far from Denver, was left shocked. Images of the teenagers, clad in black trench coats with four guns in hand, and terrified and bloodied students running from the carnage, stunned a nation that had just witnessed the worst school shooting in U.S. history.
Sue Klebold can’t wipe the memory of that day from her mind.
“I just remember sitting there and reading about them, all these kids and the teacher.And I keep thinking — constantly thought how I would feel if it were the other way around and one of their children had shot mine. I would feel exactly the way they did. I know I would,” Sue said. “I know I would… It’s still hard for me after all this time. It is very hard to live with the fact that someone you loved and raised has brutally killed people in such a horrific way.”
Klebold thinks of Dylan’s victims every day. Before the Columbine shooting, she thought she was the kind of mother who “would have known if something were wrong with her son.” He had a fun childhood and though things changed when he became a teenager, she didn’t think the worst.
“Part of the shock of this was that learning that what I believed and how I lived and how I parented was — an invention in my own mind. That it, it was a completely different world that he was living in.”
The interview airs Friday night at 10 p.m. on ABC.
[Photo by Getty Images]