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  • Rita Gleason

Lessons Not Yet Learned

So, as we get closer to publication of the book I've been doing a lot of thinking about all the time and energy that I've devoted to this project. At this point, I really can't even explain how all- consuming this has been for me. Thousands of hours have been poured into getting this thing as right as I can make it and, aside from my vet school training, I don't think I have ever worked harder on anything in my life.


Which makes me ask myself... why? What is pushing me to get this book out into the world?

I've always wanted to write a book, that's true. But that was more for the challenge than anything else. Sort of, could I actually pull off something of that magnitude? I never really thought beyond having a completed manuscript that I could look at with satisfaction. Publishing anything wasn't something I was focused on.

As the consummate introvert, a need for attention certainly isn't a consideration. The closer we get to book release, the more my anxiety about trying to get the word out about it kicks up.


I think the reason I've become so consumed by this is that, after learning as much as I've learned about Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, I am convinced that at one period in time, these were just two kids, not so different from any other boys. Their lives didn't need to go in the direction they went. These were not kids who were "born bad", these kids were not abused at home, they were not without the resources or the support to get the help that they needed. Eric and Dylan committed unthinkable atrocities because at some point they allowed the pain of their internal struggles to morph into hatred and rage. And feeding off of one another, both eventually decided that they had the right to make the world pay for their hurt and their inability to deal it.


But prior to their heinous acts, Harris and Klebold were just two deeply troubled kids not unlike many other teenagers. This is what haunts me. Knowing what I do I can't look at these two and write them off as evil. That would be the comfortable thing to do and it would certainly make the world feel safer. Evil is hard to combat and it's not likely that anything would have changed what happened. But, in reality, Eric and Dylan were just two messed up kids, painfully human, and had they received intervention I believe they could have been saved from the path they were on. This is why it's so important to me to re-open the narrative on Columbine. There are kids out there right now, just like Eric and Dylan, that may be on the verge of ruining their own lives and countless others. If we refuse to learn the lessons provided by Harris and Klebold, if we instead choose to try to simplify who they were and what led to their actions, we will be blind to those like them. We will miss the warning signs that a child is in trouble and more kids will die.

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