How Columbine Can Help Us Understand Sandy Hook: An Introduction

UPDATE:  Two more parts posted.  

Part one: “Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, and Evil”

Part two: “Who Is A School Shooter?”

Two weeks ago, our country was rocked to its core. A mere boy walked into a school and killed 20 children and then killed five more adults. He had killed his mother earlier, before coming to the school.

For the first time in ages, the entire nation seemed to be mourning. Not since 9/11 had so many people in our country been so moved and disturbed.

And, of course, almost immediately, the articles, blogs, and commentaries started pouring in. Within hours of the attack, our nation was embroiled in a debate about gun control, one that probably won’t end until meaningful action is taken.

But soon, another blog post came out, one that got more attention, more social shares, more comments, than perhaps any post in the internet era. This post, entitled “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” described the harrowing ordeal of a mother with a son who suffers from a severe (as yet undiagnosed) mental illness. The mother, Liza Long, claimed that while the debate on guns is a simplistic one, the discussion about mental illness is something we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of.

I remember seeing all my friends posting this article, talking about how “real” it was, how meaningful.

And I remember getting angry. Very angry.

Why? The truth is, if this article had been published only a few months earlier, I might have loved it, and embraced it just like everyone around me. I suffer from a mental health disorder (bipolar), and I think it’s absolutely essential our nation have this discussion.

So. Why was I angry?

It was actually one line. One sentence. Long proclaimed with proud confidence that she was not only Adam Lanza’s mother, but also that “I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother.” For those not aware, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were the shooters behind the Columbine massacre. An attack, much like Sandy Hook, that rocked our nation. At the time, school shootings were becoming more “normal” but the Columbine attack was something new: a seemingly ruthless and incomparably bloody attack on a student body.

A few months before the Sandy Hook attack, I had finished reading a book called “Columbine”, a book expertly researched and written by Dave Cullen, a journalist who, ten years later, did a thorough investigation of the attack.

What he discovered was nothing short of startling.

There are a sea of myths surrounding Columbine, just like there are now a sea of myths beginning to be spread about Sandy Hook.

You see, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were nothing like Liza Long’s son.  In fact, they were distinctly different, not just from him, but from each other.  Unlike Long, Harris’s and Klebold’s parents never lived in fear until the day their sons went on their rampage.  And that difference is only the beginning.

Why did I get angry about “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”? Because much like the articles that came after Columbine, it spread false rumors (however well-meaning and unintended) about the nature of the killers behind school shootings. Like those articles, it uses very few facts, and instead plays on its readers’ emotions.

But there was one thing that Liza Long was right about. This is a discussion that needs to happen. There are many truths we can discover about school shootings, the nature of killers, and more, if we use facts, use research, and open minds.

Over the next few days, I will be publishing a series of articles about the lessons Columbine can teach us, and how we can apply those lessons to the attack on Sandy Hook. Please join me.

Part one: “Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, and Evil”

Part two: “Who Is A School Shooter?”