How Could You NOT Know? Walking the Tightrope with Sue Klebold


Sue Klebold
Sue Klebold
Photo: ABC

When I heard the back story of the upbringing of Dylan Klebold, one of the inspirations for other mass shootings to come, so much of the horrendous tragedy at Columbine gives me pause.

Over a decade and a half is long enough to learn hard lessons about the turmoil of adolescents, but obviously not long enough for parents to slip into complacency, for there was Newtown-Sandy Hook, CT in 2014 and so many mass shootings since Columbine. Again, we weren’t diligent. We weren’t paying sufficient attention.

It’s so easy to blame the parents for ills perpetrated by their children.  However, to compare Nancy Lanza to Sue Kleblod is like comparing the atomic bomb to a firecracker, in my humble opinion.  But, there is no doubt that both mothers were victims of their sons’ crimes in every way imaginable.

What went wrong?

It defies common sense to think that behind closed doors, there wasn’t something terribly wrong going on with Dylan Klebold.  The truth is, so much was going on that was masked, that was internal torment to him alone. So much was  hidden in the shadows; crimes, vicious games, writings, films and plans made in plain sight by the devil duo of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold that spelled a lethal combination.

Therefore, no one single person or set of parents can be blamed.  There were the accomplices in accessing guns for the pair, school system failures by counselors failing to recognize, the criminal justice system letting them off easy for past crimes, the failure of silence, the failure of listening versus lecturing, the failure to put the pieces together regarding  isolation, moodiness, written off as just adolescent behavior,  according to Sue Klebold, recently interviewed by ABC’s Diane Sawyer.

There was a lack of recognition of the full extent of depression leading to suicidal ideation. Today’s stats reveal that 15 to 20% of adolescents contemplate suicide.

Parenting Dylan Klebold

A Mother's ReckoningAt this 17 year juncture in the aftermath, Sue Klebold has risen from the depths of despair for her son, and all of the victims left behind, to offer her own brand of help in hopes of more healing and teaching others.  She is careful not to force herself upon others, but does attempt to explain and has honorably offered all of the proceeds of her new book, “A Mother’s Reckoning,” to mental health organizations. She has become an advocate.

On the surface, Dylan’s parents were good parents, did all the right things, provided the right opportunities to this gifted child. But the brain chemistry and behavior changed and escalated into darkness, particularly with the friendship of Eric Harris as an ongoing catalyst.

During the interview, Sue stated, “If this is true, if he is really killing people, this has to stop. He has to die. Please God, make him die.” Another distraction for the Klebold parents was a sibling struggling with drugs allowing more opportunity for Dylan to go underground. Sue crossed over from her state of denial into acceptance after seeing the evidence, the videos, listening to the vile three-hour Manifesto, and recognized it was no more a moment of madness.

Carlos Lozada, writer for the Washington Post Book World Service recently wrote a book review of “A Mother’s Reckoning.” As a parent, he saw the vulnerabilities:

This book’s insights are painful and necessary, and its contradictions inevitable. It is an apology to the loved ones of the victims; an account of the Klebold family’s life in the days and months following the shooting; a catalog of warning signs missed. Most of all, it is a mother’s love letter to her son, for whom she mourned no less deeply than did the parents of the children he killed”. 

I wonder two things:

Can the general public ever forgive Sue Klebold?

Secondly, as a homicide survivor, would I ask different questions than those asked by Diane Sawyer?

I think in some ways, yes, as I have a unique perspective.  I have compassion for Sue Klebold and am not applying the adage of guilt by association. I’m attempting to reach out to her for an interview on Shattered Lives Radio where we may discuss the aftermath of her personal tragedy in-depth and offer another perspective. Perhaps it could help other parents of children who may be seeing  the same things happening in their family. Perhaps it could avert another family’s tragedy.



  1. Thank you for writing this, Donna. I hope it will be read by many. It was hard listening to this woman’s story and my heart went out to Sue Klebold for all the pain she has had to endure.

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