Sue Klebold is a brave woman. She’s the mother of Dylan Klebold, who, with his friend Eric Harris, shot and killed 13 people and injured 24 at Columbine High School, where they were students, in 1999 before then killing themselves.
In “A Mother’s Reckoning,” Klebold discusses the aftermath of this murder-suicide, dealing with the shame and grief that followed, and trying to understand what led her son to commit this act. Her assessment: in her son’s case, depression played a major part. She learned after his death that for some years before the tragedy, he entertained private suicidal thoughts.
Among the things I learned in this frank, heartbreaking interview of her with Terry Gross is the revelation that Klebold was partly Jewish. On one occasion his mother wanted him to join her at a Passover Seder and to recite the Four Questions. Though he didn’t want to go, he did, in the end, a fact that he later shared with Harris in a taped exchange. Their recordings were subsequently destroyed but not before Klebold’s mother saw them. In that recording, she says, she could see Dylan’s trepidation about letting slip to Harris, who was anti-Semitic, that he had Jewish roots. Harris’s reaction, along the lines of “I’m sorry, man,” was incidental.
Klebold’s being a Jew is incidental too, an interesting footnote to a much larger tragedy.
At the end of their conversation, Gross asks Klebold if, given what her son wrought she still loves him. Her answer: “He’s like an invisible child that I carry in my arms, everywhere I go, always.”