JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — In a new book, the mother of one of the Columbine High School killers admitted that on that terrible morning, as she realized her son was involved, she prayed he would not emerge alive.
“I had a sudden vision of what he might be doing. And so while every other mother in Littleton was praying that her child was safe, I had to pray that mine would die before he hurt anyone else,” Sue Klebold told author Andrew Solomon, whose book, “Far From The Tree,” explores the family life of atypical children, including those who commit crimes.
On April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and his friend Eric Harris, both seniors at Columbine High in the Denver suburbs, killed 12 classmates and one teacher, and injured 24 more in a methodical rampage that both horrified and transfixed a nation. The two then turned their guns on themselves, reportedly counting “One, Two, Three!” before firing and killing themselves. Harris was 18, Klebold 17.
Sue Klebold said in the book: “I thought that if this was really happening and he survived, he would go into the criminal justice system and be executed, and I really couldn't bear to lose him twice. I gave the hardest prayer I ever made, that he would kill himself, because then at least I would know he wanted to die and wouldn't be left with all the questions I'd have if he got caught by a police bullet. Maybe I was right, but I've spent so many hours regretting that prayer: I wished for my son to kill himself and he did.”
That admission has left at least one parent of a child killed at Columbine cold.
Tom Mauser, whose 15-year-old son Daniel was shot at point-blank range and died in the school library, said Friday he did not know about the book nor about Sue Klebold’s hope her son would commit suicide. He said in an interview he knows that the Klebolds suffered and that they, too, lost a child, but he finds her hope he would not live to be tried “sort of like not taking responsibility.”
When Klebold and Harris died, all of the hard questions of why they did what they did — and what clues were missed by their families — could never be answered, Mauser said. His own book, “Walking in Daniel’s Shoes,” was published in June.
He wonders if, by not wanting to face those questions, Sue Klebold was essentially admitting denial.
Mauser said he felt more compassion for Mindy Sigg, the mother of another suspected killer in the Denver suburbs who last month turned in her 17-year-old son to authorities. Sigg called police and told them she believed her son Austin Reed Sigg was involved in the kidnapping and brutal slaying of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, whose dismembered body was found after the little girl disappeared on the way to school.
“What she did was pretty brave,” Mauser said of Sigg.
Mauser met with both the Klebolds and Harrises in 2007 in search of closure. “It was important to meet them face to face,” he said. He said both families were cordial and seemed like any other suburban family, shattering his hope that there would be some outward sign of what turned their sons into killers. Both families apologized to him and said that “their children had fooled them.”
“I had hoped they would have said, ‘Here’s what we missed.’ That was my hope. I didn’t really expect it and I didn’t get it,” Mauser said.
In 2009, Klebold wrote an essay for O magazine called, “I Will Never Know Why,” about the horror that unfolded that day: From the panicked call from her husband, to the desperate whole-house search for the dark trench coat Dylan often wore — they heard the killers wore trench coats and hoped if they found his it would prove he was not involved — to the SWAT team bursting into the home and realizing that, they, too were suspects.
She also wrote about the shame of knowing how the community and much of a nation blamed her. She wrote: “I think I believed that if I loved someone as deeply as I loved him, I would know he were in trouble. My maternal instincts would keep him safe. But I didn’t know. And my instincts were not enough.”