Sue Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine killers, gave her first televised interview on Friday.
Her son, Dylan, alongside friend and classmate Eric Harris, killed 13 people at Columbine High School nearly 17 years ago. Sue has mostly stayed out of the media — perhaps her most high-profile moment came when she penned an essay, “I Will Never Know Why,” for O: The Oprah Magazine in 2009 — but granted her first TV interview to Diane Sawyer on ABC.
During the special edition of 20/20, Klebold talked about living with the agony of knowing the pain her son had inflicted on so many families. She told Sawyer that she thinks about the victims every single day. When Klebold used the word “harmed” to describe what Dylan had done, Sawyer questioned her choice of words. Harmed, not killed?
“I think it’s easier for me to say harmed than killed, and it’s still hard for me after all this time,” Klebold said. “It is very hard to live with the fact that someone you loved and raised has brutally killed people in such a horrific way.”
She briefly walked through what was going through her mind on April 20, 1999, as police swarmed the high school and news trickled out that her son was allegedly one of the perpetrators. “I remember thinking, if this is really true, if Dylan is really hurting people, somehow, he has to be stopped,” she said. In that moment, she said, she prayed for her son to die so the killing would stop.
Klebold’s interview was full of grief and empathy. She repeated that, if the roles were reversed — if someone else’s child had murdered her son — she “would feel exactly the way they did” toward her. He seemed troubled, she said, but she “let it go.” She lived with “all these illusions” that her son was okay. Today, if she could, she would “dig and dig” until she uncovered the source of the problem, the depth of it. She also detailed how stunned she was by her son’s capacity for violence and self-harm:
I felt that I was a good mom… That he would, he could talk to me about anything. Part of the shock of this was that learning that what I believed and how I lived and how I parented was an invention in my own mind. That it, it was a completely different world that he was living in.
Klebold has written a book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, due out February 15; the profits, after publishing costs, will be donated to charities that address mental illness.
Anne Marie Hochhalter was paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting at Columbine. On Thursday, she posted a letter to Sue Klebold on Facebook. Hochhalter had heard about Klebold’s book and the use of its proceeds; Hochhalter’s mother, who was suffering from depression at the time, committed suicide six months after Columbine. Hochhalter shared the contents of a letter Sue and her husband, Tom, wrote to her a few months after the shooting. The letter, Hochhalter wrote, was “genuine and personal.” She went on to say she has “no ill-will” towards Sue. “I have forgiven you and only wish you the best.”