Last week my friend Ross Szabo sent me an email with excerpts from a USA Today story about the “real facts” behind the Columbine shootings. Ross is the Director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, and he’s constantly battling the stigmas of people living with mental health issues. His paths and mine cross often, as many cases that involve violence are often blamed on some degree of mental illness. Sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s more because people can’t believe that normal, sane individuals are capable of violence. Same goes for an Oprah show I saw last week about Internet child predators. A young woman named Alicia was lured at the age of 13 by a child predator, and held her captive for days – torturing her. She described her captor as a “monster.” I remember classifying the man who killed Shannon McNamara the same way in the early days. But Oprah quickly pointed out that when we label these people as something other than human, we stop seeking to understand them, and how to avoid their violent tactics. I couldn’t agree more.
In case you’re curious, here are some bullet points of “truths” about Columbine, many of which are contradictory to what you may have heard in the news. It’s only when we understand the facts that we can truly learn. Read the entire article here.
*Neither were not goths or loners.
*They were not on antidepressants.
*They did not target jocks, African Americans or Christians.
*Further proving this point, Eric Harris’s shirt 10 years ago today read “Natural Selection”
*The girl who was shot after saying she believed in God? It’s not true.
*The attack was intended to be a bombing, and to shoot people as they fled. (Obviously, the bombs didn’t work.)
*They had a list of “people to kill” but most had graduated. In actuality, they wanted to kill everyone – even friends.
On the Today Show this morning there were numerous people featured who started speaking, educating or getting active to remember those who were killed. While it’s good to try and understand violence in hopes of preventing future nightmares, it’s also crucial to support those left behind. When Shannon was murdered, I overheard her mom say, “It’s my greatest fear that now Shannon will be forgotten.” I’m sure the same applies to the families of Columbine victims. So take today and remember – and try to learn for a better and safer tomorrow.