The mother of one of the Columbine school shooters admitted she ‘prayed her son would die’ when she learned of the massacre.
Sue Klebold’s son Dylan Klebold was one of the two teenagers behind the school shooting at Columbine High School, Colorado, in 1999.
Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire at their high school, killing 13 people and injuring a further 24 in the attack, with Sue dismissing her son’s sullen moods for teen anguish while he quietly plotted the deaths.
Appearing in BBC Four documentary Raising a School Shooter, the 72-year-old said that her son was laid to rest in a cardboard box, and that she was terrified to leave the premise in case someone ‘hurt him’ or stole his body.
Although she has battled for decades to gain a greater understanding over her son’s actions, Ms Klebold she is now in a place where she is ‘happy’.
Dylan Klebold was one of the two teenagers behind the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999, one of the deadliest school shootings in history
Sue Klebold’s son Dylan Klebold was one of the two teenagers behind the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999. She appeared on BBC Four documentary Raising a School Shooter where she broke down while remembering his funeral
Recalling the day her son was buried, Ms Klebold said he was laid to rest in a cardboard box, and broke down into floods of tears as she said she wanted to ‘crawl in that casket with him’ and was desperate to understand what drove her son to commit such an atrocious crime.
‘He was just there in a cardboard box and they allowed us each to have a few minutes with him,’ said Sue.
‘What I remember doing was just wanting to crawl in that casket with him, he was so cold I just kept thinking, I’ve got to get him warm, I just wanted him to be warm.
‘I said out loud, “Darling help me understand what happened, that’s all I want to understand”. And I didn’t realise until this very moment that did become my life mission, I hope Dylan has helped me understand because that’s what I’ve been seeking for 20 years, was understanding.’
Sue remembered the moment she was told that her son was one of the shooters, admitting that she prayed for her son to die after finding out he had hurt so many people.
The 72-year-old said broke don in floods of tears as she revealed that her son was laid to rest in a cardboard box, and that she was terrified to leave the premise in case someone ‘hurt him’ or stole his body
‘I got home and before long a SWAT team got there and a detective and it was just craziness’, said Sue. ‘They were saying 25 people were dead and I remember thinking at one point, if Dylan is really hurting people the way they’re saying he is – I prayed that he would die.’
Later that afternoon the mother discovered that her son was dead, and remembered ‘groaning’ with emotional pain out loud while watching the news.
For months Sue was in denial about what her her son had done: ‘They said the boys did all these terrible things.
‘Not only killed and hurt people, but that they would say awful racist things and sadistic things and I just shut that out of my mind. I thought, Dylan would not say anything like that.
‘They had got so much information wrong about Dylan and our family, that I settled into the belief system that they were wrong about what Dylan did.’
It took the mother six months to fully acknowledge the extent of her son’s crimes, with police having to show Sue evidence that proved the massacre was premeditated.
‘For the first time I got it,’ Sue said. ‘I saw it was planned, I saw video tapes they had made, I saw Dylan in a way I had never seen him before, they were talking about what they were going to do, it showed him with weapons. It was horrifying to see him in that mode.
‘I had been grieving so much for this lost previous child and remembering who he was and that was the point I realised who he was to the rest of the world, everything died in my world, God died, my belief in truth in what my family was.’
Klebold and Eric Harris opened fire at their suburban Denver school, killing 13 people and injuring a further 24 in the attack
For months Sue was in denial about what her her son had done and police had to show footage of her son and Harris openly speaking about the attack. They are pictured examine a sawed-off shotgun at a makeshift shooting range the year of the shooting
Following the shooting, Sue said their entire community was ‘in chaos’, and that their local governor went on television to hold the parents responsible, which started ‘open season on their family’.
‘I was exposed to all the horrible things people believed to be true about us,’ she said. ‘Somehow we were lesser human beings we were evil, we were people who did not know how to raise children, there were a world of people who hated us.’
While Dylan had run into trouble for stealing in the past, Sue believed her son was in a good place, happy that her he was employed, doing extracurricular activities and set to go to a university of his choice.
‘I remember thinking everything was good,’ she said. ‘From what I saw he was on the right track, there were times he was quiet and sullen and spent a lot of time in his room, but I have never met a 17-year-old boy for whom that is not true.’
Following the shooting, Sue says their entire community was ‘in chaos’, and that their local governor went on television to hold the parents responsible, which started ‘open season on their family’
Sue believed her son was in a good place, happy that her he was employed, doing extracurricular activities and set to go to a university of his choice
But journals found by police told a different story, and Sue was devastated and shocked after discovering the mental anguish her son was in – with passages describing the mental ‘agony’ he was in and detailing his forms of self-harm.
‘If I saw Dylan face to face and I could ask him anything, I would ask him to forgive me for not being the mom that he deserved,’ said Sue.
‘For not being someone he could come to and talk to, for not knowing how to listen properly to him, that’s what I would wish from him. I would give anything to have him come to me and put his arms around me and say “it’s okay”.’
After the shooting, Sue considered leaving her hometown, but decided against it so she could stay close to her support network of friends and neigbours who have stuck by her side.
Despite being tormented by guilt, Sue says she is finally in a better place, and has ‘plenty to be thankful for’
‘I decided to keep my name and stop hiding eventually and just acknowledge who I was,’ she said.
Despite being tormented by guilt, Sue says she is finally in a better place: ‘You might have days where you start to smile or forget for a while who you are and what has happened to you.
‘Then you start to feel guilty, because as soon as you begin to feel happy, you begin to hate yourself.
‘Because you think, “how can I possibly feel happy when this terrible thing has happened? What kind of a horrible person am I to feel joy?” Because I know that suffering is going on and I feel somehow it’s unjust to be happy.
‘But at this stage in my life, I guess I would say, yes, I am. Of course I wish these horrible things never happened, but certainly I’m grateful I’ve reached a place where life is okay and there’s plenty to be thankful for.’