'Columbine' author Dave Cullen examines the Aurora tragedy
'Columbine' author Dave Cullen on how best to understand the Aurora shootings and the lessons that such catastrophes have taught us.
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As for depression, most of these killers are deep depressives, suicidally depressed people. That's something the public has not come to terms with.Skip to next paragraph
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That's the area we should be addressing: catching depression in the teen years. It's really easy to screen for it and diagnose it, and in that way stop the depressive mass murderers in the making.
Q: What lessons can we learn from the Littleton community and how it's dealt with Columbine for 13 years now?
A: The victims want you to know one thing: Don't rush to healing. Give the victims time and space. The longer it goes on, the more profoundly they feel that, and the more angry they are with the public and the media.
The first week, the whole country is in mourning for them. And within, say, six months, we hear these inspiring stories of the kid in the wheelchair who's learning to walk again. We want to hear the inspirational stories of overcoming adversity.
But the survivors feel like the public doesn't want to hear any more "whining." The victims start to hear that as "How can I make you shut up. I want you to get over this so you're done, and we're done with you."
The victims resent that. They feel, "I'm not ready to heal, I don't want to process this just to please you."
Some victims need forever to be sad about it. They want time to heal and space to do it in their own way, and they don't want a lot of well-intentioned help.
Q: It's amazing how victims are often so willing to talk to the media after these tragedies. Is that good for them?
A: The jury is still out on that.
We used to think it's healthy to talk about these things, and it can be, but it can also be really unhealthy to relive them.
We're just in the early stages of understanding post-traumatic stress. I went to Tucson to talk to journalists after the shootings there as part of the DART program (which helps traumatized journalists), and we were told that if people talk want to talk about it, then go with that, and let them. But don't ask them to go back and relive things if they're not volunteering.
Q: After years of studying Columbine, what gives you hope?
A: Patrick Ireland gives me hope.
He was known as the Boy in the Window. He went out the second-story window, and the SWAT team caught him. He had one bullet to the foot and one to the brain, he wasn't expected to ever walk or talk again. After the first night, the prognosis was really bad.
But he had other ideas. He had an incredible will, and he fought back. He was able to walk again, to water ski. He walks now with a limp, but he walks well.
He ended up graduating from college and going to business school and he loves it. He got married, he's really happy, he's living a full life. He forgave the killers and put it behind him.
He's an extraordinary guy, and there are several like him.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.