Susan Francis Klebold (Sue Klebold) is an American author and mother of Dylan Klebold; one of the two shooters in the Columbine High School Massacre. Before the tragedy that shook America, she administered training programs for the disabled. Following the shooting, she and her husband, Tom, fled their house briefly to avoid media attention. They were also the target of public anger, which blamed them for negligent parenting. All this piled upon her grief and guilt of losing her son to suicide and accepting the fact that he has killed others in the process. Her agony and suffering are evident from her journal where she wrote, “All I want to do is die.” A few years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was this fight with cancer that helped her regain the will to live. She is now an activist advocating mental health awareness and works towards suicide prevention.
The Columbine High School Shooting
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harrison and Dylan Klebold together killed 13 people and injured 24 others before committing suicide at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado. The event changed the future of the parents of both the shooters, including that of Sue Klebold. Her initial reaction was to flee from all the media attention and seek privacy. She was also in denial about the nature of her son’s involvement as she could not believe that her shy and loving son could harm and cause pain to so many others. The only explanation that made sense to her was that Dylan had been coerced into the violence. It was only after she watched the basement tapes, where Dylan was explicit about his hate and anger, and his intention to kill, that she was finally convinced of his involvement and guilt.
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Her Essay - 'I Will Never Know Why'
Ten years after the shooting, she wrote an essay titled ‘I will never know why?’ in the November 2009 issue of ‘O: The Oprah Magazine.’ Here she recounted the normality of her son’s behavior and her personal struggle to cope with the tragedy. This was the first time a parent of the perpetrators gave out such personal details publicly.
A Mother's Reckoning
Sue Klebold recounted Dylan’s childhood and teenage years and her experiences after the massacre in her memoir ‘A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy’. It was published in February 2016 by Crowns. The book was written to serve as a cautionary tale for parents by writing about the subtle changes in her son’s behavior and her failure to recognize the telling tales’ of his depression. The book was accepted favorably by critics and the public. On Goodreads, the book is rated 4.13 stars by 27,714 readers. Susan has pledged to donate all profits from the books to charitable organizations dedicated to solving mental health issues. As of April 2019, the book has generated more than $420,000 in charities.
Controversies & Scandals
Sue Klebold had to face public accusations for being unaware of her son’s plan and activities. In a popular poll, 85% of the respondents blamed the parents for the atrocities of the teenage gunmen. Also, the Mayor of Colorado put the onus of responsibility on the parents by blaming ‘casual parenting’ for the massacre.
Family & Personal Life
Susan Francis Klebold was born on March 25, 1949, to Milton Yassenoff and Charlotte Yassenoff. Growing up in Ohio, she had a mixed religious upbringing with her Christian mother and Jewish father. She went to Ohio State University where she dated Tom. After college, the couple married and settled in the Denver area. Together they had two sons, Byron Klebold and Dylan Klebold. Even though Susan had grown distant with Judaism after leaving her parents’ home, she sometimes recited the Ten Commandments to her sons, Byron and Dylan, and celebrated Passover with Easter. In the aftermath of the shooting, Tom and Susan divorced.