As the terrified parents of Columbine High School prayed for the lives of their children, Sue Klebold asked only for the death of her boy.
Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, will give her first television interview to ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. The telecast comes nearly 17 years after the tragedy and on the eve of the publication of Klebold’s book.
In her new book “A Mother’s Reckoning,” Sue Klebold exposes the raw emotions that wracked her after the April 20, 1999, attack that left 12 students and one teacher dead inside the Colorado high school.
Her beloved youngest son, just three days removed from the senior prom, had cut a murderous swath through his schoolmates.
A shaken Sue Klebold moved from denial to death wish as her boy’s role in the slayings became clear.
It began as a day like any other, with Dylan shouting “Bye!” as the door slammed shut in their Littleton home. The 17-year-old left a little earlier than usual — not that his departure set off any alarms.
His mother couldn’t know Dylan was hustling to meet Eric Harris, his 18-year-old classmate and co-conspirator, and launch the attack that became a template for copycat school massacres.
Looking back, Sue and her husband seemed to miss several indicators of Dylan’s chilling evolution from the kid known to his parents as “The Sunshine Boy” into a pitiless killer inhabiting a dark world.
Dylan Klebold (l.) and Eric Harris gunned down 12 classmates and a teacher on April 20, 1999.
“I had raised a murderer without knowing it,” she admits in one chilling section of the book due in stores Monday.
Sue Klebold did notice the high, tight pitch that recently emerged in Dylan’s voice. Just two days earlier, her husband Tom mentioned the odd inflection in a worried way.
They agreed he should talk to Dylan when the teen came home from school. Instead, Tom Klebold found himself speaking to his wife a short time later, and his voice was hysterical.
Eric Harris (l.) and Dylan Klebold, carrying a TEC-9 semi-automatic pistol, are pictured in the cafeteria at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colo., during their shooting rampage. Both gunmen later killed themselves in the school library.
“Gunman,” he sputtered. “Shooter. School.”
Tom was finally able to spit out the rest, that shooters were killing students in their son’s high school. And Dylan’s best friend had called to say the black trenchcoats belonging to Dylan and Eric were missing, a sign that perhaps they were involved.
It was the first inkling that her son was a perp, not a target. But Sue Klebold initially refused to acknowledge the possibility.
During the 26-mile drive from her Denver office to the family’s home, she remained convinced that Dylan — “this kind, goofy kid that we loved so much” — played no part in the carnage.
She was certain Dylan didn’t have a gun. She and Tom were unyielding supporters of gun control, and actually considered leaving Colorado once carrying a concealed weapon became legal there.
When Sue finally reached home, the sheriff’s office called to say Dylan was indeed a suspect. Tom announced he was headed to the high school, where he would try to get inside.
Sue screamed that he was crazy, that he would die.
“So?” replied Tom, fixing his wife with a steady look.
Sue and Tom instead stood together in the driveway, where they heard the television blasting out the news from their bedroom.
She knew then that the worst was true. And she thought that Dylan needed to be stopped before the toll of dead and wounded climbed even higher.
“As a mother, this was the most difficult prayer I had spoken … the greatest mercy I could pray for was … his death,” she recalled.
The prayer was answered. Dylan and Eric Harris took their own lives in the school library to end the rampage. In addition to the 13 dead, another 23 others were wounded.
Word of the boys’ deaths suddenly hit her like a gut punch. Her first thought was that she would need clothes for her son’s funeral.
The two dead teens became an improbable inspiration for future mass murderers. An ABC News investigation linked at least 17 school attacks and 36 serious plots to the Columbine massacre.
Among the worst: Adam Lanza in his slaughter of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Seung-Hui Cho in his killing of 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Both appeared obsessed with the Columbine massacre, and each took their own lives before they could be arrested.
National media, including The Daily News, focused heavily on Klebold and Harris in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy.
Sue spent many days following the carnage wishing she was dead, too. She wasn’t alone: Based on her mail, many others wanted the same fate for the mother of the notorious murderer.
When the cops allowed her inside the house to collect personal belongings before locking it down as a crime scene, she was flanked by two officers.
Sue later learned the authorities feared she would commit suicide once inside.
Before she and Tom fled town to hide with a relative, they met with their lawyer in a convenience store parking lot. He warned them a “firestorm of hatred” lie ahead.
The delusional couple still tried to believe their son was on the scene, but not an active shooter. Sue confesses that she’s now ashamed to admit that.
GETTY IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
Eric Harris (l.) and Dylan Klebold examine a sawed-off shotgun at a makeshift shooting range six weeks before their rampage.
But just three days earlier, Dylan arrived home from the prom in the wee hours and gushed about his good time. Her son sweetly thanked her for buying the tickets.
“I’ve done a good job with this kid,” she thought with some pride.
In contrast, his brother Byron — three years older — moved out after high school and spent a troubled year getting and losing low-paying work.
Sue writes that they were a loving, attentive family, “thoroughly ordinary, no different from the lives unfolding in countless homes.”
Columbine gunman Dylan Klebold, left, watches as Eric Harris fires a pistol in a video released by Jefferson County, Colo., police in 2003.
Dylan was so independent he asked for instructions on doing his own laundry at age 10. Yet he mixed easily with others, wasn’t a loner, and had plenty of friends.
Sue’s embrace of her son’s innocence disappeared after an Oct. 8 meeting with investigators, who presented the Klebolds with a gruesome account of the shootings — step by step and shot by shot. They saw the magnitude of the lethal intent as the boys planted bombs in the cafeteria. It was only after the bombs didn’t explode, the evil duo came back to stalk victims.
Trenchcoat-clad Eric Harris, left, and Dylan Klebold walk the hallway at Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colo., prior to their April 20, 1999 rampage.
The FBI eventually determined Eric was a homicidal psychopath and Dylan a suicidal depressive. It was their coming together that ignited mutual psychosis and mass murder.
Sue admits her kid suffered through a tough junior year. Dylan was suspended after hacking locker combinations from the school’s computer files.
He seemed troubled by bullying incidents at school. Then he and Eric were arrested for stealing electronic equipment from a parked van. Sentenced to a treatment program, both won early release with a glowing report.
12 of the 13 victims of the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.
Yet there was an angry Mother’s Day confrontation between mother and son, with Sue shoving Dylan against the fridge.
Sue Klebold said she will donate all proceeds from “A Mother’s Reckoning” to charities focused on mental health issues.
“Stop pushing me, mom,” he snapped, according to the book. “I’m getting angry and I don’t know how well I can control it.”
Only two years after the massacre, when pages of Dylan’s writing were made public, did Sue realize he was depressed and expressing suicidal thoughts long before the killings.
Sue Klebold said she was unequipped to recognize the hidden messages. She now believes Dylan’s desire to die “played an intrinsic role” in his decision to join Harris.
The now-divorced Klebold has spent the years since Columbine excavating her family history and working with experts to establish the critical link between mental illness and violence.
She has pledged that all proceeds from the book will go to charities focusing on mental health issues.