Like a bright meteor in the ancient sky, Columbine has elicited diverse interpretations. Many commentators have sucked the marrow from their thumbs describing the alleged problems of suburban life: alienation among the youthful cohorts, the hellishness of life on a cul de sac, the absence of children playing in the streets, neighbors who don't know one another. Such arguments seem to me wrong on every count.
My family lived in Littleton between 1989 and 1995. Columbine was our neighborhood high school; my eldest son would have been a junior the day Harris and Klebold opened fire. Two boys from the old neighborhood were in the cafeteria when a fellow student stumbled in and screamed that he had been shot. One had played on a ball team with Dylan Klebold. He hid in a teachers' lounge while the other made tracks down a hallway through a fusillade of lead, bodies falling around him. A neighborhood girl was wounded. It was a good day not to be living in Littleton.
But the days we lived there were very good indeed. The Littleton we knew was immensely different from the one presented by many commentators. Driving in those kid-choked neighborhoods was like driving through wildebeest herds. Children were in the streets and at the door at all hours. Neighbors were always dropping by or entertaining. We had large block parties, burning open fires and drinking like Vikings. Huge numbers of children participated in sports and attended the rapidly expanding churches that would later host the funerals of the Columbine dead. I told my wife on several occasions that we should never live in such a place again, because it was too friendly. A suburb like Littleton is not the best place for those of us with the habits of hermits to pitch a tent.
Around my house, we haven't been putting the onus on suburban life. Nor have we put much stock in many of the other Columbine-stirred certainties, especially the insistence that suburbs are under siege by bloodthirsty teenagers— a group Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) has now famously described as "the most violent criminals on the face of the Earth."
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