Charlotte McCorkel: Coming of age with Columbine: Sue Klebold to speak at Howard

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I was in high school when the Columbine tragedy took place. It rocked my world. School was a place where I had felt safe, nurtured and engaged, even as someone who had been teased quite a bit for being awkward and different.

That people, and fellow students at that, could walk into a school building with the intent to kill and follow through with such ruthless brutality was beyond my comprehension. I spent hours poring through newspaper and magazine articles searching for answers. How could this happen?

Almost 20 years later, I am a clinical social worker and a new mom. I know now, looking back, that Columbine shaped my trajectory. My work at Howard Center and in our community supports people in crisis, responding to community tragedies, and educating groups about suicide prevention and safe storage of firearms. Our own community has not been immune to tragedy.

I feel humbled to have an opportunity to be in the presence of Sue Klebold later this month when she is speaking as part of Howard Center's Community Education series. Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. She has an important perspective as a parent and a message that we all need to hear about identifying early warning signs and mental health awareness.

There is no doubt that Sue Klebold's talk and even her presence in the community may be uncomfortable for some, surfacing memories of Columbine and all the tragic shootings that followed. Nevertheless, her talk and the panel discussion that follows may be healing for others, raising themes of public safety, the challenges of parenting, defying stigma, finding resilience after tragedy, and creating a culture where seeking help is acceptable.

If you are left wondering why Howard Center chose to include this topic as part of its Community Education Series, in addition to our work providing support for individuals and families, Howard Center is committed to providing education, information, and resources about topics that impact the health and well-being of our community. This means bringing forth a diversity of topics, opinions, and presenters, sometimes with perspectives that may challenge our own biases — conscious or unconscious.

Raising awareness, reducing stigma through education, learning about resources available, and engaging in dialogue are steps we can all take to help prevent another tragedy and foster greater belonging and sense of community.

Sue Klebold will give a free and open to the public talk, followed by Q & A and a panel discussion on Sept. 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. at South Burlington High School. For more information, go to

howardcenter.org.

Charlotte McCorkel is the project director of integration at Howard Center, a Burlington-based nonprofit organization that offers professional crisis and counseling services to children and adults. She oversees crisis services, intake, and disaster response. She lives in Shelburne. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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