TODAY | November 08, 2012
>>> for his new book, "far from the tree," andrew sullivan looks at how parents love children who are different than they are. one of the chapters on one of the columbine shooters.
>>> but first, rock center's kate snow is here with more on the story.
>> soloman spoke with 300 families facing everything from autism to death to child prodigies with down syndrome. but one family in particular are getting a lot of attention. they have never spoken publicly before, but tom and sue opened up to soloman about what their son did that spring day in 1999 .
>> reporter: we all remember his name, dylan klebold was one of the kids responsible for columbine. during the past six years, author andrew soloman has had unprecedented access to tom and sue klebold .
>> i had dinner with sue last night.
>> how is she doing?
>> it's a lot to bear, but she's a really courageous woman. and she's tried to go on with her life.
>> reporter: in his new book, the klebold 's story is but ten pages out of nearly 1,000.
>> when i went out to meet the klebolds, i thought if i got to know them, i would understand this had happened and i would detect whatever was off in their household.
>> reporter: instead, he says, he found a loving family.
>> you think his parents had no idea what was brewing?
>> i think his parents had absolutely no idea. i think if they had known, they would have done something about it.
>> reporter: by the time the massacre was over, dylan klebold and eric harris had killed 12 students and a teacher, then turned their guns on themselves.
>> and sue said to me, once i understood that it was actually dylan who was doing this, she said i had to pray that he got killed before he hurt any more people. and he did it. i was probably right, it probably was the best thing for him. but to have made that prayer and had that happen, it's a terrible thing to have to live with.
>> soloman once asked sue klebold what she would ask dylan if he were here now.
>> she says, i would ask him to forgive me for being his mother and never knowing what was going on inside his head.
>> hey, boys, this is how it's going to go.
>> sue klebold says she loves her son and, quote, while i recognize it would have been better for the world if dylan had not been born, i would it would not have been better for me.
>> i know you'll have more on this tonight on "rock center" with brian williams . but meantime, andrew soloman is with us now. good morning.
>> what a pleasure to be here.
>> there's so much in this book. and i know it's 11 years in the making, and i want to get to that. but let's pick up where kate left off. they have spoken so very rarely, they still live in this very town in the same house?
>> in the same house. i said to them, i was surprised they hadn't moved. and his parents said, you know, if we'd moved, everyone who met us would've met us as the parents of that killer. and his mother says, and here there were people who knew and loved us, but more important, there were people that loved dylan and that's what we needed to be with.
>> it's quite extraordinary you were able to have this access to them. i can imagine in many ways, i'm sure they had shut themselves off to the outside world . did you detect anything that would've at all explained what happened here?
>> you know, it used to be thought we could understand almost everything as being somehow from the parents. so autism was caused by cold mothers, schizophrenia caused by mothers who wish their children didn't exist. 100 years ago, it was -- we dropped it in all of those areas, but we still think in crime. come on, it has to be the parents, they have to have done something, they have to have known. and i spent hundreds of hours with these people, i've come to love them and i really genuinely think they had no clue and no way of having a clue.
>> i know sue told you at one point she'd written letters to each of the families of the victims but advised not to send it out of concern she would traumatize them more. she says, quote, i think the other parents believed they had experienced loss and i had not because their children were of value and mine was not. my child died too, he died after making a terrible decision and doing a terrible thing, but he was still my child. and he still died. you know, it's such an awful thing. but i guess what the book does is show there's need to be compassionate on everyone involved.
>> and i can think of nothing worse, i have children, the idea is so terrifying and sickening to me. but to have to lose your child because he's died as they did and also to lose the understanding your child behaved in a monstrous way.
>> let's move on. as i said, this book has so many fascinating aspects to it. and the basic premise is, ways in which children are different than their parents and it covers a variety of topics. give us some examples.
>> so, it's about the idea there are many conditions that are hereditary. there are all of these other conditions in which the parents say he's a surprise. there's some of that in every parenting experience. i looked at people with autism , with down syndrome, people with schizophrenia and disabilities, i looked at families of people who committed crimes or were transgender. and when i was born, being gay was an illness. what people had to say about it was so dark. and now i'm a gay adult and in my lived experience, it's an identity. i said how did we make that switch? what is an illness? what is an identity?
>> you cover all of these different types of conditions or situations, did you detect any common thread with how parents do deal with children that are different than them?
>> i think what i discovered is that acceptance is a gradual process. but that parents were able to find meaning in the experience are able to be better parents than the parents who don't. there was one family, for instance, they had a son with down syndrome, and they got very involved in how kids with down syndrome are educated. and i said to them at the end of a long talk. i said do you wish you never had this experience? and his mother said, for our son david i wish that because for him it would be an easier way to be in the world and i'd like to make his life easier. but speaking for myself so i would never have believed 30 years ago when he was born that i could come to such a moment, speaking for myself i'd say i wouldn't give it up for anything in the world.
>> profound is a good way to describe the book. there's so much there. more than a decade in the making, but you've done a good thing and it's great to have you here. thank you.
>> thank you, it's a pleasure.
>> and the book is called "far from the tree." we