The Contested Meaning of the Crosses at Columbine

J. William Spencer, Glenn W. Muschert

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    18 Scopus citations


    Spontaneous memorials that emerged at Columbine after the shootings became a focal point of news coverage. Especially visible in this discourse were 15 wooden crosses that symbolized the 13 victims of the shootings and the 2 youth who carried out the shootings. The discourse about such memorials has much to reveal about the collective meanings of the events that gave rise to them. In the case of the crosses of Columbine, these meanings are matters of both consensus and contestation. This article examines how the news media constructed the controversy over the crosses through the ways that they represented the shootings, their aftermath, and the participants. It also examines how the resolution to the controversy was constructed from the very language used to construct it. The conclusion examines Columbine's role as a model for public mourning, one that suggests the victory of traditional senses of moral culpability.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)1371-1386
    Number of pages16
    JournalAmerican Behavioral Scientist
    Issue number10
    StatePublished - Jun 2009


    • Collective memory
    • Columbine
    • Media framing
    • Memorials
    • School shootings
    • Youth violence


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