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'Columbine' author Dave Cullen examines the Aurora tragedy

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(Read caption) Author Dave Cullen, who wrote the definitive book on the Columbine tragedy, discovered last week that a friend's brother was injured in the Aurora shooting.

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Thankfully, mass murders are rare in the United States. But the ripples of these horrors can extend for thousands of miles and dozens of years.

Consider how two journalists – both experts on killing sprees – found themselves connected to other mass tragedies by pure chance within just the past few years.

This week, I interviewed author Arnie Bernstein, who uncovered the hidden history of a Michigan town devastated by a 1927 school bombing. Four years ago, he told me, Bernstein found himself comforting a student who had just lost two friends to a gunman at Northern Illinois University.

And then there's Dave Cullen, a journalist who wrote 2009's "Columbine," the definitive book about the killings there. A few days ago, he discovered that a friend's brother was one of the people injured last week in Aurora, Colo. The brother, fortunately, is recovering well.

I myself can remember being a teenager and sitting at home in a San Diego suburb on a July afternoon in 1984, watching the unfolding news about a nearby shooting spree. I desperately worried that my mother, who was out, might have gone to that McDonald's, just a few miles away in San Ysidro, for a bite. (She hadn't.)

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