Although Peter Houghton is a school shooter, events in the book happen that make the reader feel sympathy towards him. On March 6, 2007, Peter Houghton enters a school and shoots students and teachers, killing ten people. Even though Peter commits an awful act, the book brings a broader perspective to Peter’s motivations. From the start of Kindergarten to minutes before getting arrested, Peter was called names, shoved around, and humiliated. Even at home, Peter was not safe. His parents idolized his older brother who usually initiated the bullying from his classmates.
Many examples have the reader feel sympathy towards Peter. One such example takes place while Peter uses the restroom He overhears two boys laughing and talking. The first one talks to the other one saying, “‘Actually, you look like a total fag…’ ‘You know…’ More laughter. ‘I do sort of look like Peter.’ Standing in front of the bank of sinks was…his own brother. Joey flicked a glance his way. ‘Get lost, freak,’ he ordered” (200). Home should be a place where one feels safe and welcomed. A brother is meant to protect. However, Peter never had this. Home was just an extension of school where his older brother picked on him too. It was not until Joey’s death that Peter was somewhat safer at home. After soccer practice, Peter and the team go to the lockers to shower and change. While in the shower, two of Peter’s bullies, Matt Royston and Drew Girard make fun of Peter calling him ‘fag’ and ‘homo.’ When he retaliates, “Matt had Peter by the throat…he reached over and plucked Peter’s towel from a hook, tossing it into the spray. It fell, soaked, to cover the central drain…Matt took his glasses, slammed the locker door on them, and let the mangled frames drop to the floor” (148).
All these examples serve to develop compassion, although Peter committed a horrendous action. I definitely felt pity for Peter. Surely he did wrong, but I can see why Peter would do such a thing. For him, it was a life-or-death situation. If he didn’t do something, he would end up dead by suicide or being killed by the bullies. From Nineteen Minutes, one understands the school shooter from past experiences which connects to school shooters in real life. Take for example the Columbine shooters. Both boys also were intensely bullied and ended up killing dozens of students. If bullying leads to a school shooting, could the same also happen at Lake Oswego High School? For this reason, I hope to discover other reasons why Peter shot the school.