Columbine's Rachel Scott Said 'Yes.' Will You? (Update: Misty Bernall Says Her Daughter Cassie Said 'Yes')

Monday, April 20, 2009

On April 20, 1999, this nation witnessed what is the fourth deadliest school massacre in U.S. history and the deadliest for an American high school. We refer to this horrific incident simply as Columbine. Simply saying "Columbine" conjures those images we saw on television all those years ago: students being hustled out of the school and into waiting vehicles; parents gathered, all with bated breath while praying that their kids would be the next to run wildly out the school door; and a community--and nation--in mourning.

I'll never forget that day. Until September 11, 2001, that school shooting in Littleton, Colorado was, to me, the most horrific incident to ever take place during my lifetime. Today is ten years to the day that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Columbine High School students, killed 12 students, 1 teacher, and themselves, and injured 23 others. But I shift my focus to one student in particular.

Rachel Joy Scott, a devout Christian, was the first to be shot. Reportedly she was eating lunch on the lawn outside the school when she was approached by the killers and asked if she believed in God. Knowing full well that the end result would be death, she said yes. She Said Yes became the title of a book about Rachel. (See update below.) Refusing to deny her faith in God, Rachel was shot in the head at point blank range. As part of the investigation, video tapes were found in which Eric and Dylan mocked Rachel for her faith. As horribly sad as this is--a precious life lost and a family left with a hole that cannot be filled--I cannot help but be proud of this young lady who in an instant went home to be with the Lord Whom she would not deny. At 17 years of age, she showed more courage and conviction than many adults ever have. I honor Rachel today. And let's face it: she won!

As the story of her death unfolded in the media, I was moved to the core. "Would you have said yes?" I was forced to ask myself. Even while discussing Rachel in class today--10 years later--one of my students asked me that same question. "Would you have said 'yes'?" It all boils down to that, doesn't it? It's not about what you say in the cushy protection of your church pew or at home around people who believe just like you do. No, it's about what you do in the face of opposition, of mockery, and--most importantly--of death. It's about whether or not you're willing to take a stand for what you say you believe in.

Now, hopefully most of us will never be looking up at the barrel of a gun held by a crazed lunatic who wants to blow us off the face of the earth. But I am convinced now more than ever that we will be called on to give an answer for where we stand on issues that may mean life and death to what we hold most dear--our families, our values, our freedoms, and yes, for some, maybe our very lives. Will we follow the example of a 17 year old girl in a little town in Colorado and say "yes" to these things--no matter the price--or will we cower in fear, content to deny the truth so long as we can continue to live our comfortable lives?

Rachel Scott's simple one-word answer to a life or death question speaks volumes to us today. I echo the answer I gave myself 10 years ago and to my student today when asked what I would do when called to give the ultimate sacrifice: "I pray I say 'yes.'"

UPDATE: She Said Yes was actually written about Columbine student Cassie Bernall, who was also a Christian and said to have been gunned down that day for saying that, yes, she believed in God. The books about Rachel are Rachel's Tears and The Journals of Rachel Scott, A Journey of Faith at Columbine High.

There have been conflicting stories as to whether or not both these young ladies were asked that question that would cost them their lives, whether only Rachel or Cassie was, or whether neither was. Rachel's parents maintain their daughter was targeted because she was a Christian and that videos which were part of the investigation prove that she was harassed by the gunmen for her faith. Cassie's mother wrote the book She Said Yes, obviously because she believes her daughter died a martyr. Although people were certain originally about these exchanges between the victims and Eric and Dylan, after being questioned by law enforcement, there seems to be some doubt in the minds of some individuals.

It is clear, however, that these young ladies lived lives of faith. They represented Christ, and their legacy is one of commitment to their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. A person's legacy long outlives her. May both Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall's legacy become our own.

A commenter on this post recommends the book Columbine by David Cullen as a good source of information.


Anonymous,  April 24, 2009 at 11:06 AM  

Thank you for reminding us of Rachel Scott. This is a story we should never forget.

Anonymous,  June 23, 2009 at 11:21 AM  

know one knows if it was really her who said it

Anonymous,  October 23, 2009 at 3:36 PM  

wow i never knew really hurts that a girl lost her life just for loving god..she is truely my inspiration

Anonymous,  March 8, 2010 at 11:27 AM  

Rachel Scott is an inspiration to alot of people including me. It makes you think of you bein in that situation. What would you say. thinking back on it, my answer would have been EXACTLY the same.

Anonymous,  March 27, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

Please understand that I am not trying to detract from Rachel's memory and her solid, inspirational Christian beliefs. However, there is an item in this story that is one of several incorrect myths that continue to circulate about the tragedy at Columbine High School, even ten years later.

The book, She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom Of Cassie Bernall, was written by Misty Bernall, and was about her daughter Cassie, not Rachel. Rachel Scott was among the first hit that morning, by a shot fired by Eric Harris from a stairwell outside the school, which commanded an overall view of a grassy area where Rachel and a friend, Richard Castaldo, were eating lunch. The shot was not at point blank range, as noted in the story. Whether Richard or Rachel was hit first seems so unimportant, however, there was no interaction between them andthe shooters.

Again, this is solely an effort to correct an enuring misconception about the legacy of that horrible day. For anyone interested in a well researched treatise on that day, I suggest Dave Cullen's book, Columbine. It was several years in the making and examines many aspects of the massacre.

Anonymous,  March 27, 2010 at 5:44 PM  

Rachel Scoot is a brave girl, anyone would have been lucky just to know her. why she had to die so young nobody will ever no, but she may not be here in person, but she will always live on in our hearts.

Anonymous,  May 7, 2010 at 3:24 PM  

a true eye opener for many individuals if i was held at point blank my answer would have been yes also but only cause i knew i would go to heaven and cherish all what i believe in

Anonymous,  July 19, 2012 at 2:32 AM  

That's weird right when they started preparing the attacks Rachel knew she was Gona die and drew a rose with black drops around it then later added 13 tears from her eyes the morning it happend I don't know but she may have known about their plans at lest sometime before it happend and the original rose was comming out of the school.

Anonymous,  November 16, 2012 at 5:21 PM  

the thing that's bothering me is, she wrote in her diary that she KNEW she was going to impact the lives of millions, she knew one of the shooters since kindergarten, she never ate outside till that day, which made her the first to be shot, she drew the same number of tears in her picture as people who were killed, the shooters supposedly "forgot" one of the people in the room, she drew three leaves on the rose, two shooters, and, I think she may have known all along what was going to happen, she was the third leaf.

Anonymous,  January 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM  

Rachel still is remembered for her CHristian stand and her belief that everyone needs a smiling face to help them sometimes. I always remembered the story of the man and the flat tire and her stopping to help. THe great news is that if we will accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior we will see her again. But we have to carry on and share this wonderful news with others. Rachel was known and loved by many. Praise God for young people like her. We need more Rachel's to step forward and share the good news

Anonymous,  February 19, 2013 at 2:06 PM  

Rachel Scott was very brave to go outside knowing that she would be killed. She is like a martyr who believed in Jesus christ and killed for doing so. I wonder what I would have said. It is so sad for a girl that young to die.

Emily Jade Plemons May 3, 2013 at 6:50 PM  

Columbine is one tragedy that America will remember and one tragedy the whole world will never forget ! Both Girls did the right thing by sticking by their faith when the boys had no right to shoot them! RIP Rachel Scott RIP Cassie Bernall <3 Gone but never forgotten ! God Bless Columbine High School !

Emma Sawazky June 2, 2014 at 11:03 PM  

I was shocked to hear about this tragedy like Columbine I just read the book Rachel's Tears. I was a Christian like Rachel she was very brave of what she believe in.. The book Rachel's Tears it touch my heart.. R.I.P. Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall

Anonymous,  September 30, 2014 at 7:40 PM  

This is so touching its just sad to here the story but it good to know about Rachel. In school we are learning about Rachel's challenge

Anonymous,  December 21, 2014 at 9:03 PM  

Rachel was a very inspiring person, and she was also a very good role model. I accept her challenge, and hope that I can make a difference.

Anonymous,  March 30, 2016 at 8:16 AM  

Rachel was a girl I want to look up too, to die for our heavenly father is something I will always look up too. As a christan Rachel is the kind of person God wants us to be like.

Theodore April 14, 2016 at 7:55 PM  

Rest in peace, Rachael Joy Scott. God's blessing be upon you.

Anonymous,  April 15, 2017 at 2:45 PM  

Rachel Joy Scott is my hero. I know this happened about 18 years ago but this story still lives on. The movie "I'm Not Ashamed" inspired me so much. I went to the movie with two of my friends and we cried our eyes out. She has put an impact on so many people he story is so strange and confusing kind of but it shows a lot of meaning I mean if u had a gun held to your head asking you if you still believed what would you say. I mean I would just like Rachel said. "He gave his life for me and Ill give mine to him"-Rachel Joy Scott.

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