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.