It was a sunny April day in the Denver suburbs and 17-year-old Rachel Scott was sitting in the grass of her high school’s lawn, sharing lunch with a friend, Richard Castaldo. Two fellow students who had been taunting Rachel for some time over her Christian beliefs, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, walked up and one asked, “Still believe in God?”
Rachel smiled and, after she quietly said she did, Harris pulled a gun from inside his coat and shot her four times, killing her instantly. Those were the first shots fired in the infamous Columbine massacre and, from that day forward, our schools in the United States of America have never been the same.
This was on April 20, 1999, and it was nothing like any of us had ever seen.
The two senior students murdered 12 totally defenseless students and one teacher. They injured another 21 people, and three more were injured while attempting to escape the school – this nearly 19 years ago -- and do you know how our entire country reacted back then?
From Wikipedia: “The (Columbine) massacre sparked debate over gun control laws, high school cliques, subcultures, and bullying. It resulted in an increased emphasis on school security with zero tolerance policies, and a moral panic over goth culture, gun culture, social outcasts (though the perpetrators were not outcasts), the use of pharmaceutical anti-depressants by teenagers, teenage Internet use, and violence in video games.”
Is that ironic or what? Our top experts listed almost every one of those reasons – I’m talking verbatim --- in just the last few weeks since the Valentine’s Day massacre in Parkland, Fla., left 17 dead and 17 more wounded in one of the world's deadliest school assaults … to date.
From Wikipedia: “The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting lasted six minutes, after which Cruz dropped his rifle on the 3rd floor of the building and left the scene by blending in with fleeing students. He walked to a Walmart, where he purchased a soda at its Subway restaurant. He then walked to a McDonald's and lingered before leaving on foot at 3:01. At about 3:40, he was stopped by a police officer in Coral Springs – two miles from the school – and taken into custody without incident. He was taken to a hospital emergency room with "labored breathing", released after 40 minutes, then booked into the Broward County Jail.”
Did you catch that? Six minutes, start to finish.
Let me share something else that was said back in 1999 after the unthinkable Columbine atrocity set the mass shooting attacks in motion. I believe this reveals where the “real blame” remains today. About a month after Darrell Scott buried his daughter Rachel – and his son faked he was dead as he was sprawled in his best friend’s blood just feet from a shooter – there was a Congressional hearing in Washington, D.C.
Actually, it was the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on crime as it held hearings on “Pending Firearms Legislation and the Administration’s Enforcement of Current Gun Laws.” Columbine dad Darrell Scott was a last-minute invitee to testify and his words from almost two decades ago ring with the same truth today.
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A GRIEVING FATHER’S TESTIMONY ON MAY 27, 1999
[NOTE: This is a portion of Darrell Scott’s response to his daughter’s death on April 20, 1999, in the Columbine High school massacre in Littleton, Colorado.]
Since the dawn of creation there has been both good and evil in the hearts of men and women. We all contain the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence.
The death of my wonderful daughter, Rachel Joy Scott, and the deaths of that heroic teacher and the other eleven children who died must not be in vain. Their blood cries out for answers.
The first recorded act of violence was when Cain slew his brother Abel out in the field. The villain was not the club he used. Neither was it the NCA, the ‘National Club Association.’ The true killer was Cain, and the reason for the murder could only be found in Cain’s heart.
In the days that followed the Columbine tragedy, I was amazed at how quickly fingers began to be pointed at groups such as the NRA (National Rifle Association). I am not a member of the NRA.
I am not a hunter. I do not even own a gun. I am not here to represent or defend the NRA — because I don’t believe that they are responsible for my daughter’s death. Therefore I do not believe they need to be defended. If I believed they had anything to do with Rachel’s murder I would be their strongest opponent.
I am here today to declare that Columbine was not just a tragedy — it was a spiritual event that should be forcing us to look at where the real blame lies!
Much of the blame lies here in this room. Much of the blame lies behind the pointing fingers of the accusers themselves.
I wrote a poem just four nights ago that expresses my feelings best. This was written way before I knew I would be speaking here today:
Your laws ignore our deepest needs
Your words are empty air
You’ve stripped away our heritage
You’ve outlawed simple prayer
Now gunshots fill our classrooms
And precious children die
You seek for answers everywhere
And ask the question “Why”?
You regulate restrictive laws
Through legislative creed
And yet you fail to understand
That God is what we need
Men and women are three-part beings. We all consist of body, soul, and spirit. When we refuse to acknowledge a third part of our make-up, we create a void that allows evil, prejudice, and hatred to rush in and wreak havoc.
Spiritual influences were present within our educational systems for most of our nation’s history. Many of our major colleges began as theological seminaries. This is a historical fact. What has happened to us as a nation? We have refused to honor God, and in so doing, we open the doors to hatred and violence.
And when something as terrible as Columbine’s tragedy occurs — politicians immediately look for a scapegoat such as the NRA. They immediately seek to pass more restrictive laws that contribute to erode away our personal and private liberties.
We do not need more restrictive laws. Eric and Dylan would not have been stopped by metal detectors. No amount of gun laws can stop someone who spends months planning this type of massacre.
The real villain lies within our own hearts.
Political posturing and restrictive legislation are not the answers.
The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched!
We do not need more religion. We do not need more gaudy television evangelists spewing out verbal religious garbage. We do not need more million dollar church buildings built while people with basic needs are being ignored.
We do need a change of heart and a humble acknowledgment that this nation was founded on the principle of simple trust in God!
As my son Craig lay under that table in the school library and saw his two friends murdered before his very eyes — He did not hesitate to pray in school. I defy any law or politician to deny him that right!
I challenge every young person in America, and around the world, to realize that on April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School prayer was brought back to our schools. Do not let the many prayers offered by those students be in vain.
Dare to move into the new millennium with a sacred disregard for legislation that violates your God-given right to communicate with Him.
To those of you who would point your finger at the NRA I give to you a sincere challenge. Dare to examine your own heart before casting the first stone!
My daughter’s death will not be in vain! The young people of this country will not allow that to happen!
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About three weeks ago President Trump hosted a group from Parkland, Fla., before later visiting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Among others who were there was Darrell Scott, who today is the founder of “Rachel’s Challenge,” a dynamic way of “creating a chain reaction of kindness and compassion, this program enhances the caring and supportive learning environment of schools, essential for academic achievement.”
Scott told those gathered that America “must create a culture of connectedness … we must create a culture where all of our classmates are friends … it goes deeper than mental illness … a lot of kids with mental illness are kind and compassionate.”
Scott declined to comment his feelings on arming teachers and school staff. “I have my own personal feelings but prefer not to share them because the issues are so volatile. Our message is to change the climate and culture in schools,” he said, his website noting the National Center for School Engagement believes 160,000 children skip school every day in fear of being bullied.”
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"You have reached the residence of Queen Rachel and her servants, Larry, Beth, Dana, Craig, and Michael. If you have anything you'd like them to do for me, please leave a message." – Scott family answering machine, 1999
“What has happened to us as a people that this should happen to us?" --- Rev. Porter at the funeral of Rachel Scott, 1999
“The young people of our nation hold the key. There is a spiritual awakening taking place that will not be squelched.” – Darrell Scott, 1999
“I feel something different after this last shooting. Politicians have a different tone. I think we are ready to do more about school violence.” – Darrell Scott, 2018