Nearly three years ago, on April 20,1999, Darrell Scott’s daughter Rachel Joy Scott was murdered as she ate lunch outside of Columbine High School, in Littleton, Colorado.
Last Friday night, he spoke of compassion, forgiveness and the legacy of his late daughter before a packed audience at Bailey Hall.
Sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ and the Student Assembly Finance Commission, Scott’s presentation, entitled “Columbine: the Untold Story,” was a multi-media patchwork of home movies, drawings, diary entries, anecdotes and photographs he utilized to evoke the memory of his daughter and the ideals she personified in life.
Urging audience members to create a “chain reaction” by treating others with kindness, Scott chronicled his daughter’s attempts to reach out to her high school peers, including her eventual murderers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
“My daughter did everything with passion and zeal,” Scott said. “She reached out to people who were not easy to reach out to.”
The tragedy at Columbine High School remains the most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. The massacre left 12 students dead, along with one teacher, Dave Sanders, who Scott praised as a “true hero.”
Scott’s son, Craig, was in the library during the violence and witnessed the murder of ten of his peers. The disturbance ended with the suicides of killers Harris and Klebold, two Columbine students who felt ostracized from the school’s social circles.
Without propounding an explicit religious agenda, Scott emphasized the importance of spirituality in everyday life and the role that faith played in forgiving his daughter’s killers. Closing the speech with a rousing prayer, Scott encouraged audience to close their eyes and incorporate the power of God into their lives.
“Sometimes our brains are so active that we do not allow ourselves to be still and to let God speak to our hearts,” he said. “Rachel [Scott] believed that God was going to use her to touch other people.”
Rachel Scott had an uncanny premonition of her early death, telling close friends and family members that she did not expect to reach old age, according to Scott. She saw it as her mission to spread kindness, paying special attention to communicate with those students that were tormented, handicapped or new to the high school, he added.
Reading from an essay his daughter wrote on her personal system of ethics, Scott insisted that compassion is the greatest gift that humans have to offer.
“[She] had no idea that her words would be read to thousands of college and high school students around the nation,” Scott said. “She thought only her teacher and a couple of her friends would see it, yet she chose to pour out her soul nonetheless.”
In the wake of the Columbine shootings, Scott became a leading spokesperson for the prevention of teen violence, heading the non-profit organization Columbine Redemption, which sponsors high school visits across the country. Scott testified before Congress in 1999 denouncing the effectiveness of gun control and metal detectors in thwarting school violence and advocating a widespread spiritual awakening among the nation’s youth.
Janice Flint ’01, who coordinated the program with the Campus Crusade, said that Scott was chosen as a speaker due to his relevancy and the lasting impression the Columbine tragedy had on Cornell’s undergraduate population as high school students.
“We wanted to engage the campus with spiritual issues and the idea of giving God a chance,” Flint said. “[Scott] is a good speaker for today’s college student due to the issues we’ve grown up with, such as wrestling with evil in the world.”
During the brief question and answer session that followed the formal presentation, Scott spoke of the unanswered invitation he has offered to the parents of Harris and Klebold to meet and his displeasure toward the continuing tourist fascination with Columbine High School.
Scott challenged audience members to appreciate those who have had a positive impact on their lives and to thank them personally within the next three days.
“Sometimes we wait until it is too late to express our appreciation and we end up with regrets,” he said.
“The way that [Scott] brings truth into our reality really resonates in our hearts,” Flint said.
“His message doesn’t come across sounding like a fake, ideological appeal.” Evelyn Mok ’02 said that Scott’s presentation caused her to reevaluate her own priorities in life.
“The way [Scott] shared a lot of personal drawings and photographs made Rachel an individual rather than a statistic,” Mok said. “He made me think about how I’m living my own life and its meaningfulness.”
Archived article by Jason Leff