Columbine: The Legacy

Published on: April 27, 2016


Part 2 of 2

Darrell Scott spoke about his daughter Rachel and the positive impact she wanted to make with her life.

Darrell Scott spoke about his daughter Rachel and the positive impact she wanted to make with her life.

The truth was, I hadn’t really felt like getting out of bed that chilly April morning to drive an hour across town to a strange and completely unfamiliar church. But two days before, as I was browsing the Internet, I had learned that Darrell Scott, the father of Columbine victim Rachel Scott, would be speaking there today. It had been three years since the tragic school shooting had taken the life of his daughter, Rachel, and two years since I’d completed my 26,000-word thesis on the tragedy. I wanted to hear what he had to say.

The chorus of “Great is the Lord” was booming from the entrance as I made my way across the parking lot into the large contemporary church. I quickly realized that this was no dimly lit sanctuary where a person could melt into a rear pew and get a little shut-eye. This church was loud and bright, with an expansive stage teeming with spring lilies and a full choir with orchestra.

Despite the joyous atmosphere, I found myself vaguely distracted. It had been two years since I’d completed my student teaching and graduated with my Master of Education degree, yet after several stints of temporary assignments, substitute teaching and a flurry of interviews, I still hadn’t been offered a full-time teaching job. I’d had what I thought was a promising interview on Monday, and had been anxiously awaiting a call from the principal. He said he’d get back to me by week’s end, but Friday had come and gone, and still no call had come.

I gazed around the room at the shining, scrubbed faces of eager teenagers and attentive parishioners spruced up in their Sunday best, waiting for the man they had all come to see: Darrell Scott. I was surprised when I saw the unassuming figure approach the stage — a thin, gray-haired man who gestured apologetically as he faltered at the podium. Yet from the moment Mr. Scott opened his mouth to speak, I was completely mesmerized. “I really don’t want to be here today,” were his first words. “This is a club nobody wants to belong to.”

I thought I knew all there was to know about the Columbine school shooting of April 20, 1999. In writing my thesis, I had devoured every resource I could find that had anything to do with Columbine. But as I stared at this man on the stage — this public speaker, activist, religious leader, but most of all, this father still grieving for his murdered daughter — I suddenly realized how little I really knew.

Scott said that since April 20, 1999, his life had careened down a path he could have never predicted or wanted. He spoke about the “untold stories” that came out of Columbine: stories not reported by the media; stories of courage, bravery and spiritual awakening. Most of all, he talked about his daughter Rachel, her zest for life, her moral convictions, and her unshakeable love for her fellow man. As he spoke, images of Rachel flashed across the screen behind his head: Rachel as a baby, Rachel as a young girl, Rachel as a pretty teen dressed up for the prom.

“Rachel wanted to be two things in life,” said Scott. “On one hand, she wanted to be an actress; on the other, she wanted to be a missionary. Go figure.”

SidebarHe said that since her death, Rachel had appeared all over the world on TV shows like Oprah Winfrey, 20/20, Dateline and Good Morning America. And though she never made it to Africa to be a missionary (she was booked to go the summer after graduation), her death inspired thousands of other youths to go on missionary trips to countries all over the world.

“You do have an impact on people’s lives, even if you think you’re invisible,” said Scott. “You don’t know what kind of impact you might have by some small thing.”

He said that Rachel had been inspired to write in her journal by another famous teenager, Anne Frank, whose diary survived the Holocaust to speak to future generations all over the world. “Miracles can result from little things, miracles we can’t even predict,” said Scott.

There was a video clip of a teacher, Mrs. Carruthers, who had encountered his daughter working on a drawing just 20 minutes before she died on the lawn outside the cafeteria. “It was a drawing of 13 tears that were watering a rose,” said Carruthers. “I asked Rachel what the drawing meant, and she looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Mrs. Carruthers, I’m going to have an impact on the world.’ Just like that.”

I looked around the room at the faces of teens, parents and grandparents watching the video in fascination. And though I’d never felt myself to be a particularly religious or mystical person, I felt an unexplainable light enfold me as the elderly man sitting next to me reached over with his gnarled hand and enclosed my hand in his.

I had started my research on what I thought was a significant news story, but which had, for me, turned into something quite different. After the presentation, I stood in line to shake Mr. Scott’s hand, and asked if he would be willing to come speak to students at the high school where I hoped I would be teaching next year. He gave me his card, and I promised I would call.

He then told me about an “unexpected gift” that had recently come to him and his family. On a visit to relatives in Ohio, they had discovered an old dresser that had once belonged to the Scott family. Pulling the dresser away from the wall, they were stunned to find a child’s drawing, done in crayon, still clearly visible on the back. Young Rachel had traced the shape of her own hand and had written inside it: “This Hand belongs to Rachel Joy Scott, and it will Touch Millions.”

That night, I laid in bed thinking about that drawing of Rachel’s hand. In the darkness, I pondered how such a little thing, drawn by a child, could possess such power.

Suddenly, I was startled out of my thoughts by the phone ringing, and, glancing at the clock — 11:15. I muttered, “Who could be calling me at this hour?”

To my surprise, it was the principal of the school I had interviewed with on Monday, calling to offer me a teaching position for next fall. He apologized for the late hour, but said he wanted to give me his decision before week’s end, as promised.

I hung up the phone and laughed out loud. Maybe this was one of those “little things” that Darrell Scott had spoken about earlier that day. For me, it was a simple phone call that would change my life. I slept soundly that night, happy that I could now keep my promise to have Rachel’s dad come speak to my school. After two years of struggling, I had finally found my future.