DENVER -- Few people outside of Columbine High School and the surrounding area had heard the name Rachel Scott before April 20, 1999.
Seventeen years later, her name has been heard by millions of students, teachers and others around the world.
Rachel was the first person killed at Columbine High School, and since that day, her father has been sharing her story, hoping to spread her message of kindness.
“It wasn't something I planned. As I began to share Rachel's story, I was beginning to see the impact it was having on people,” Darrell Scott told Denver7 anchor Anne Trujillo.
Darrell has found purpose and healing in talking about his daughter. In the years since the shooting, the invitations to speak have kept coming and he kept saying yes. In fact, Darrell’s on the road 200 days a year.
He said it’s a way to keep Rachel’s memory alive and pay tribute to the other Columbine victims. It’s important to him that in every presentation, Darrell always talks about the other victims whose lives were taken that day. He has never wanted his daughter’s life to seem more important than the others. There was just something about Rachel’s story.
“In the early days it was really hard, but because we were seeing the results we were seeing, I knew I didn't have a choice. This was something we had to do,” he said.
When Darrell tells Rachel's story, people listen. Student groups, business groups, even prison inmates stop.
“The inmates are in tears. We have gang, I mean, tough murderers, stand up bawling like a baby and say, ‘I’m calling my daughter. I haven't talked to her in 20 years.’”
Darrell doesn’t know what it is about Rachel’s story that resonates with people.
“I personally believe there is a divine touch to her story, because otherwise I can't explain it,” he said.
Darrell said Rachel told close friends she was going to die young, even writing these words a year before the Columbine shooting: "This will be my last year Lord, I have gotten what I can, thank you."
“She was very explicit with some of them,” he recalled “She actually wrote, ‘I'm dying. Slowly my soul leaves. My body withers. It isn't suicide. It is homicide. The world you have created has led to my death.'”
In his presentations, Darrell shares the words his family found in a handprint on the back of Rachel’s dresser in her bedroom. At just 13-years-old, Rachel wrote: "These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts."
“She wrote that she would die young but she also wrote that her life would reach millions of lives and the drawing of her hands—‘these hands will touch the hearts of millions of people.’ That's happened."
That wasn’t all that moved the Scott family. Darrell and his daughter, Bethany, found a paper Rachel wrote called “My Ethics: My Codes of Life.”
”Bethany and I sat down and read it,” Darrell recalled. “It was a month after Rachel died, and we were crying as we read it and thought it was the essence of who she was."
In that paper, Rachel challenged others to do five things:
- Look for the best in others
- Dare to dream
- Choose positive influences
- Use kind words
- Start a chain reaction of kindness
“She was always for the underdog and what we began to hear at her funeral and the kids she reached out to, confirmed what we already knew about her.”
Rachel's funeral was broadcast on CNN and watched by millions of people. Many of those people cried as they heard story after story about detailing how Rachel went out of her way at school, reaching out to special needs students, new students, and students who were picked on.
Six weeks later, a remarkable thing happened when a man from Cincinnati named Frank Amedia called. Darrell still remembers the conversation.
“Mr. Scott, I have something that’s happened to me over the last two weeks that I can’t explain,” is how Darrell remembers the conversation starting. “I've had a recurring dream. The same dream night after night and I’ve told my family about it. I don't know why I’m having this dream but I wanted to talk to someone in Rachel’s family to see if it meant something.”
The man in Cincinnati described Rachel’s eyes and said there were tears falling from her eyes and tears watering something coming out of the ground.
“I told him, ‘Sorry, Frank, that doesn’t mean anything.’ He said you could you please write my name and number down if it ever does.”
It was a week later when the Scott family got a call from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office that they had Rachel's backpack ready to be picked up.
“I took out some of her school books. And there at the bottom was her final diary. I wanted to see the last thing she had written," Darrell said.
“I was just stunned. Think about it, you get a call from a man who says he has a dream and he describes exactly what I’m looking at on the last page of my daughter’s diary,” Darrell recalled. “I counted the clear tear drops and there's 13 clear tears and then they turn to dark drops. Suddenly it dawned on me there were 13 people killed at Columbine.”
Later, Darrell learned that’s what Rachel drew the morning just before she was killed while sitting in Mrs. Caruthers’ class.
Darrell talked to the teacher about the drawing. He said she remembers Rachel didn’t really answer when she asked what she had drawn.
“Mrs. Caruthers, I'm going to have an impact on the world.”
You put all those things together and you can see why there was just something to Rachel's story that had to get out.
Rachel once wrote, "I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
From that simple quote, Rachel’s Challenge was created. Denver7 is committed to bringing you stories about schools that are accepting Rachel’s Challenge. It is our way of honoring all the lives lost at Columbine and bringing you stories about good things that are happening in our community.