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Father: Kindness can flow from killings

The father of one of 13 who died at Columbine High says the slayings show that Christian ideals must play a key role in public education.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 28, 2001


LECANTO -- Darrell Scott is certain that God answered his daughter Rachel's prayers, but perhaps not in the way she expected.

In her diary, Rachel Joy Scott had written about her faith in God and her desire to serve him. She asked him to "use me to reach the unreached."

Scott believes God did find a part for Rachel to play in his plan through her death.

In April 1999, Rachel was among the 13 people killed at Columbine High School in Colorado. The shootings were done by two students who killed themselves that day.

Rachel's funeral was broadcast on CNN uninterrupted for three hours. Thousands attended the service. Hundreds of thousands have been touched by her story since then because Scott has traveled the country, appeared on national news and talk shows and spoken to Congress.

His message throughout that journey was the same one he shared with several hundred people at the Curtis Peterson Auditorium on Monday evening. Through his family's sharing details of Rachel's life, writings and drawings, Scott said his daughter has begun a "chain reaction" to promote kindness among all people.

He had another message, too.

Scott said that Christian ideals need to be a central part of the public educational system. His research has shown that the Founding Fathers had no intention of keeping religion out of schools, he said. In fact, they saw the Bible as a central educational text.

Scott said history books have been stripped of any mention of those facts.

His Monday appearance, which was sponsored by CC Vision, a coalition of local Christian churches, was timed to precede Tuesday's School Board public workshop on issues of religion in the schools. School Board members in attendance -- Patience Nave, Pat Deutschman and Sandra "Sam" Himmel -- received a standing ovation after Scott thanked them for their support of Christian ideals.

He encouraged the board members not to back down from what they believed. Then he explained why God needed to be back in school, using videos to drive home his messages.

Scott spoke about his bubbly daughter and how she "lit up the room" whenever she was there. On the big screen, the audience saw photos and videos of a little girl interacting with her family and a teenager with her classmates.

Rachel died at age 17, foreshadowing her own death in her writings and her words to friends and teachers. A year before she died, she had taken her faith to heart and had begun to make special efforts to reach out to students who were being picked on by classmates.

While Rachel had told her father she wanted to be a missionary and an actor, Scott said he didn't think his daughter understood that those two professions were not compatible. But in death, she has been both, Scott said.

He remembered a day when Rachel was watching Oprah on television. She turned to her father and told him that he would someday see her on the show. Months after the Columbine tragedy, Scott and other victims' parents appeared on Oprah. He looked up and saw a huge photo of his daughter and broke down, remembering her prediction.

Scott shared writings by his daughter and conversations he and others remembered which seemed to predict that in death, she would reach young people and change lives.

He also talked about a call he had gotten after Rachel's death from a man who was having a recurring dream about Rachel's tears watering something. Just a week later, the police released Rachel's backpack and belongings to Scott's family. A drawing she had made just 20 minutes before the shootings showed eyes crying 13 tears, one for each person gunned down. The tears were watering a rose, which Scott sees as symbolic of Rachel's generation.

Scott also showed the audience pictures depicting the tragedy at Columbine and a variety of other violent acts ranging from the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City to gang violence in the cities.

After her death, Scott founded The Columbine Redemption, a non-profit organization. He has since written books about the Columbine disaster and he spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on crime. There, he read a poem he had written which explained the message he was trying to send about integrating faith into the lives of young people

He read: "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."

Scott said he wanted them to have heard more during the talk than just a sad story about the tragic loss of his daughter. "God puts the opportunities in front of us every day, opportunities to reach out and make a difference in somebody's life," Scott said. "Rachel wanted to start a chain reaction, and she's been successful."

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