Most of us can only imagine the horror of hearing your child has been shot to death in school.
Darrell Scott knows what that feels like.
“It’s not something you can ever prepare for,” he says. “It’s a piercing pain I hope you’ll never feel.”
Scott’s daughter was among the students killed during the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
“Rachel was the first one to be killed at Columbine,” he tells me.
Darrell and his wife have five children. Rachel was their middle child.
“My son Craig was in the library that day and two of his friends were killed beside him. Craig thought that he was going to die. They pointed their guns at him, and the sprinkler system went off moments before they tried to shoot at him, or I would have lost two children,” he says.
Two senior students at the Colorado school – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – murdered a total of 12 students and one teacher. They also injured 21 further students, with three other people being injured while attempting to escape the school.
The pair then committed suicide.
Hearing the news about the mass shooting in Connecticut felt like getting kicked in the gut for Darrell.
“I’ve always dreaded the day when there would be a worse school shooting than Columbine, but I always thought it would probably be a high school or a middle school, but not an elementary school,” Scott says.
“It’s just unthinkable that little children could be murdered with that number of deaths. My wife and I felt like we were kicked in the gut because those kids were our grandchildren’s ages.”
Darrell’s way of coping with his daughter’s death began weeks after the Columbine shooting.
“Six weeks after her death we got her final diary that was in her backpack the day she died. And we were amazed at some of the things that Rachel had written,” he says.
This was one thing Rachel wrote in her diary a week before she was killed:
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.
“One of her goals was to start a chain reaction of kindness that would ripple around the world,” her father says.
The program Rachel’s Challenge is a non-profi organization that reaches about 3 million students every year.
“What we do is just a drop in the bucket, there’s a lot more out there that we don’t reach,” he says. “We just need a kinder society. We need for children to see role models, even our nation’s leaders are calling each other names, bulling each other, children see it sometimes at home with their parents. We really need to be a gentler nation.”
He says Rachel’s Challenge has prevented seven school shootings, in part through encouraging students to report any suspicious behavior of classmates, and about 500 suicides.
By LINDA THOMAS