“He Gave His Life for Me. I Will Give My Life to Him:” A Look into the Faith of Columbine’s First Victim

Rachel's hands found drawn on her drawer after her death | Courtesy of Flickr Images

On April 20, 1999, seventeen-year-old Rachel Joy Scott spent the first two classes of the day drawing in her journal; it would be for the last time. Just before she left to go to lunch, Scott showed her sketch to her acting teacher, Sue Caruthers. “Well…It’s not finished. But I was inspired to draw this,” she recalls Rachel saying.1 The drawing on the final page of Rachel’s journal showed her eyes crying thirteen clear tears before becoming darker droplets, watering a rose.2 Her drawing subsequently spread nationwide in the days and weeks after the Columbine shooting had confirmed thirteen victims. But this had not been Rachel Scott’s first such premonition. Rachel had a history of prophetic writings in the years before the Columbine tragedy–beginning when she first gave her life to Christ.

Rachel’s journey with God began on March 5, 1993 when she visited her aunt and uncle, and attended church with them in Shreveport, Louisiana. As the service continued with the crowd praying, dancing, and calling out “Amens” and “Hallelujahs,” twelve-year-old Rachel stood up from her seat and walked to the front of the church, praying. “There was no fuss or fanfare,” Rachel’s Aunt LaBrilla explains. “Rachel quietly walked down front and within moments had her hands raised and very sweetly started praying in the Spirit.”3 Rachel’s new mindset after bringing Christ into her life was further expressed in one of Rachel’s first poems about God: “As I was weeping and crying…I heard the Lord’s voice…He said there would be no more sins, no more lies, Only peace and happiness, In all of my cries.”4

As Rachel grew older, her passion for Christ evolved. She believed that simply knowing God was not the same as having a relationship with Him. So, Rachel set out to speak and live the word of the Lord day after day, no matter where she was. “I Am A Warrior For Christ,” she wrote.5 Rachel Scott also promoted the idea of committing random acts of kindness throughout her high school, believing it would cause a chain reaction of the same. She led by example and befriended those who were alone or withdrawn from the crowd, and began making journals with her small group of friends in order to provide a safe space for ideas and feelings to roam freely without fear of judgement.6

Rachel Joy Scott | Courtesy of Flickr Images

Although Rachel’s faith shimmered throughout her school, her path with Christ was not always smooth. As she attempted to fully accept God into her life, Rachel dealt with her own demons as her parents’ divorce took a toll on her. “I am so pathetic,” Rachel writes in a journal she shared with a friend. “I think that everything is all good, but…I’m just telling myself that so that maybe someday I will truly believe it.”7 She also found herself longing to be a part of a clique at school, so badly in fact, that Rachel began smoking–something she alluded to briefly in one of her journals: “The traces of smoke the cigarette leaves, is a soft string of silk.”8 Despite her efforts, Rachel could never settle into a group of friends that fulfilled her desired level of popularity, and she felt her lack of popularity was due to the lack of her outer beauty. She became envious of other girls in her school for having the looks and friends she desperately wanted.9

This pain and isolation Rachel felt proved also to affect her relationship with God. “Why do I feel dry in your spirit?” she questioned. “Why do I have to feel moments of doubt, distrust, disbelief, stages of anger, [and] stages of loneliness when it comes to you, Father? Each day, I play the question, ‘Do you exist…'”10

As Rachel experienced this inner turmoil, she felt now, more than ever that she must give her faith back to the Lord. Her questions became prayers, and instead of blaming God, Rachel thanked Him and apologized for ever doubting His master plan. “Dear God,” she begins, “I ask for your help in this household. I ask you replace the hate, with your love.”11 “Father, I’m sorry I ever doubted you. You know what you’re doing and you know what’s best for me.” Rachel also made a vow to God, one that would shape the rest of her life–“[From] now on, I put all faith and trust in you. In Jesus Name, Amen.”12

While Rachel continued to regain the faith she needed to better her life, she noticed that the “friends” she once had no longer wanted to associate with the “Jesus Freak.” In a journal to Sam–a friend of Rachel’s–Rachel states, “I [have] lost all of my friends at school. Now that I have begun to walk my talk, they make fun of me.” Despite the similar loneliness Rachel felt for the second time while in high school, her attitude towards this new wave of  distress was handled differently, now that she had the Lord on her side. Rachel continues with:

But you know what…it’s all worth it to me. I am not going to apologize for speaking the Name of Jesus…I am not going to hide the light that God put in me. If I have to sacrifice everything…I will. I will take it.13

The excerpt above was written by Rachel on April 20, 1998–exactly one year before the Columbine Massacre. Rachel Joy Scott, one year before her death, was willing to “sacrifice everything” for her Lord. Whether it was pure coincidence or not, Rachel’s next journal on May 2 of 1998 showcased Rachel’s prophecy of the life God planned for her. Rachel’s May 2 journal entry began with a three sentence introduction that would shock, not only her family, but everyone who heard her story after the Columbine Massacre:

This will be my last year Lord. I have gotten what I can. Thank you.14

Rachel continues these prophetic writings in a poem written just weeks before her death:

It isn’t suicide. I consider it homicide. The world you [God] have created has led to my death.15

Columbine Memorial Garden | Rachel Scott | Courtesy of Flickr Images

Friends and family of Rachel Scott had no idea she wrote these journals until after her death. However, Rachel did not keep it secret that her life would be cut short. “She was so, so blunt. She’d say ‘I’m going to die young’… or ‘I am not gonna make it that far’,” Rachel’s friend, Nick recalled. “We’d get upset with her…a lot of people would say ‘Stop saying that…It’s a downer’ and that was her thing. She would say ‘It’s not a downer…I don’t have a problem with it.'”16

Photo: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold | Courtesy of Flickr’s The Commons

On April 20, 1999, the first shots rang out at Columbine High School as Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold open fired on Rachel Scott and Richard Castaldo, who were having lunch outside. Two bullets tore through Castaldo’s spine, permanently paralyzing him, while three bullets hit Rachel in the chest, arm, and thigh.17 Both laid weak and wounded on the ground, but they were still alive. Castaldo recalls hearing noises he could not particularly make out, but did hear Rachel softly crying.18

Despite the highly publicized story of Rachel’s martyrdom as she said “Yes” or “You know I do” to the killers’ question “Do you still believe in God?,” Richard Castaldo and his mother, Connie Michalik have changed this story multiple times. In an interview in the Spring of 2000, Castaldo’s mother confirmed that Richard had no memory of Rachel’s answer to her killers’ taunts before hearing the final gunshot. However, on June 26, 2001, Michalik announced that Richard had heard Scott say “Yes” in response to the gunmen’s questions. Furthermore, Richard Castaldo has openly expressed frustration about his incapability to recall what happened before Rachel’s death. On the first anniversary of the Columbine massacre, Castaldo stated, “People tell me I said she said she believed in God, and I can’t remember it.”19

Regardless which narrative of Rachel’s final moments actually took place, the end of Rachel’s life does not discredit the daily steps she took to show her love and passion for God. Through her parent’s divorce, the bullying she encountered at school, and the temptation to continue smoking, Rachel sought God and followed him to the very end.

  1.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 8:15-9:03.
  2. Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, Rachel’s Tears: The Spiritual Journey of Columbine Martyr Rachel Scott (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2000), 176.
  3.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 3-4.
  4.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 24-25.
  5. Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 59.
  6.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 3:45-4:06.
  7.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 13.
  8. Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 64.
  9.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 28-29.
  10.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 80, 65.
  11.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 18.
  12.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 80.
  13.  Beth Nimmo and Debra Klingsporn, The Journals of Rachel Joy Scott: A Journey of Faith at Columbine High (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2001), 54-55.
  14.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 6:24-6:36.
  15.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 6:52-7:10.
  16.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 6:36-6:51.
  17.  Life Focus, “Rachel Scott Life Focus Documentary,” February 15 2016, YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7M6MSM9o5Y4, 12:25-12:35.
  18. Justin Watson, The Martyrs of Columbine Faith and the Politics of Tragedy (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 129.
  19.  Justin Watson, The Martyrs of Columbine Faith and the Politics of Tragedy, (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 133-135.
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80 Comments

  • I’ve never heard of Rachel’s prophetic writings or sketches – the one with the thirteen tears forming a rose sent chills down my spine. Reading that last poem she wrote, it did sound as if she was considering suicide. Often, those with suicidal thoughts do believe that “the world is out to get them”, or “the world has killed them”. Regardless of whether or not she intended to take her own life, her story of sacrifice for God is extremely sorrowful. This article was very well-written, but it did leave me with an uncomfortable feeling that I can’t shake.

  • This being the first time that I hear about the story of Rachel Joy it was very inspirational. Although she may have had a rough upbringing due of her parents divorce, bullying, and smoking she did not let that define her. Never the less she still persevered and kept her relationship with God close to her heart. Reading through this article the author did a great job overall. I was interested the entire time and was eager to learn more after! Great job!!

  • Reading story gave me goosebumps. It’s unnerving, yet fascinating that Rachel Scott made such predictions and they became a reality for her. It’s always truly saddening to read about the events that took place that day, but this story I did not know. It makes me wonder about the stories of the other victims. Granted not all of them probably predicted their fate, but their story is worth telling.

  • I really enjoyed this article, her writing weeks before her death stating that her death will be practically a homicide gave me the chills because of how she actually died. It is admirable that she was very devoted to her faith, in some way it puts me in peace that she left the earth by stating the it would be her last year of living and adding that she had gotten what she could while living and thanks God for the life he has granted her. It is so sad that school shootings happen because many families lose individuals that are so pure.

  • Such a powerfully moving story of a young woman who followed her faith until the end. I think this article is correct, it does not truly matter what she said in her last moments when she spent her life praising and worshiping God. Truly saddening that such an amazing girl had her life ended early. Perhaps instead of her works being a prophecy, they were alluding to a possible suicide? I do not see how she could have known about the shooting, or at least this article does not go into that.

  • This is the first time that I hear about the story of Rachel Joy. Let me start off by saying that this story is very inspirational. She had a rough upbringing because of her parents’ divorce, bullying, and smoking. However, through all the obstacles she was still able to remain close to God and remain immersed in her religion. She knew what her fate was going to be, however, that did not stop her from praising the lord. Overall, very good and inspiring topic selection. Great work.

  • This was the first time hearing about this story, it is so sad that she saw her own death coming. School shootings have become a very significant topic of discussion, and it is alarming that not much has been done to prevent more cases to occur. It is heartbreaking to read being a student knowing that something like this could happen at any time.

  • Reading about these shootings always give me chills and to read about her story in how her faith was so strong, was so inspiring. Rachel seemed really brave during the time of the shooting and it amazing to read how her faith was so strong. Thank you for putting this author together. People like Rachel are the kind of people that inspire the rest of us to be better catholics, but it is sad to read about her unnecessary murder.

  • I can’t believe she basically predicted her own death. It was very creepy that she was so aware of something. It makes you think of what possibly told her that she would die young? and how does she live with the information that she will? Wether or not she really said “yes” in her final moments isn’t all too important. This girl really worshiped god and that a very difficult and courageous thing to do.

  • When I first heard of the Columbine Massacre I thought Rachel Scott was very courageous to remain faithful to her beliefs. Now with reading your article, I am shocked to know that she knew her fate all along and accepted that she was going to pass away at a young age. It’s sad to know that a beautiful soul like hers was taken too soon, but comforting to think that she’s now at peace.

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