“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 She led by example and befriended those who were alone or withdrawn from the crowd, and began making journals with her small group of friends in order to provide a safe space for ideas and feelings to roam freely without fear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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This Post Has 89 Comments

  1. The article had a great intention for the reader to know of the a young adult named Rachel Joy. For myself, I knew there was a girl , who in the Columbine tragedy, was killed after answering truthfully, by faith, by the question of if she had believed in God. I am so grateful to have read this article because knowing the holistic person of Rachel Joy helped me understand the more meaning that became behind her words.

  2. Ashley Martinez

    Columbine was one of the first mass school shootings. The Columbine Shooting was extremely devastating because there were thirteen victims. I had previously heard about the Columbine shooting as well as Rachel Scott. Rachel Scott was a strong individual who I admire because of how strong and confident she was with her faith and her relationship with God. I feel that current generations are not as involved with their religion or not involved at all. I think it is important to live like how Rachel did everyday. She put her faith in God no matter the situation, and just tried to make the world a better place in any small way that she could. Although many people never had the opportunity to know Rachel I feel that she made a mark on the world and that was God’s plan. Rachel will be remembered always.

  3. Columbine was a topic I unfortunately found out about kind of late but nevertheless it still took a toll on me. I didn’t really know about any of the victims personal stories but this one blew my mind. Faith has always been something that puts people at risk. As sad as it is people just like Rachel have died for believing in God but I think it’s such a noble act to know that you’re putting yourself at risk for our Lord and Savior. What really caught me by surprise was how God spoke to her. Truly such a moving and heart breaking story.

  4. I’ve heard this story ever since my childhood and it never fails to shock me. Throughout elementary and high school, the most I ever heard about it was “Rachel’s Challenge” which involved everyone in my schools spreading random acts of kindness. It wasn’t until high school when we had a guest speaker come in that told the full story of Rachel Scott. Rachel’s prophecies were so vivid that some people find it hard to believe. I think her devotion to spreading God’s word through her actions toward others despite the bullying and doubt she faced was incredible. I really like how this article portrays Rachel’s life and I found the last part about Castaldo to be very interesting.

  5. This article touched my heart because it reflects a message as to how it is okay to be closer to god. Before the tragedy happened it really amazed me that Rachel was willing to sacrifice everything. In addition, how she would mentioned that she was going to die young. This article may seem emotional, but I feel that it shares an information important and that is always, God is there for us no matter what happens.

  6. Everyone, well mostly everyone, knows about the Columbine shooting and few may know about Rachel’s infamous last words responding to the killers’ question about whether or not she believed in God but this article was very interesting due to the fact that I did not know that Rachel was so deeply involved with God. Having a strong connection with God is hard to create and manifest but can often be so fulfilling and awarding so just reading about how Rachel was able to do his work and serve him through her was amazing. It always saddens me finding out more and more information about this horrific event but stories such as this one about Rachel gets rid of a little bit of that sadness.

  7. This story is eerie and very sad. Rachel’s relationship with God is very relatable and also beautiful. The Columbine shooting is one of the very unfortunate tragedies that happen much too often in the US. Her struggles with fitting in and being popular like the girls she admired is also something most teens these days go through. Another sad reality of being an adolescent in America.

  8. This is a beautiful story. The testimony of Rachel Joy Scott is an example for others to live by. It’s amazing to see how she truly dedicated her life to doing apostolate within her friends and classmates. In my public middle school we had a speaker come talk to us about her life but because the school was government funded they had to omit the details of her faith life. This article was complementary to my prior knowledge of Rachels life and it helps me get a better understanding of what it means to live a life for Christ.

  9. I have heard of the Columbine mass school shooting before, but never have I heard of Rachel Scott’s story. This article’s timeline was very helpful and filled with so much emotion. In instances of her life she would draw away from God, but she would always come back to him knowing that her life fulfillment was to be close to him. It is such a powerful moving story leaving you inspired to follow the work of God.

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