Editor’s note: Craig Scott is the brother of Rachel Scott, the first victim of the Columbine school shooting. He is an aspiring filmmaker and public speaker, currently working with Rachel’s Challenge, a non-profit organization that helps empower students and creates a safe learning environment for them.
December 14, 2012, was a day of crying.
I was broken and my heart ached for the families and children of Newtown, Connecticut. I felt helpless and angry, like most Americans. As I joined the nation in grieving, I could not help but reflect upon my own experiences of April 20, 1999.
I was a sophomore and sitting in the library of Columbine High School. When the shooters came into our school, I thought it was a joke -- a senior prank. Then everything happened fast. I hid under a table with two other boys, Matt Kechter and Isaiah Shoels. My heart was beating so hard.
It’s crazy that 13 years later, I can still remember how hard my heart was beating. I was terrified, literally frozen with fear.
Matt and Isaiah were killed. I pretended to be dead, expecting to die at any moment. I can remember hearing conversations between the shooters. Though they were right next to me, their words seemed so far away, as if they were in a tunnel. I did not know it at the time, but already I was in shock.
That day, hiding under a table, I remember praying a simple prayer. “God, take away my fear.” I felt God respond, I felt Him answer. The fear was still with me and my heart was still racing with adrenaline. But now the fear seemed like it was in the tunnel and I was back in the moment.
I escaped from the school with my classmates and later learned that my sister, Rachel, had been killed. The shock settled back in, and while the nation grieved for us, I was numb.
Now, as an adult, I can look back and see how broken I was after Columbine. I was numb, but at the same time if you name an emotion, I experienced it: Hate, anger and guilt, just to name a few.
It took time and the power of faith and love to help me move forward in a healthy way. Faith did not give me all the answers, but it held me together when I was falling apart. It did not keep me from suffering, but it did guide me toward forgiveness, emotional wholeness and even a greater purpose.
When we lost Rachel in 1999, nothing could make that pain go away. But the support and shared grief of the nation gave us strength -- strength to make beauty from ashes.
My sister was the kind of person whose light was evident to all and her light continues to shine in the schools of America today. She 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.”
Those words have helped us move forward as a family. They have driven us into gymnasiums and classrooms throughout the world. Rachel has inspired us, but the love and support of this nation empowered us.
If I could speak to the families of Newtown, Connecticut, I would tell them that we are with them. We are sharing your pain in whatever small way we can and from afar, we are loving your children with you. I would tell them that our love for you and your family has given you a voice and when you are ready to use it, we will listen.