WINDHAM, Maine — Craig Scott was next.
“My son lay there in the blood of his friends, staring into the barrels of two guns, knowing he was going to die,” said Darrell Scott.
It was April 20, 1999, and the Columbine High School library’s sprinkler system went off because of all the gun smoke in the room. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who later would go down in infamy as the teenagers behind the deadliest school massacre in American history, were distracted and stepped out of the room. Craig Scott had already watched them kill two of his closest friends, including Isaiah Shoels, one of the few black students in the Colorado high school.
“The last thing Isaiah heard in his life were racial slurs made against him,” said Craig Scott in a video played before a full auditorium Monday night at Windham High School. “The last thing he said was that he wanted to see his mom.”
At that moment, Craig Scott could not have known that his sister Rachel Scott was already gone. On the first warm day of spring that year, Rachel had decided to eat lunch outside on the front lawn. She was the first person shot and killed by Klebold and Harris as they approached the building for their attack. The two teens killed 13 people that day, including one teacher, and wounded 27 others before killing themselves.
Darrell Scott brought his family’s story to Maine with hopes that it could serve as inspiration. Two weeks after Rachel’s death, Darrell Scott and another of his daughters were going through her room and found an essay she had written titled “My Ethics and My Codes of Life,” in which she challenged the reader to go out of his or her way and show compassion for another person, starting what she hoped would become a “chain reaction of kindness and compassion.”
The Scott family has created an organization in her memory, Rachel’s Challenge, through which family members, survivors of the tragedy and their supporters tour the world giving presentations to schools and community groups.
Windham High School Principal Chris Howell said nearly 2,000 students cycled through the auditorium during the schoolday Monday to hear Darrell Scott’s talk, with a message of forgiveness, renunciation of bullying, and compassion for others.
“It’s amazing to see senior boys standing up and asking forgiveness for some things,” Howell recalled of the earlier sessions. “To see some kids say, ‘I’ve been a bully and I need to [make amends].”
Darrell Scott said his organization has between 30 and 50 speakers, and they’ve given presentations to nearly 3 million young people. During the evening presentation in Windham, the father urged students and their parents to make paper chains, with each link representing acts of kindness, further adding a physical symbol to his daughter’s dream.