"Columbine has been called the JFK assassination of the younger generation," Dana Scott said. "It served as a wake-up call that this is the type of society we live in, and we're supposed to think about what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Dana, 23, is the older sister of Rachel Joy Scott, 17, who was killed during the Columbine High School massacre. Her brother, Craig Scott, 16, survived the shootings. Two teenage gunmen, Erik Harris and Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and one teacher before turning their guns on themselves at the Littleton, Colo., high school on April 20, 1999. The tragedy stunned the nation and impacted teenagers in ways words cannot describe.
Dana spoke to about 400 people at the Craig Assembly of God Church on Sunday and performed "Watch the Lamb," a mime performance Rachel created and performed before her death. Dana also performed the mime at Rachel's funeral, an event broadcast Intern-ationally on CNN.
On Mon-day, Dana spoke to about 200 Moffat County High School students.
"After Dana Scott was here on Monday, quite a few of us talked with our students about tolerance and pride," said Deb Schott, MCHS social studies teacher.
"I wish I wasn't here under these circumstances, but I'm here to share a message I think is important for other people to hear," Dana said to the students.
Rachel was the first person killed at Columbine. She was sitting on the steps outside the cafeteria eating lunch with other students when the two gunmen approached the group and opened fire. One of them walked up to the wounded Rachel, grabbed her by the hair and pressed the gun to her head. He asked her if she believed in God. Richard, another student who was playing dead next to Rachel, heard the conversation. Rachel said "Yes," she did believe. The gunman pulled the trigger. She died instantly.
"I am really proud of my sister because she didn't compromise something she believed in with all her heart, and that was her choice," Dana said. "It makes us think, what are we living for? What is worth dying for? In situations like this, our true character comes out."
Her brother, Craig, was in the school library studying with two of his friends, Matt Kechter and Isaiah Shoels. They heard "pops" in the hallway and thought it was a senior prank until a student stumbled into the room, bleeding, and collapsed on the floor. Then the gunmen entered the library. They held guns on the three boys and taunted Shoels with racial slurs.
"I believe with all my heart we are not to hold prejudice in our hearts of any kind," Scott said. "That causes us to store up bitterness. I strongly encourage you to let that go."
The gunmen shot the boys. Kechter and Shoels died. Craig said a prayer and later led other students out of the library and through an emergency exit to safety.
"It's really a miracle Craig didn't die," Scott said. "There was a reason, a genuine purpose why he lived and why my sister died that day."
After Rachel's death, many students told her family how she had reached out to them with encouragement and kind words and deeds. "The thing that was coolest about Rachel was she had a sense of compassion I didn't know she had," Scott said. "She kept a journal, and in it she had written that she wanted to have a positive impact on her generation to give them hope. And she's done that. She's touched a lot of lives."
Rachel's journal entries talk about people going out of their way to help others, creating a chain reaction of kindness. "Rachel thought it was possible for one person to make a difference in another person's life, and that person in another, and so on like planting seeds," Scott said.
She said you never know how a simple act of kindness will have a positive effect on someone's life. We're brought up in our society to look out for number one, always be on guard. If someone had reached out to those gunmen, maybe they would have had a change of heart.
"They broke 24 laws to do this, and I don't think another law or two would have stopped them. The government will probably enact a lot of new gun control laws over this. But you know what? The anecdote to acts of violence is kindness never underestimate the power of kindness."
The students in the audience sat in silence, absorbing Scott's words the way audiences do at the end of a film that has opened new windows of the mind and soul.
"It's very healing for me to talk about this," Scott said. "I've seen people challenged and open up their lives when they hear my message. I'm hoping you take away from this a sense of hope and knowing that you can make a difference in other people's lives. The young people are the ones who will make a change in violence in our country."
Students rose and gave Scott a standing ovation.