The world reeled when two teen gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Two dozen others were wounded, and three were injured while trying to escape the slaughter.
The pair chose Adolph Hitler's birthday for the shootings and committed suicide at the end of their rampage.
Rachel Joy Scott was the first student killed as she sat outside the school eating lunch on a warm spring day. Scott was a vibrant and caring young woman whose life was a legacy of acts of kindness toward others. She was 17 when she died.
After her death, her father Darrell Scott found Rachel's hands traced on the back of a dresser inscribed with these words: "These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts."
Her father created Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit organization that sends family and friends to schools to talk about the Columbine shootings and Scott's life and message of compassion.
Rachel's Challenge was presented last week at Berkeley Springs High School as part of Teen Issues Day and also at Warm Springs Middle School for students. An evening presentation for parents and the community was held at the middle school. Rachel's Challenge and Teen Issues Day were sponsored by the Morgan County Partnership.
The Rachel's Challenge presentation includes videos and news footage of the Columbine shootings as well as photos and films of Scott's life and excerpts from her writings.
The Rachel's Challenge assembly and training program is designed to create positive atmospheres of compassion in schools and universities.
Rachel Scott made new students feel welcome at school. She greeted and encouraged students who were shy or disabled and stood up for those being bullied.
Scott wrote a school essay before she died in which she described her personal ethics as "being honest, compassionate, and looking for the best and beauty in everyone."
"If one person can go out of their way to show compassion, that it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go," she wrote.
Rachel's Challenge urges students to eliminate prejudice by looking for the best in others; daring to dream, setting goals and keeping a journal; choosing influences wisely; understanding that kind words and small acts of kindness have huge impact; and starting a chain reaction of kindness with friends and family.
During the presentation, cafeteria surveillance videos from Columbine High School shootings show people diving and tables overturning to the sounds of gunfire.
You hear the 911 call by a terrified female teacher holed up in the library with students where most of the killings occurred. She suddenly yells for the kids to get under the tables as shots ring out.
Scott's 15-year-old brother Craig Scott was in the library when the gunmen burst in and opened fire. They killed two of his best friends — one a black student who was taunted with racial slurs before he died, said Rachel's Challenge presenter Rachel Bussinger, 22.
Scott almost didn't survive the library bloodbath. Bussinger said his family thought he would never be a normal kid again after the trauma, nightmares, depression and anger that he endured after the shootings and the loss of his sister.
He went on to film-making school and is now making movies with a positive message. He was invited by President Bush to speak at a conference on school violence.
Don't prejudge, have goals
Don't prejudge people just because they are different than you, said Bussinger. They might be having a bad day or be going through something you don't understand. Give them three tries, she said.
Bussinger asked if any Berkeley Springs High School students had clearly written goals. Only 3% of the students in a Harvard study had written goals, but those 3% were earning 10 times more than those who didn't.
"They were accomplishing their goals and dreams and making a larger impact on the world," Bussinger said.
Saved by kindness
After Rachel Scott's death, students disclosed how she had befriended them. In one film clip, a disabled student told how she had saved his life by saying hello and making him feel that someone cared. He had planned to kill himself.
"Why don't you treat other people like you treat your friends?" he asked.
One of Scott's close friends noted that you should make sure the last thing you do or say to someone is something you could live with if they were suddenly gone.
Uncannily, Scott had premonitions that she would die young and that her life would have impact.
Her story has been presented to over 10 million around the world. Her life and message have been featured on "Oprah," "The Today Show" and other shows. Her life has been the subject of a television documentary and several books.
Musicians, actors, athletes and entertainers including Chuck Norris, Elton John and the Dave Matthews Band have been moved by her message. Norris dedicated his autobiography to her.
Friends of Rachel
At Berkeley Springs High School, 50 to 80 students will be trained in a Friends of Rachel program to develop activities to carry on her message of kindness and compassion. Assistant Principal Lance Fox told assembled students that the administration believes in the program.
"It's a joy to see students that want a chain reaction and start changing the world," said Bussinger, the assembly's presenter.
Rachel Scott was awarded the Acts of Kindness Association 2001 National Kindness Award for Student of the Year posthumously.