Department

The Messengers

How one local family channeled their pain from the Columbine tragedy into a nationwide force for good.

April 2013

On April 20, 1999, Craig Scott was applying hair gel when his older sister, Rachel, called to him from the kitchen: “C’mon! We’re going to be late!” As they climbed into her red Acura and headed to Columbine High School, their annoyance was mutual. The siblings loved each other but were...different. Craig was 16, an athlete who tried to fit in with the cool kids. He was often late. Rachel, 17, loved her church youth group and was always punctual. When she tuned the radio to a Christian station, Craig abruptly changed it to rock, and as they arrived at school, he slammed the car door without saying good-bye.

Several hours later Craig was studying in the library when teacher Patti Nielson ran in, shouting, “Get under the tables, kids!” Everyone looked around at first, suspecting a prank. Just then, a student stumbled through the doors and collapsed. Craig and his friends Isaiah Shoels and Matt Kechter clambered under a table. He heard Nielson talking on a school telephone, telling emergency dispatchers there was a shooter roaming the halls. Then he heard the doors open. “Oh God,” the teacher said. “He’s right there, he’s in the room.” The “he” was actually them: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

When Craig, a wrestler, heard Klebold and Harris talking about targeting anyone with the white hats often worn by athletes, he shoved his baseball cap under his shirt. Amid the echoing gunfire and the whimpering of other students, he squeezed his eyes shut and prayed as one of the gunmen drew near and yelled, “We have a nigger over here,” referring to Shoels. They fired off more racial slurs and then shot both of Craig’s friends to death. Possibly because he appeared dead, they left Craig unharmed. He soon fled the library, where 10 victims had been killed, and emerged to horrific news: Rachel had been the first student murdered. She was eating lunch outside when the killers approached the school building and shot her on their way in.

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