Rachel Scott was willing to give up everything for her faith. In the end, she gave up her life.
April 20, 1999. To many this date means nothing, to others it means everything. It is the date of the Columbine High School Massacre in Colorado where seniors Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 12 students and one teacher, injured another 24 people, and committed suicide.
Richard Castaldo is lying on the ground. He has just been shot eight times, injuries that will result in a lifelong paralysis. Beside him his friend, Rachel Joy Scott, suffering wounds to the chest, arm, and leg, is crying, and he tries to comfort her.
"I asked in vain if she was okay," he remembers. "Obviously, I knew she wasn't. I never got an answer."
Richard watches Eric grab Rachel by the hair to lift her up. "Do you believe in God now?" Eric asks her. "You know I do," Richard hears his friend say.
"Well, go be with him," Eric says before shooting Rachel in the temple.
She is the first to die that day. If she'd answered differently perhaps her life would have been spared.
But Rachel was never one to deny God, no matter the costs.
"I lost all my friends at school, now that I've begun to 'walk my talk'," she wrote in her diary a year before the massacre. "They make fun of me.
"I have no more personal friends at school, but you know what? I am not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus. I am not going to justify my faith to them, and I am not going to hide the light that God has put into me.
"If I have to sacrifice everything I will. If my friends have to become my enemies for me to be with my best friend Jesus, then that's fine with me.
"If I have to give up everything, I will."
In her journals, which since her death have been published by her family, she writes of the day she met God.
"You know how some dates just stand out in your mind? Like your best friend's birthday? Well, March 5, 1993 is one of those remember days for me."
She was at church with her aunt and uncle, and in the middle of the singing she felt a gentle push, "like an invisible hand at my back getting me out of my seat and down the aisle".
"I sorta looked around and then closed my eyes and then raised my hands toward heaven. I don't remember what I said, but I will never forget the feeling. That night, I gave my life to Jesus. That night, I said yes to God."
From that day to her very last moment Rachel said yes to God. And when she did, she became consumed with a burning desire to share with those who did not yet know Him.
"I want you to use me to reach the unreached," she once wrote in a letter addressed to God.
"God is going to use me to reach the young people. I don't know how, I don't know when," 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. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."
Rachel was a bright, bubbly girl, who wore eccentric hats and dreamed of becoming a renowned Hollywood actress – or a Christian missionary.
She would regularly pray on her knees, head down, hands on her face, and tears in her eyes. By 17, the age of her death, she was attending three churches and was also an active member of church youth groups. And she told her friends of God's love despite being mocked for it.
Start a chain reaction of kindnessHer televised funeral was attended by more than 1000 people and viewed by millions more worldwide. From her story six books were published, including Rachel's Tears and The Journals of Rachel Scott.
After her death her parents started Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit organization that advocates a safe and positive climate and culture in schools and seeks to control and deal with school violence, bullying, discrimination, and homicidal and suicidal thoughts in students.
In 2001 Rachel was awarded the National Kindness Award for Student of the Year by the Acts of Kindness Association.
A movie called I'm Not Ashamed based on her life was released in 2016.
Seventeen years after her death, people young and old continue to be inspired by her story.
"I don't want to be labeled as average," she wrote in her journal, and who would dream of labeling her that way?•