by darrell scott
It’s hard to believe that 23 years have passed since I lost my daughter, Rachel, at Columbine. She was the first student to be murdered at her school on April 20, 1999. But I am certainly not the only person whose world was turned upside down that day.
The parents of eleven other victims were also devastated by the terrible things that took place. But it wasn’t just us parents that were affected. Brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends were all a part of the grieving community. There was also the parents, friends and relatives of the two boys who did the shooting.
Then you have to consider the families and friends of those who were shot and wounded, as well. Hundreds of people were personally devastated and the entire world witnessed in shock as the events unfolded right before their eyes on television screens around the globe.
There had never been anything like this before! But sadly, these school shootings have become so common that they barely make the news anymore. There were 34 school shootings in 2021 – – but few people even are aware of most of them. There have been almost 50 school shootings so far in 2022, and we are not even halfway through the year yet!
But as horrible as school shootings are – – there is a silent plague that is causing far more deaths among students than school shootings. The plague is called “suicide.” For every student, like my daughter, that has been killed in a school shooting, there are over 300 that have committed suicide!
Is there a reason for all this death and destruction? Yes! According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the number one cause for all of these fatalities is a lack of connection. Despite all the social media that is available today, many students feel isolated and alone.
The COVID pandemic has contributed greatly to the feeling of isolation that has driven many young people to take their lives.
Out of the ashes of our grief, and like the rising of the Phoenix, some parents have emerged from the loss of their children to create programs that offer genuine solutions. Out of the Sandy Hook tragedy emerged two powerful programs: Sandy Hook Promise and the Choose Love Foundation, started by mothers whose elementary children were taken from them at the tender ages of 6 and 7 years old.
Our organization, Rachel’s Challenge, has reached over 25 million students over the last two decades. We have a variety of programs that impact both students and teachers, helping to create a positive climate and culture in schools around the world.
We receive over 100 letters, emails, and texts from students who were planning to commit suicide every year. Because of Rachel’s Challenge, these students aborted their plans and are alive today. We provide a powerful, emotionally impactful assembly, followed by the creation of a club in each school that focuses on acts of kindness.
We have learned, over the years, that there are three life-transforming elements that can impact a student with negative thought patterns and transform them into a productive, healthy minded student. Those three elements are what I call the EMP effect.
Thought and behavior changes take place when there is, #1 Emotional Impact, #2 Meaningful Connections, and #3 Purposeful Action. At Rachel’s Challenge we have incorporated these 3 elements into all our programs and have seen the results of millions of lives touched and changed for the better.
The tragedy at Columbine brought tremendous grief and suffering to hundreds of people. We have been the witness to purpose emerging from pain and of triumph rising from tragedy that has influenced millions of people. Today, young people throughout our nation and around the world have obtained a healthy mental attitude and are performing acts of kindness in memory of Rachel’s life and legacy.