Father of Columbine victim heals through daughter's foundation - WNEM TV 5

Lessons from Columbine

Father of Columbine victim heals through foundation in daughter's name

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Many of the families who lost children in Newtown are beginning charities to honor their loved ones similar to one foundation setup by the father of teenager killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

Even after a decade for shootings at Columbine, in Littleton, CO parents such as father of Rachel Joy Scott told Eyewitness News even, though they suffer, they continue on because that's what their loved ones would want them to do.

"I celebrate their life, share their memories with others," said Darrell Scott. "There's a lot of healing that comes with that focus on the positive, not the negative and life will have a lot more purpose and meaning."

Rachel Scott was a 17-year-old junior at Columbine High School in April of 1999. She was the first person to die when two fellow students went on their killing spree inside the building.

"It's something you can't understand unless you've gone through it," Darrell Scott said.

Darrell Scott said he hopes what he has learned since that life-changing day will be of some help to the families of Newtown.

On Dec. 14, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother at their home, then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 children and adults.

But at the same time, Darrell Scott said he can not make sense out of what happened inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"I just can't imagine. I can't fathom these parents because there is just something special about little children," he said after sighing. "It's hard to lose a teenager. It's hard to lose a child in their 40s but little children, it's unfathomable."

Darrell's wife and Rachel's stepmother Sandy Scott was with him when the shootings happened. She helped Darrell Scott as he first began to cope with the loss of his daughter.

His son, Craig Scott was also a student inside Columbine High School and was hiding inside as those two killers moved through the building.

"You're angry. You can't believe it and then as time goes on, it's time. It takes time," said Sandy Scott. "You really start looking at the situation and you decide you can't live like this. And so you have to forgive."

Sandy Scott told Eyewitness News that you cannot "predict how many people are going to react and respond."

"I've always said, people have permission from me to respond anyway they want," she said. "If they want to be mad and smash a wall down, more power to them. I mean that sincerely, I don't judge people who act differently than I did."

Darrell Scott said, for his family, the guidance for recovery came from what was found inside his daughter's backpack.

"It was finding her diaries and really seeing what she wanted," said Sandy Scott. "And I think ours happened sooner than others because we were fortunate to find her diaries."

Rachel Scott wrote in her diary about being yourself and staying focused to accomplish anything.

Her father said he has spent the days since her death sharing his daughter's story through the foundation they started called Rachel's Challenge. They mainly tour schools talking about inspiration, courage and kindness.

Members of Rachel's Challenge have been to Connecticut and visited to the Nathan-Hale Ray Middle School in Moodus two years ago.

"She said I have a theory, if one person would go out of their way to show compassion, kindness," Darrell Scott said. "It will start a chain reaction of the same."

Rachel's Challenge has reached at least 18 million people all over the country and now the world. Darrell Scott said he hopes his daughter's message of kindness helps children make better decisions about drugs and gangs  and encourages them to open their minds.

He also knows it is helping them as a family to stay focus on life.

"For us, it was a choice of forgiveness," Darrell Scott said. "It was a chance to celebrate Rachel's life and I will always be glad we did that. It was the right thing to do for us."

In Newtown, Daniel Barden's family has the "What Would Daniel Do?" website while Charlotte Bacon's family has started the "Charlotte Bacon Acts of Kindness Award."

Rachel's father knows there is nothing he can say to the parents in Newtown to ease their pain, but he hopes his efforts to celebrate his daughter's life helps them in some way.

"Every time you talk to about that child just honor their memory," Darrell Scott said. "Don't focus on the shooter, don't focus on the negative side, that can only bring you more pain and victimize you that much more."

Darrell Scott is now sharing his daughter's story internationally. North Korea is the most recent country to reach out to Rachel's Challenge.

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