Eyre Affairs

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"This violence is all most repulsive..." ~ Jane Eyre

A few months ago I shook hands with Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott.

Rachel was the first student shot and killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

Rachel's Challenge, a program that teaches tolerance and love both of one's self and of others, was being presented to all of our students at the high school that day. Rachel's death would not be in vain; for this program seeks to counteract all of the evil that occur ed on that day in April. Her father speaks all over the country to students each week, standing strongly and proudly as he speaks of his dead daughter. At the end of this program, each student signed a sheet and accepted the following challenge to
~ eliminate prejudice
~ dare to dream
~ choose your influences wisely
~ speak kind words and act kindly
~ start a chain reaction with family and friends

I thought a great deal about Mr. Scott this morning.

At the time that I met him, listened to him speak, and learned about his foundation, I still was not exactly sure how the man was standing. To this day I find his ability to do this stemming from some kind of super heroic powers. The depths of his love for his daughter were deeper than the pain, and that is what, in the end, keeps him going. I knew deep down that this project was his catharsis, and I believed that yes, indeed, he is making a difference and he is helping us all move beyond Columbine's massacre.

And yesterday, we took ten steps back.

I wondered if Mr. Scott was able to get out of bed this morning.

He did. I should not have doubted him, for he is one of the strongest human beings I have ever met.

I owe it to this man, whose hand I shook with the greatest feeling of respect, to repeat his words here...

Newsweek, 2007

April 17, 2007 - For Darrell Scott, the bloody massacre at Virginia Tech on Monday was a painful reminder of eight years ago this week, when Dylan Kebold and Eric Harris opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. It was then that his daughter Rachel, a junior, was the first to be killed by the two assassins while she ate her lunch outside. Her brother Craig was unharmed, but watched from hiding as his friends were gunned down in the school library. Scott has since devoted his life to preventing further attacks—another reason why this latest tragedy is especially upsetting. Through the Rachel's Challenge Foundation,Scott reaches out to some 60,000 students a week through school assemblies, workshops and outreach programs he says aim to deliver a "chain reaction" of hope through Rachel's memory. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett about the latest school shootings. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What would you say to the families of the Virginia Tech victims?

Darrell Scott: I had a hard time breathing all day because my chest tightens and the anxiety sets in, and it just brings back memories of what we went through eight years ago. It's just a terrible, terrible situation. But I hope these parents can be aware that there are thousands of parents like them out there, like me, who stand with them silently and invisibly and support them with our hearts and whole being.

What helped you cope with the loss of Rachel?
For us, the thing that was most effective was each other and our friends. After the healing process had begun, we got through it by cherishing the memories and celebrating the lives of those who've been lost. There's a big hole in my life that can never be replaced. But by celebrating Rachel's life, we've been able to keep her legacy alive. And through our program, I'm seeing lives touched and changed by it every day.

But can you ever truly recover from something like this?
In Columbine there were students who didn't even see the action take place who are still going through depression and other struggles, so it's not easy. My son was probably the biggest emotional victim of Columbine: he lost his sister, he was covered in the blood and body parts of his friends while he was crouched in the library watching everything happen. And he still struggles. But he made the choice to celebrate his life and his sister's, and not to live in the past.

Why do you think this continues to happen?
Are we fueling a culture of violence?I've said for eight years that the responsibility lies with all of us. When I was a child, they didn't allow the extreme violence to be so widely available to young people the way it is now. Unfortunately, today people can go to the Internet and find out how to make bombs. We've got artists and musicians who glorify suicide and homicide. We've got videogames being mimicked after Columbine. And you've got extremely violent movies. It's no secret that when people are exposed to extreme violence and become angry, it triggers something. And if they have access to a weapon, the combination of all of that can be pretty volatile.

This was the second incident at Virginia Tech this year. Do you think there was more the school could have done to prevent this?
Unless there were warning signs from this man, there's really not much anyone can do. If someone is suicidal and wants to take out a bunch of people, and there are no warning signs, metal detectors or armed guards aren't going to stop that person. And unless we turn our schools into prisons, there's only so much we can prevent.

So how can we try to prevent these rampages?
The best way to prevent violence is to demonstrate kindness and compassion. Many times, if you look at the lives of killers, there's been rejection in their lives. That's no excuse for what they do, but if we could simply show everyone around us compassion and kindness, though we may not know it, I guarantee we will be making a difference.

School shootings always spark debate over the availability of guns. What's your view on gun control?
I spoke before Congress about a month after the Columbine tragedy and I said then that I didn't think gun control in itself could solve this—and I say it now. Eric and Dylan broke dozens of laws to do what they did at Columbine, and unfortunately, if a person is determined to kill, and they don't care whether they live or die, they're going to find a way to do it whether or not they've got easy access to a gun.

You speak at a lot of schools. What can school administrators do to quell anxieties among students and parents about these kinds of attacks?We can choose to live our lives in fear, but the truth is we can't predict the future. We have to choose to live life fully. If we walk in fear it just becomes a never-ending cycle.

Is there any good we can take away from this tragedy?
When tragedy occurs it reawakens people. But we also so quickly forget. If anything good comes out of something so horrible, I think it's how sacred life really is. If we could just live with that understanding.



Blogger PeeJ said...

The whole thing just saddened me so much. It's hard as a Brit to imagine this sort of thing, though of course we have had incidents like this in our past too but nothing on this scale. I've ranted and vented on my blog about this today but feeling like the least qualified person in the world to do so. My sympathies go out to all those affected by this deeply sad event.


4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Mr. Scott is an example for all of us. Let's hope that indeed this tragedy will teach us a lesson on how to become more caring teachers, students, people.

I miss your posting and hope you are succesful in your job-hunt! Tell Jack that if he's not too tired from kindergarten he should once again try to hack your computer ;-)

6:54 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

What a wonderful post and what a beautiful man Mr. Scott must be. I too can't believe the horrors we continue to see in our country each year.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Mayden's Voyage said...

Amy- thank you so much for writing this- and sharing Mr. Scott's words with us...
I needed to read this today~

12:56 PM  
Blogger Wizened Wizard said...

There are many people second-guessing the Virginia Tech administration and the police today. It's not hard to find people angry and hateful or saddened and mournful.

Rachel Scott's father shows us some positive things we can do to help prevent future tragedies. Thank you for posting this thoughtful commentary.

2:59 PM  
Blogger foam said...

I have always marveled at how brave the Scott family is. Thanks for sharing this interview.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Bird said...

thank you for this post, TN. a welcome voice - the blogosphere is so full of hate and venom and finger-pointing right now - this is a welcome relief.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Clearlykels said...

That was just incredible. I can say that people coming together after a tragedy is always heartwarming. It is so sad, and hard. I know lots and lots of kids who are in their first year at Tech and my brother has an acceptance there for next year (he is still waiting to hear from another school). It just hit too close to home. I guess we just have to see how many amazing people are out there and focus on that.

10:02 AM  
Blogger question girl said...

thanks for posting this...

every day i question going to work... and then i remember, that even though a few of my students ARE a bit "off their rocker" i KNOW i am a positive for so many more....

7:08 PM  
Blogger ThoughtsGalore said...

I sat in sadness watching the horrific events that day.

Just so sad.

7:50 PM  

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