In Memory Of
Cassie Rene Bernall
November 6, 1981 - April 20, 1999
When the shooting started, Cassie was in the library, studying Shakespeare. The gunmen worked their way around to Cassie, who, like the rest of her classmates, was hiding under a table, praying. One of the gunmen pointed his gun at Cassie, and asked her the question: "Do you believe in God?". Cassie hesitated a minute, then she looked right at him and his gun, answering "Yes, I believe in God". That was her last words. The gunman asked her "Why?". She had no time to answer before she was shot to death.
Police officer Wayne Depew walked through the library, himself having almost lost a son in the massacre. He saw Cassie lying on her back under a table, her hands clutched to her chest, as if in prayer. "She had a real soft look on her face with a slight smile," he says. "This is just my opinion, but she looked as if she had accepted God's will, that she was going to die for what she believed in."
Though lots of fellow Columbine students already were strong, vocal Christians, Cassie's confession in the face of death has inspired them to keep the faith no matter how bad it gets. Cassie's story has also been told in churches and youth groups all over the country.
In a statement issued at Cassie's funeral, her parents said:"Her life was rightly centered around our Lord Jesus. It was for her strong faith in God and His promise of eternal life that she made her stand."
It may not have been Cassie who said "yes" when the gunman asked the question. A lot of witnesses have said that it was Valeen Schnurr who was asked. After she had said "yes", the gunman walked away, saving her life. But people still continue to look at Cassie as a martyr. You can read more about that by clicking here.
After her death, Cassie's parents have written a book about her life (She Said Yes) and in the spring 2000, they will travel to Honduras and open an orphanage, the Cassie Bernall Home for Children.
Cassie was 17 years old, and a junior. A few years ago, when she was in eight and ninth grade, she fell in with the wrong crowd. She dabbled in witchcraft, alcohol, drugs and was fascinated with suicide. After her parents, Brad and Misty Bernall, discovered letters describing violent acts she and her friends imagined to do with their parents, they moved her to another school and sent her to West Bowles Community Church. They prohibited her from leaving the house except to go to church. "It's hard", her father said, "because you know you're taking a chance of driving your child further away from you." But after an intense weekend with Christian retreat, Cassie came back as a changed person, as a believer. "It's like she was in a dark room and somebody turned the light on, and she saw the beauty that was surrounding her." Cassie started carrying her Bible around at school, and wore a bracelet that read "What Would Jesus Do?".
"I've seen kids that get a change for a week and they're back into the old grind", Dave McPherson, West Bowles' youth pastor, said. "Not Cassie. She dug in, and spiritually, she started reading her Bible and she started praying."
The day after Cassie died, her brother found a poem on her dresser. Cassie wrote: "Now I have given up on everything else-- I have found it to be the only way to really know Christ and to experience the mighty power that brought him back to life again, and to find out what it really means to suffer and to die with him.
She was excited about the Bible study class that the church youth group had planned to hold the first Tuesday after the shooting. She couldn't wait to share the insights that came to her when she was going over the assigned passages, Cassie told her friends.
Cassie wrote this poem as a testimony to her surrender to Christ:
Now I have given up on everything else
Everyone remembers Cassie's long, cornsilk-colored hair that hung halfway down her back. Her aunt, Kayleen Bernall, said she planned to cut it short: "She was going to cut off that beautiful blonde hair and give it to someone who makes wigs for kids who are going through chemo, and stuff like that," she said. "That's something, right there, that tells you what kind of girl she was. She told me she wanted it really short. She said, "I want enough hair for two or three kids, as many kids as possible." "And that's what she was like. She was so amazing. Such a sweetheart. Even when she was going through her teens, she never acted too big or too old to play with her cousins. She was always kind. And she and her brother were so cute together."
After she graduated at Columbine, Cassie wanted to go to medical school, and become a doctor. Her highest wish was to win a scholarship and get into the University Of Cambridge in Britain. Besides the church group, her favourite hobby was nature photography. Cassie's favorite movie was Mel Gibson's "Braveheart".
Cassie's mother, Misty Bernall, have written a book about Cassie's troubled teenage years and her transformation into a Christian. It is called: "She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall".
"Cassie was amazing", said classmate Mickie Cain. "I was so happy to be able to reach out to her and be a friend."
Read an article about a boy who made a play based on Cassie's story by clicking here.
Cassie's casket from her funeral. It reads: "Your courage and commitment to Christ have gained you a special place in Heaven, and I'm proud to call you my daughter. I love you so much, Mom.":
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