DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     April 26, 1999     vol. 10, no. 81

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Two Girls Asked "Do You Believe in God?," Then Shot

          DENVER, APR 23 (ZENIT).- Once again, young people have given a heroic testimony of their faith in God during the terrible tragedy of the shooting massacre of Columbine High School. Some have already called them "martyrs."

          While national headlines seem to be dominated by the profile of the two deranged young killers of this horrible incident, a more powerful story of love and faith has emerged that reveals how several of the young students involved in the tragedy were singled out and shot simply because they confessed their belief in God.

          Valerie Schnurr happened to be in the school library when the pair of masked, gun-wielding assailants entered and began hysterically laughing and taunting students. One them approached her, put a gun to her chest and jeeringly asked if she believed in God. Realizing that her answer could mean the difference between life and death, she answered: "Yes, I do." With that, the gunman fired at point-blank range and she fell to the floor. She also received nine shrapnel and bullet wounds to the chest, abdomen, and left arm. She is currently, some say "miraculously," in stable condition at the Swedish medical center.

          Junior, Cassie Bernall, was not that lucky. The 17-year-old student had come to the library during lunch and was also among those confronted by one of the killers. While others hid under desks or ran to the back of the room trying to flee, they overheard the blood-chilling exchange between Cassie and one of the masked attackers. In a cynical tone he asked her: "Do you believe in God?" She didn't answer but only stood in silence. He pointed his gun at her and she began to speak: "Yes, I believe in God." He laughed and asked: "Why?" and shot her before she had time to answer. They were her final words.

          "She died for her faith," said Crystal Woodman, a close friend of Bernalls who was with her during her courageous last moments. "That's why she died and that's how she lived her whole life. She was a martyr for Jesus."

          "She did something that one of the thieves did when Jesus was on the cross," said 16-year-old Joshua Lapp, who also witnessed the scene. "She admitted she believed in Jesus Christ before she died."

          They were not the only ones whose faith was evident during the four-hour ordeal of terror and death.

          Some told how a teacher who had huddled a group of students in a distant corner of her classroom to protect them, led them in prayer to keep them calm and at ease until police finally arrived to escort them out of the building.

          Numerous students trapped in the library with the assassins, told national TV audiences how they prayed with all their heart to be spared as their friends were killed at random before their eyes.

          After the shooting spree finally ended, the first thing that occurred to the students was to organize prayer services at local churches to pray for those who had died. Each of the ceremonies were packed with young people from all over the city.

          Not a day has gone by that students from local schools don't flock to the makeshift shrine in the adjacent park to gather and often, to join hands and pray together. Their silent witness of faith has been an overwhelmingly powerful testimony of the place of God in their lives.

          Like Schnurr and Bernall's intrepid example, we may never know how many other young people's faith brought them solace and peace in their final moments. As Bernall's friend Woodman put it: "She's so much better off than any of us. Now she's in Heaven."

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

April 26, 1999       volume 10, no. 81


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