COLUMBINE, Colo. (Christian Examiner) – Seventeen years have passed since the Columbine High School massacre, when two heavily armed students stormed the building and murdered 12 fellow students and a teacher, before turning the guns on themselves.
Beth Nimmo was not in the building that day back in 1999, but she remembers the tragedy well. Her daughter, Rachel Scott, was the first student killed by the gunmen, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Scott refused to deny God in her final seconds, and her personal journals – filled with her prayers and her thoughts about her Christian faith – formed the basis of two books written by Nimmo.
They also were the foundation for a new film, I'm Not Ashamed (PG-13), that will be released in theaters Oct. 21.
Time, Nimmo says today, has helped heal her scars.
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"I can talk about Rachel and share things about her without having an emotional breakdown, because being able to share Rachel's story and what she left us – and it receiving such a positive response – has healed my heart in many ways," Nimmo told the Christian Examiner. "It gave purpose for the Lord allowing Rachel to be there that day. He was raising up a witness. It has brought tremendous comfort to know that. Her story has been shared to millions of people."
"That intense pain where you think you can't sleep at night, where you cry all day long, where you think you're going to die – that is what I don't experience now. I can still tear up, have those emotions, but that intensity is gone. God has healed our hearts."
I'm Not Ashamed stars Masey McLain as Scott and follows her spiritual growth in high school as she learns how to live out her faith. (The actual shooting is a small part of the film, taking up only about a minute.)
The Christian Examiner spoke with Nimmo about her daughter and the film. Following is a transcript, edited for clarity:
Christian Examiner: What was Rachel like?
Beth Nimmo: From a baby on up, she was very charismatic. She won people over. She was friendly, outgoing. She had a little simple way of captivating people's hearts. Everybody who knew her fell in love with Rachel. Her middle name was Joy, and that was so apt because she really brought joy into our home. It left quite a hole in our family when she was gone, because she just had a way of completing the circle. As a Christian, she kept her faith very private from me. I didn't know about what the Lord was doing in her life until after she died. I knew she loved the Lord, I knew she loved people.
CE: In the days after the tragedy, when you learned how she had grown spiritually and how she stood for God in her final seconds, how did that impact you?
Nimmo: It humbled me to know that Rachel was so secure in her faith and her love for the Lord and her love for people, that even facing a gun to her forehead did not cause her to waver. Rachel had written in one of her entries, "Create in me the church so that wherever I go I will find sanctuary." I found that to be so profound and so meaningful, because you could be killed anywhere these days. We can't put ourselves in a bubble. Schools are not safe. The peace that we have comes from the Lord, and it comes from within – not from anything external.
CE: The movie does not make Rachel out to be a saint, and it shows the real struggles she faced during high school. Was that an important aspect of the film for you?
Nimmo: I wanted a story that showed the real struggles of a Christian in high school, walking out their faith and being ridiculed for it, being ostracized for it. I wanted it be real, because I think a lot of times in the body of Christ we don't understand what our kids are going through in a public setting. And so the kids don't always want to be transparent about what they're dealing with, because it brings guilt and shame. They think they should be above that, they shouldn't have those struggles. But Rachel had all of those temptations – she had the smoking, the drinking. She wanted a boyfriend. She wanted the things that most kids want, and yet even through there were times she passed the test, there were other times she didn't. I believe Rachel got more right than she got wrong. But her heart was always after the Lord. Her journals talked about it: "God, I'm going to pray that I don't drink this week." Her heart was always turned toward the face of the Father. She wanted His help. She just kept coming back to the cross.
CE: Tell us about the drawing she made the day she died.
Nimmo: We call it Rachel's tears. It was drawn that morning before the shooting. When she showed it to her teacher, the teacher asked, "What does it mean?" But Rachel didn't know what it meant, but she prophesied in that drawing. There's weeping tears – 13 teardrops. There were 13 victims in Columbine – one teacher and 12 students. And then it goes into the rose and turns into blood drops, and the tears and the blood drops are growing something beautiful out of Columbine. I believe the rose represents this generation of young people, and the blood and tears that have been sacrificed, that something beautiful is going to come from it. She drew that within 45 minutes or so of her actual death.
CE: How have you come to a place of forgiveness for the two boys who committed this tragedy and killed Rachel.
Nimmo: First of all, God does command us to forgive one another. So it's a scriptural principle. Secondly, Rachel would have been the first to say, "Mom, please do this. Don't hate these boys. Forgive them." But in a more practical way, what those boys did was a life sentence. For me, I can choose whether or not it is a life sentence, and the key that opens up that prison is the key of forgiveness. I can either lock myself down and live in the past with unforgiveness, anger and sorrow, or I can practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is a process. It is not just waking up one morning. I have to say, "God I'm going to walk away from this and leave this alone."