Twelve years ago today, the world's attention turned to Littleton, Colorado. Two students, armed with guns and explosives, went on a killing spree at Columbine High School.
Once the terror ended, 12 students and one teacher lay dead and many others wounded. It became the worst mass murder ever at a U.S. high school.
Out of the horrific tragedy at Columbine comes the story of kindness and compassion from one of the victims of the shooting rampage.
Seventeen-year-old Rachel Scott was the first to die at Columbine.
Rachel sat on the lawn eating lunch moments before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine on April 20, 1999.
Rachel was a gifted writer, a big dreamer and the kind of teenager who would reach out to the unpopular kids at school. She defended those who were picked on. And after her death, some of her classmates later admitted they were on the verge of taking their own life, until Rachel said hello.
Her heroes included Anne Frank, who inspired her to keep diaries. In those journals, her family later learned, she expressed her desire to change the world through kindness, compassion and forgiveness.
When Rachel was 13 years old, she outlined her hands on the back of a dresser. In the center of one of those hands she wrote, "These hands belong to Rachel Joy Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts."
Not long after her death, her father Darrell Scott founded a program called "Rachel's Challenge," a nationwide outreach program that aims to reduce school violence and bullying. It centers around an essay she wrote six weeks before she died. She called it "My Ethics, My Code of Life."
"In that essay, she challenged her reader to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion that would ripple around the world," said her father.
It's a simple challenge: Be kind to others, don't be quick to judge and look for the best and beauty in everyone.
"She said people will never know how far a little kindness can go," said Dana Scott, Rachel's sister. Become a fan of KING 5's Rachel's Challenge on Facebook.
In a nationwide movement, Rachel's Challenge is being implemented in schools and corporations, including here in Western Washington. Fifteen million people have heard Rachel's story through school assemblies. In those schools, bullying has decreased. Most importantly, more than 400 suicides have been prevented over the last two years.
"She had no idea that millions of people would not only read her code of ethics, but many people would memorize it and let it become their own code of ethics," said Darrell.
Tell us why you need Rachel's Challenge in your school or how it has made your school better by answering a few questions.
KING 5 will be sharing stories from Rachel's Challenge all day. At noon, we'll take a closer look at the program promoting compassion resulting from such an act of hatred. At 5 p.m., a Washington state senator and his aide who were both on the Columbine campus the day of that shooting share their experience. And a professor at Seattle Pacific University will share more about Rachel's Challenge and the curriculum he developed for teachers.
Watch KING 5's "Rachel's Challenge: Start a Chain Reaction" special Tuesday night starting at 7:30 p.m.