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Picking up the torch

Rachel Scott's casket was adorned with flowers and messages handwritten in felt-tip pens. The funeral for this 17-year-old girl gripped a nation and allowed millions to share the grief that engulfed the Littleton community following the shooting.

"Lord, today we look to You for strength," prayed one pastor at the outset of the service, "for in our humanness we do not have the ability to handle this tragedy."

An estimated 3,000 people gathered for Rachel's funeral at Trinity Christian Center in Littleton, less than a mile from Columbine High School; many more watched the television broadcast which aired in its entirety on CNN and the Fox network. In huddled groups, Rachel's classmates gathered around her casket. One by one they broke from the clutches of their friends to pen their final messages.

I'm proud that you stood up for Christ, and I'll see you in heaven, wrote one person. Honey, you are everything a mother could ask the Lord for in a daughter. I love you so much, wrote Rachel's mother. Then with tear-streaked faces Rachel's parents said goodbye to their daughter.

Barry Palser, senior associate pastor of Orchard Road Christian Center (Assemblies of God), told the mourners that Rachel's death was not in vain, and that she had talked about graduating early to become a missionary. "Like Samson, in your death you have conquered more than in your life here on earth," Palser said. "Rachel, you have graduated early. My prayer is that we will live our lives as big for Christ as you have."

One after another, people stepped to the microphone to celebrate the girl they had known. "She had two dreams," said Lori Johnson, a leader in Rachel's youth group. "She wanted to make an impact for God, and she wanted to live in His presence all the time. It's amazing to me that God has fulfilled both."

"I was Rachel's Missionettes teacher," said Glenda Childs. "It was such an honor to have her in class. She shined for God at all times."

Many of the speakers and those in attendance wept. Several mentioned that Rachel's middle name was "Joy"-a fitting description of her personality, they said.

Bruce Porter, pastor of Celebration Christian Fellowship, challenged the young people to "declare a cultural revolution of compassion and mercy and love, and forsake violence.

"The torch has fallen," he said. "Who will pick up the torch?" Hundreds of young people responded by standing with their arms upraised. After the sermon a woman performed a mime to "Watch the Lamb," a song by Ray Boltz. Rachel had mimed to the song in the Columbine school talent show. Barry Palser closed in prayer. As the mourners sang "Amazing Grace," Rachel's mother rose to her feet and raised her hands toward heaven.

The service drew to an end and the family and mourners filed past the open casket. "The memorial service was sad, but it was so motivating," says Heather Lightbody who attended the service. "Being there made me want to be more than I was. It showed what Christianity really meant."

-Kirk Noonan


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