PHOENIX - A challenge is coming to Arizona. A challenge to students, to live better, be kinder, give more and expect more from themselves. It is a challenge that is changing and saving lives around the country and although it was born in tragedy, it is a message of hope.
Twelve years ago this month, Darrell Scott's world went black.
"My wife called on my cell phone to say a neighbor had run across the street to tell her there had been a shooting," Scott remembered clearly how the day unfolded. "From about noon until about midnight, we called the hospitals, I went outside and balanced on a fence to look in the bus windows when the students were picked up. We were reading the list of survivors."
He should remember, his daughter Rachel, a girl he described as the spark plug of their family, was a student at Columbine High School and she was on campus when two classmates opened fire.
"Our only hope was that she may have been badly wounded and was unconscious," he said.
But when the gunfire stopped, there were 13 victims. Rachel had been the first killed. A most unlikely victim, Darrell said.
Rachel was, after all, the girl always ready to help,
"She was born with compassion. She had it every day of her life. And it grew and matured as she got in high school. And began to reach out to kids who were disabled or picked on or something like that," he said.
While Darrel's "spark plug" was gone, Rachel's spark was about to set off a chain reaction of good.
It started with a call from a stranger claiming to have dream of Rachel's eyes.
"And out of those eyes were coming tears and those tears were pouring to the ground," the caller said.
The call made no sense, until sheriff's deputies returned Rachel's diary to her family.
In it she seemed to foreshadow what was to come. She had told friends she would not graduate, would never have children, would, in fact, be murdered.
Darrell said there was something more that was revealed in those pages.
"Open up the final page of her diary and bam, there I am looking at a picture of her eyes, and her tears watering a rose," Darrell said.
Darrell had never planned to be a speaker or to talk publicly about Rachel's death, he was asked to testify about the shooting before Congress.
Those tears that were drawn in the last minutes of Rachel's life in her journal, became the seed of an idea.
"I felt like the issue was a lot deeper than gun control," he said. "That it had to do with choices young people make. Influences in their lives. Rachel was influenced by Anne Frank. Rachel's killer, Eric Harris, was influenced by Adolph Hitler."
Through Darrell, Rachel's story resonated in the halls of Congress and online.
Suddenly he was inundated with calls to speak.
And out of that, Rachel's Challenge was born. It is a program that challenges kids to look both inside and beyond themselves.
"So our first challenge then goes to look for the best in others," he said. "Second challenge, dream big write goals when you look in the mirror don't see what other people see, see what you can become."
There are five challenges in all, based on Rachel's own code of ethics. Small and simple steps, adding up to the chain reaction Rachel had dreamed of.
School kids in Texas were inspired to pack a million meals for the needy. Principals around the nation say bullying has gone down and at least 300 students have written or e-mailed to say the program stopped them from committing suicide or hurting others.
3TV is honored to partner with Rachel's Challenge here in Arizona. Over the next few months we'll begin working with schools around the state to help spread the spirit of a young girl, whose spark refused to fade into the black.
Darrell said that is something Rachel seemed to know would happen.
"She drew an outline of her hands and in the center wrote these hands belong to Rachel Scott and will someday touch millions of people's hearts," he said.