Columbine Students
by Annette Keilson

      RALEIGH, NC (AgapePress) - More than 500 students and adults gathered in a Raleigh, North Carolina, gymnasium last month to hear teenagers Sarah Houy and Chenelle Plank. The two girls told their story surrounding the April 20, 1999, school massacre at Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado, through video footage and their own experiences.

       "We were never a bad school or out of the ordinary until April 20th shocked us all," said Plank.

      The two students were brought to Raleigh by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a youth program for Christian students in public and private schools.

      Plank was in math class and Houy in the school library when they heard gunshots in the distance that kept getting closer.

       "When a teacher ran in to the room and yelled about a guy with a gun, most of us thought it was a senior prank, probably someone shooting a paint ball gun," said Houy. "Instead, two guys in trench coats came into the cafeteria and people started toppling all over each other, running for their lives."

      The "guys" were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who killed 13 people that day, including themselves. Time stood still as students and teachers waited in the grip of shock and panic.

       "No one knew the seriousness of what was going on or how this could happen at a school," said Plank.

      While hiding under a table, Houy, her brother, and another schoolmate prayed for God to take care of them. Fighting tears, Houy said, "I was waiting to be shot. I could almost feel a bullet entering me."

      When the boys ran out of ammunition, Houy recalled, "my brother grabbed our arms to go out and blood and shrapnel were everywhere."

       "I saw so much blood and huge bullet holes in people." When she heard a girl crying for help, she "wrapped her wound in a piece of my clothing."

      Houy ran outside behind a police car, 20 to 30 feet from the school entrance where the boys had a shootout with officers, before they ran back into the school and ended their own lives.

       "God made us invisible," said Houy. "So many around us were shot and wounded and I didn't have a single wound."

       "I can relate to other teens that have lived through bad experiences and feel what they feel," she added. "I want other teens to know that they need not go through something horrible to be serious about God".

      Members of the West Bowles Community Church youth group gathered together that evening. "There were lists of students at the school. Sixty kids from our youth group were at Columbine," said Houy.

      Survivors' names were checked off, but one, Cassie Bernall, was not one of them. Their 17-year-old friend was shot execution-style by Klebold and Harris after they asked her if she believed in God, and she responded "yes."

      On what she thought would be an ordinary school morning, Bernall gave her friend Amanda a note with a postscript, which read, "Honestly, I want to live completely for God. It's hard and scary, but totally worth it." Bernall's legacy now stands as a teenage martyr for Christ in the United States.

      It was the Columbine tragedy and Bernall's testimony that brought Plank to commit her life for the glory of God. It required a new level of faith to find forgiveness in her heart for Klebold and Harris.

       "I knew the only way was to forgive them," she said.

      Bringing a message of nonviolence and hope through the love and forgiveness possible with the power of Christ, Houy and Plank now do all they can to help bring good out of the evil of the tragedy.