Valeen Schnurr doesn’t want her fellow freshmen to know her as Val, the girl from Columbine. Nor does she want to be known as the Girl Who Really Said Yes, or the Living Saint, or the Almost Martyr, even though she is all of those things. And she definitely doesn’t want to be known as the girl who punctured the myth of Cassie Bernall.
Schnurr knows what Cassie’s story means to the people around her, knows that many who lived through the Columbine High School shootings in April cling to it as the tragedy’s only redemption. They’ve all heard the same version over and over: In the school’s library, one of the teenage killers held a gun to Cassie’s head and asked if she believed in God. Cassie said “yes” and he “blew her away,” as a friend later reported.
That simple, defiant “yes” stirred the collective teenage soul. Finally young Christians had a saint they could touch, a less-than-average high school junior laid bare in a new best-selling book by her grieving parents titled plainly “She Said Yes.” Her peers made her a saint who died to redeem them; she made them the “Yes” generation.
But as the legend spread around the world, it began to unravel at home. Re-creating events of that day, investigators discovered weeks after the shooting what they weren’t looking for and never wanted to find, and what they will now reluctantly admit: Cassie probably never said yes, or anything else. “We strongly doubt that conversation ever occurred,” says Steve Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County, Colo., sheriff’s office, which investigated the shootings.
What they found was something else that Val had known all along. There was a conversation at the other end of the school library, between Schnurr and her would-be killer. He shot first, then asked if she believed in God. She said “yes,” and by some miracle he walked away and she lived.
If all of this had been known early on, the legend could have been different. It could have been told that a fearless girl, crouched and bleeding, spoke the name of Jesus and lived–that she summoned God to shield her from Satan’s henchman.
But we didn’t know, and now that we do, it barely reverberates. . .