Columbine victims | Dead | Cassie Bernall
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Born November 6, 1981
17 years old
was a junior at Columbine. Her parents, Misty and Brad Bernall, called her "Bunny Rabbit" and said she loved to go rock climbing in Breckinridge. She had recently visited Great
Cassie Bernall and mom Misty
Britain. Her favorite movie was Braveheart
Cassie, like many her age, had recently struggled on her teenage road to self-discovery. She rebelled against her upbringing, trying out the Goth scene and even getting into witchcraft for a bit. She had issues with depression and anger. She experimented with drugs and alcohol. When she was 15, her mother found notes Cassie and her best friend had been writing to each other in which they discussed killing their parents and teachers. Cassie's parents transferred her to a private school at that point. Cut off from her friends and angry with her parents, Cassie spiralled into depression, writing poems about suicide.
Eventually, Cassie made new friends and she found support at her church where her parents had insisted she attend youth programs. She found her way back to religion after attending a church summer camp in 1997, where she became a born-again Christian. That fall, her parents allowed her to transfer out of private school and into Columbine High where she did well in class. She got into Shakespeare and photography. Life was getting better for her.
Then came that fateful day in the library.
According to witness statements and the Columbine Report, Cassie hid under the table she'd been sitting at with her friends when teacher Patti Nielson
entered the library and told everyone to get down. Cassie had her hands over her face, perhaps so she wouldn't see what was happening. The gunmen were actively shooting other students nearby.
Just after killing Steve Curnow
and injuring Kacey Ruegsegger
, Eric Harris went to the table where Cassie and freshman Emily Wyant were hiding. He slapped the top of the table and said to the two frightened girls: "Peek-a-boo!". He then bent down, pointed his sawed-off shotgun under the table and fired once, shooting Cassie
in the right side of the head. She died immediately.
For a long time after the shootings, it was believed that she was the girl in the library who one of the shooters asked at gunpoint: "Do you believe in God?". It was thought that he shot her because she said "Yes". The idea was inspiring to many, including her mother Misty Bernall, who went on to write a book about her daughter titled She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall
(published Sept. 1, 1999).
It came out later that the conversation occurred between gunman Eric Harris and surviving victim Valeen Schnurr
, something that Val and others present have verified. Emily Wyant, who was hiding beside Cassie during the shootings, told the FBI and Rocky Mountain News the real story. RMN and the Denver Post sat on the revelation as unconfirmed until September 24, 1999, preferring to run the story of Cassie as martyr. It wasn't until Dave Cullen
(offsite link), a reporter for Salon.com broke the story
(offsite link) on the 23rd that the news outlets ran the true version of what happened. Two weeks before, the Post had been using the martyr story to promote Misty Bernall's book.
When it was still believed that Cassie was the "girl who said yes", she became a martyr to the cause of
Christianity. Her mother said she couldn't think of a more honorable way to die. But: "I keep thinking about the things I need to do for Cassie," Cassie's mom told the Oprah show in 1999. "And then I catch myself... I don't need to do that. The Lord is taking care of those mom things I used to do."
Cassie was buried in a white coffin that attendees at her funeral could sign. Her mom wrote on it: "Bunny Rabbit, my friend, my buddy, my daughter, my mentor. I will love you and miss you forever. I promise to take good care of your kitty. I know that Jesus is elated to have you in His presence... Your courage and commitment to Christ have gained you a special place in heaven, and I am proud to call you my daughter. I love you so much, Mom."
Despite the fact that she didn't say anything to either of the gunmen, the story of the girl who said "yes" still inspires people all over the world. Her family prefers to think of her as that girl. Cassie was laid to rest in Golden Cemetery in Golden, Colorado.
Photos of Cassie Bernall and Family:
- Cassie's mom Misty, dad Brad, and brother Chris
- Cassie with a friend
- Misc. photos of Cassie: 1
- Cassie Bernall Autopsy Summary
- She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall
by Misty Bernall (offsite link)
Family's website memorial - no longer active
- Who Said Yes? Salon
article by Dave Cullen
- Rocky Mountain News remembers Cassie Bernall