|Born||Cassie René Bernall|
November 6, 1981
Wheat Ridge, Colorado, U.S.
|Died||April 20, 1999 (aged 17)|
Columbine, Colorado, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot|
|Resting place||Golden Cemetery, Golden, Colorado|
|Known for||Victim of the Columbine massacre|
Cassie René Bernall (November 6, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was a student killed in the Columbine High School massacre at age 17. It was reported that Bernall had been asked whether or not she believed in God before being shot during the massacre. However, Dave Cullen, in his book Columbine, concludes that the person asked about their belief in God was Valeen Schnurr, who survived the shooting.
In September 2000, Bernall's mother, Misty, released the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. In it, Misty describes her daughter's turbulent teenage life, spiritual conversion and Christian faith.
Cassie was born to Misty and Brad Bernall on November 6, 1981. Along with her brother Chris, she was brought up in a Christian home. According to her parents, she rebelled as a young teenager and began using drugs and alcohol. Her parents state that at one point Cassie became suicidal. Her mother found letters in her bedroom discussing her thoughts of killing her parents, and they decided to send her to a new school, Columbine High School, for a new start. A year and a half before her death, Cassie decided to go on a weekend church retreat and restored her faith. Her father Brad said "When she came back from that retreat, she was an entirely different person. We had gotten our daughter back."
Bernall was killed by Eric Harris during the Columbine massacre on April 20, 1999. According to witness Emily Wyant, who was hiding under the same table as Bernall, Harris slammed his hand down on the table above them and said "peek-a-boo" before fatally shooting Bernall.
Her family wasn't informed of her death until two days after the massacre.
Controversy surrounding martyrdom claims
Craig Scott, a student who was also in the library during the massacre, told investigators that he had heard one of the shooters ask a victim whether or not they believed in God during the shooting, and the victim answer "Yes." Scott said that he recognized the voice as Bernall's, however he did not see the exchange happen as he was hiding under the table at the time. Investigators later took Scott back into the library and asked him to point to where he had heard the exchange come from. He did not point to where she had been in the library, but rather pointed to where Valeen Schnurr, another student that had been shot in the massacre, had been hiding.
Valeen Schnurr had been shot and was on the floor of the library when one of the shooters, Dylan Klebold approached her. She said, "Oh, my God, oh, my God, don't let me die." Klebold asked her if she believed in God. She said yes, and he asked why. She responded "Because I believe and my parents brought me up that way." Klebold reloaded but did not shoot her again, and Schnurr ultimately survived the massacre.
Some media publicized the story of Bernall being asked about her belief in God before her death. The story persisted even decades later. In 2015, Rick Santorum used the scenario during a Republican presidential debate, saying "16 years ago this country was tremendously inspired by a young woman who faced a gunman in Columbine and was challenged about her faith, and refused to deny God."
She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall
In October 1999, Bernall's mother Misty Bernall authored a book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. The book reached No. 8 on The New York Times best-sellers list.
In the book, Misty Bernall reaffirmed the story that her daughter was asked if she believed in God before she died, despite being told by investigators that the question had not been asked. Cassie's friend Emily Wyant, who was next to her in the library when she was shot, also told the family that the question had not been asked. Among doubt, the Bernalls issued a statement standing behind the accuracy of their book, saying they had spoken to 4 witnesses who had told them that she had defended her faith before being killed.
However, the book ultimately leaves it up to the audience to make up their own mind about what happened.
Bernall's presentation as a Christian martyr has led to her serving as the inspiration for several songs, including Flyleaf's "Cassie" and Michael W. Smith's "This Is Your Time". The video for "This Is Your Time" includes a short clip at its beginning of Bernall talking about her beliefs.
- "2010 CENSUS – CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Columbine CDP, CO Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on April 25, 2015. The school's location is on Pierce Street, which runs north-south through Columbine, roughly one mile west of the Littleton city limit.
- Watson, Justin (2002). The martyrs of Columbine. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 117–128. ISBN 978-0-312-23957-2.
- Luzadder, Dan; Kevin Vaughan (1999-12-14). "Biggest question of all". Rocky Mountain News. Denver, Colorado: The E.W. Scripps Co. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Toppo, Greg; Marilyn Elias (2009-04-13). "10 years later, the real story behind Columbine". USA Today. Gannett Co. Inc. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Cullen, Dave (1999-09-30). "Who said "Yes"?". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- "Tough Love Saved Cassie", by Wendy Murray Zoba, Christianity Today
- Moore, Jennifer (1 October 2006). "Columbine victim's parents share her story". Star News Online. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
- Cullen, Dave (1999-05-15). "I Smell the Presence of Satan". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
- Brogan, Jacob (16 September 2015). "Rick Santorum Supports Kim Davis by Repeating Long-Debunked Myth About Columbine". Slate. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- JANOFSKY, MICHAEL (4 October 1999). "Far Beyond Columbine, Rancor and Tension". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Portell, Paul (2005-02-01). "Flyleaf, Flyleaf EP Review". Jesus Freak Hideout. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
- McCall, Michael (1999-11-29). "Songs of Experience: Christian singer looks at life's troubles and offers inspired work". Nashville Scene. Weekly Wire. Retrieved 2007-03-20.
- Smith, Michael W. ""This Is Your Time" official music video". Reunion Records. Retrieved 2015-01-06.