Cassie Bernall

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Cassie Bernall
Bernall in 1997
Cassie René Bernall

(1981-11-06)November 6, 1981
DiedApril 20, 1999(1999-04-20) (aged 17)
Cause of deathGunshot wound[2]
Burial placeGolden Cemetery, Golden, Colorado, U.S.[3]
Known forVictim of the Columbine High School massacre

Cassie René Bernall (November 6, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was an American student who was killed in the Columbine High School massacre, where 11 more students and a teacher were killed by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who then committed suicide. It was reported that Bernall had been asked whether or not she believed in God, and she said "Yes", before being shot during the massacre. However, investigators concluded the person who was asked about her belief in God was Valeen Schnurr, who survived the shooting.[4][5][6][7]

In September 1999, Bernall's mother, Misty, released She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. In it, Misty describes her daughter's turbulent teenage life, conversion and Christian faith.[8]


Cassie was born to Misty and Brad Bernall on November 6, 1981 in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. 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, such as alcohol, and at one point she 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, Bernall decided to go on a weekend church retreat and restored her faith. Her father said "When she came back from that retreat, she was an entirely different person. We had gotten our daughter back."[9]


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 twice down on the table above them and said "peek-a-boo" before fatally shooting Bernall in the head. The shotgun blast that killed Bernall ricocheted, resulting in a nose injury to Harris.[7] Her family had no knowledge of her death until April 22, when they were notified.[9]



The deaths of Bernall and fellow student and Christian Rachel Scott during the Columbine massacre led both to be subsequently depicted and remembered by groups of evangelical Christians as Christian martyrs.[10][11][12] In the following years numerous books—termed "hagiographies" by sociologist Ralph Larkin—were published about Scott and Bernall with the assistance of or authorship by their parents.[13][14]

Controversy surrounding martyrdom claims[edit]

Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel Scott, was a student also in the library during the massacre who told investigators that he had heard one of the shooters ask a victim whether or not they believed in God during the shooting, and that the victim answered, "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 Bernall had been in the library, but rather pointed to where Schnurr, another student that had been shot in the massacre, had been hiding.[7]

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.[7][15] 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." However, Santorum did not attach a name to the story, and may have been referencing Schnurr.[16]

She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall[edit]

In September 1999, Bernall's mother, Misty Bernall, authored the book She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. The book reached No. 8 on The New York Times best-sellers list.[17]

In the book, Misty Bernall repeated 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. Despite this, the Bernalls issued a statement standing behind the accuracy of their book, saying they had spoken to four witnesses who had told them that she had defended her faith before being killed.[9][17] However, the book ultimately leaves it up to the audience to make up their own mind about what happened.[9]

In popular culture[edit]

Bernall's presentation as a Christian martyr has led to her serving as the inspiration for several songs, including Flyleaf's song, "Cassie"[18] and Michael W. Smith's song, "This Is Your Time".[19] The video for "This Is Your Time" includes a short clip at its beginning of Bernall talking about her beliefs.[20][4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "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.
  2. ^ "Cassie Bernall Autopsy Summary".
  3. ^ "Cassie Rene Bernall". Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Watson, Justin (2002). The martyrs of Columbine. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 117–128. ISBN 978-0-312-23957-2.
  5. ^ a b Luzadder, Dan; Kevin Vaughan (December 14, 1999). "Biggest question of all". Rocky Mountain News. Denver, Colorado: The E.W. Scripps Co. Archived from the original on June 18, 2009. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  6. ^ Toppo, Greg; Marilyn Elias (April 13, 2009). "10 years later, the real story behind Columbine". USA Today. Gannett Co. Inc. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d Cullen, Dave (September 30, 1999). "Who said "Yes"?". Archived from the original on December 10, 2003. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  8. ^ ""Tough Love Saved Cassie", by Wendy Murray Zoba, Christianity Today". October 4, 1999. Archived from the original on December 17, 2008. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d Moore, Jennifer (October 1, 2006). "Columbine victim's parents share her story". Star News Online. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
  10. ^ Willkinson, Alissa (April 17, 2019). "After Columbine, martyrdom became a powerful fantasy for Christian teenagers". Vox. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  11. ^ Pike 2009, p. 662.
  12. ^ Senie 2016, p. 112.
  13. ^ Larkin 2007, p. 39.
  14. ^ Pike 2009, p. 661.
  15. ^ Cullen, Dave (May 15, 1999). "I Smell the Presence of Satan". Archived from the original on January 13, 2018. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  16. ^ Brogan, Jacob (September 16, 2015). "Rick Santorum Supports Kim Davis by Repeating Long-Debunked Myth About Columbine". Slate. Archived from the original on February 4, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  17. ^ a b JANOFSKY, MICHAEL (October 4, 1999). "Far Beyond Columbine, Rancor and Tension". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 5, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  18. ^ Portell, Paul (February 1, 2005). "Flyleaf, Flyleaf EP Review". Jesus Freak Hideout. Archived from the original on April 16, 2007. Retrieved March 20, 2007.
  19. ^ McCall, Michael (November 29, 1999). "Songs of Experience: Christian singer looks at life's troubles and offers inspired work". Nashville Scene. Weekly Wire. Archived from the original on March 1, 2007. Retrieved March 20, 2007.
  20. ^ Smith, Michael W. ""This Is Your Time" official music video". Reunion Records. Archived from the original on January 7, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.

Works cited[edit]

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