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columbine - the victims

Cassie Bernall
Girl's faith a beacon to those she left

By Claire Martin and Janet Bingham
Denver Post Staff Writers

Cassie Bernall April 23 - Cassie Bernall's Christian faith saved her once when her life was in turmoil, and her unwavering trust made her a martyr the instant after she was taunted by the gunmen in Columbine High School's library on Tuesday.

"Do you believe in God?'' one of them asked.

"Yes, I do believe in God,'' Bernall said.

Then he pulled the trigger.

Bernall's young friends at the West Bowles Community Church youth group cling to that story like a lifeline. With her last breaths, she affirmed the faith she embraced and it made the shy, quiet Bernall a hero in their eyes.

Seth Huoy and Crystal Woodman, who belong to the Bernall's church youth group, were in the library, too.

They survived, and one way they make sense of the massacre is to tell about the girl who died because she believed in God. They prayed for invisibility, and in at least one sense, their prayer was answered: Death passed them by.

"There were 40 members of our youth group at Columbine that day who made it out,'' said Dave McPherson, the youth group director, "and only one in the group who did not.''

"Cassie talked a lot about how she knew God's purpose - and maybe she knew, you know? That it was her time,'' said Cassandra Chase. "She's with God now,'' said Kevin Koeniger, another youth group member numb with grief.

"She deserves to be with Him. It's not a question of where she is. But it's hard to stay strong and rise above it.''

Everyone remembers Cassie Bernall's gorgeous hair, the color of cornsilk, that hung halfway down her back. She planned to cut it short, said her aunt, Kayleen Bernall.

"She was going to cut off that beautiful blonde hair and give it to someone who makes wigs for kids who are going through chemo, and stuff like that,'' she said.

"That's something, right there, that tells you what kind of girl she was. She told me she wanted it really short. She said, "I want enough hair for two or three kids, as many kids as possible.'

"And that's what she was like. She was so amazing. Such a sweetheart. Even when she was going through her teens, she never acted too big or too old to play with her cousins. She was always kind. And she and her brother were so cute together.''

Bernall told her aunt that she wanted to go to medical school, and be a doctor when she graduated. She wanted to go back to England and Scotland. She envisioned becoming better at the nature photographs she loved to take.

She was excited about the Bible study class that the church youth group had planned to hold last Tuesday evening. She couldn't wait to share the insights, Bernall told her friends, that came to her when she was going over the assigned passages.

The topic: "Seeking Peace.''

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