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Witness to Columbine horror to bring message of hope, compassion

Craig Scott will speak at Winona Middle School next Wednesday.

Craig Scott.jpg
Columbine High School shooting survivor Craig Scott will talk Wednesday night at Winona Middle School. Contributed photo

WINONA — Most of us cannot imagine the kind of life-altering day Craig Scott experienced on April 20, 1999.

As he lay under a table in the library at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., late that morning, he watched as one of his friends was called racist names and killed right next to him. His own sister, Rachel Scott, was the first fatality of the day. He survived the horror as two gunmen – Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris – shot and killed 13 people and injured dozens others, before killing themselves in, what at the time, was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

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But if you ask Scott what is the biggest lesson he learned from the day, he'll tell you it has nothing to do with gun control, bullying or how parents raise serial killers.

"The two shooters focused on everything that’s negative in this world," Scott said. "They had a lot of good things in their lives, but they didn’t see it because they didn’t practice thankfulness and gratitude."


Scott pointed out how Sue Klebold, Dylan Klebold's mother, worked as a special education teacher at the time of the shooting. Scott described people who work with special education students as "the best people," and noted how it shows Dylan Klebold came from a home of loving parents.

In fact, he said, Sue Klebold and his own mother are now friends, despite the fact that Scott's sister died in the shooting.

"We're bombarded with so much information," Scott said, talking about the media and online world. "Teens need to take a break from tech. It’s not good on our brains."

Instead, teens need to rest, allow their brains time to form.

After Columbine, Scott said he was the center of media attention, and giving talks in high school while still in high school himself. In those days, he said, he had a "lot more dysfunction in my life," a lot more anger, and when he'd talk to groups of people, he carried the weight of their problems with him out the door at the end of the night.

"In my 20s, my identity got wrapped up in people seeing me as a Columbine survivor," he said.

Today, he shares a message of hope, a message of embracing what is positive in life. That doesn't mean ignoring bad things or pretending they don't exist. Instead, he wants teens to develop those skills in life that will make them positive individuals. That means getting to know people, because once you know someone you're less likely to judge them, more likely to have compassion.

Scott said he speaks to groups, generally teens, about four times a month and, "I’ve been to every state, most of them a dozen times."


But he works in the film industry and would love to find a way to share stories that present a more positive look at the world.

While he doesn't want to blame the makers of the movie, he said the Columbine shooters were influenced by the Oliver Stone film "Natural Born Killers." The movie, he said, explores some negative views of the world.

"Product has impact," Scott said. "Art does influence and impact people."

If you go

Where: Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona

When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 13

Who: Craig Scott, motivational speaker and survivor of the school shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999.

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