Cassie René Bernall (November 6, 1981 – April 20, 1999) was an American student and the sixth victim killed in the Columbine High School Massacre at the age of 17. Her death caused controversy for a rumor where she was asked if she believed in God and got murdered for defending her belief. She was at the library during the worst part of the massacre.
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, Cassie rebelled as a young teenager and began using drugs and alcohol, she started to have suicidal and homicidal thoughts against her own parents. After this, they decided to send her to a new school, Columbine High School. A year and a half before her death (around 1997), Cassie decided to go on a weekend church retreat and restored her faith. Cassie's father Brad said "When she came back from that retreat, she was an entirely different person. We had gotten our daughter back". She also was part of church youth programs and bible study groups.
Cassie was studying in the library when the shooting started. Like many other people that were there, she hid under the table she was sitting at as a substitute teacher Patti Nielson entered and told everyone to get down.
After murdering Steve Curnow and injuring Kacey Ruegsegger, Eric Harris came around the table where Cassie and another girl were hiding. He slapped the top of the table twice with his left hand 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, hitting Cassie Bernall in the right side of the head. She died immediately.
Controversies and trivia
Cassie as a Christian Martyr
- Some media publicized the story of Bernall being asked about her belief in God before her death. The story persisted even decades later.
- 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 Cassie'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 Cassie had been in the library but rather pointed to where Valeen Schnurr, another student that had been shot in the massacre, had been hiding.
- 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".
- 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.
- Her family wasn't informed of her death until two days after the massacre.