Columbine 20: Diary entry from victim guides family 2 decades later

LITTLETON, Colo. -- This weekend, hundreds will gather to mark 20 years since the Columbine High School tragedy.

The remembrance ceremony is set for Saturday evening at the memorial in Clement Park. Those who visit there will see some poignant words etched in stone from two girls killed at the school on April 20, 1999.

On Lauren Townsend's memorial, there is a vivid description from the teen's diary of what heaven would look like. It seems heaven was on Lauren's mind in the weeks before she died.

"Sometime between Christmas and April 20 (1999), she had written about a four- or five-page will. And the will basically said, 'I feel like something's going to happen, you just never know, so I've got to write these thoughts down,'" said Dawn Anna Beck, Lauren's mother.

The diary entry was specific.

"'This is what I want to see when I get to heaven, this is who I want to meet, these are questions I'm going to ask.' They were burning questions," Beck said.

"And she said, 'You know, when I leave, I don't want you to mourn. You can mourn for a little bit, but then I want you to start laughing and be happy because if you mourn, I'm going to come back and haunt you,'" Beck said, describing the diary entry.

"So reading her diary was kind of like, I feel like I'm breaking her privacy, but at the same time, you just want to suck up every piece of her. I want to know everything. I don't want to leave anything unturned," Beck told FOX31.

Maybe it's just coincidence, but it turns out Townsend wasn't alone in her thoughts among Columbine victims leading up to the tragedy.

"And I know Dawn, and talking with other moms and other families, had gotten some of the same feelings from their kids, where they kind of had this feeling that something huge was going to happen, and they were proud to be part of making a difference," said Bruce Beck, Townsend's stepfather.

Just ask Rachel Scott's father.

"Honestly, a couple years before the tragedy, I told my wife, 'I feel like something is coming and I feel like there's something that we're supposed to be doing.'  And of course, I would've never wanted to know what it was or wanted it to be that, but I do believe sometimes we have premonitions -- as Rachel did in a lot of her writings -- of things yet to come," said Darrell Scott. These days, he helps run Rachel's Challenge, a non-profit focused on ending school bullying.

"Just passing by."

"Not staying long."

Those are Rachel's own words, etched on her memorial in Clement Park, along with the words she spoke to a teacher on the day she died at Columbine: "I'm going to have an impact on the world."

She has. They all have. And hopefully, their own words will have a lasting impact too.

"I'm at peace with where Lauren is. I just am not at peace with how she got there. And that's what we need to keep fighting, is to stop this madness," Dawn Anna Beck said.

These days, to honor Townsend's legacy, her parents established the Lauren Townsend Memorial Wildlife Fund to honor her love for learning and love of animals. The fund gives grants to non-profits focused on animal welfare.

To mark the 20th remembrance of the Columbine tragedy, we're telling the stories of victims and survivors in a unique way.  We're not showing images of the school from April 20, 1999.  We're not airing 911 calls from that day, and we're not showing the names or pictures of the killers.

Saturday, April 20, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the shooting - and we have special programming on FOX31 and Channel 2.

At 5:30 pm and 9:30 pm on FOX31, and at 9:30 pm on Channel 2, join us for "Columbine 20: Heartbreak to Hope," a commercial-free half-hour special anchored by Jeremy Hubbard highlighting Columbine victims and survivors. 

At 8:00 pm on Channel 2, we're airing the broadcast premiere of "13 Families: Life After Columbine," a documentary featuring each of the families most closely affected by the Columbine tragedy.  The documentary will air commercial-free.

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