Under a tree, one day when I was in the third grade, my best friend, Susan whispered to me that she knew that she would die young. We were playing jacks during recess and talking about matters that concerned third graders. Apparently, life and death was an important topic to us.

I know it was to me. I was a relatively happy child, born first in a two parent family with two brothers and a sister. But I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I thought I would never wake up. Being a newspaper reader from the time I learned to read I had read a letter in Ann Landers about a child who had died in her sleep. I had told my parents when I was very young that I would die young. I knew about the comings and goings of life from the time I was very young when my great grandfather died. Although I was a talkative child I tended to keep my fears to myself so they had a tendency to grow to enormous proportions.

So when Susan confessed to me under the tree that she knew her life would end early, I understood what she meant and her secret seemed to connect us. We talked about our belief in God and eternity. We were already fast friends but sharing a secret like that was a serious burden we both agreed to keep. I did keep it.

Susan was the daughter of an anesthesiologist and a stay-at-home Mom. (all of our Moms stayed at home back then) She had a younger brother, Buzzy and two older sisters, Nancy and Linda. Susan and I spent time together playing, talking, singing and dreaming.

We had sleepovers at each others’ house. The first time I spent the night at Susan’s house she was so excited at having company that she was sick to her stomach. I remember her jolly, Dad, looking after her and making pancakes afterwards. I had never had breakfast for supper.

One day we talked about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I told Susan I wanted to win the Miss America competition. On the weekend when I spent the night at Susan’s house, her older sister, Nancy was home and they had made me a crown of aluminum foil. Nancy brushed my hair into curls and the sisters took me out on the balcony of their home and crowned me “Miss America.”

Susan never told me what she wanted to be when she grew up but she and her sister had given me something very special when they acknowledged my wish on that balcony.

Susan was a very sensitive, caring young girl. She had chestnut brown hair she wore in braids freckles, and twinkly brown eyes. Susan was only at my school during our third grade year and then her family moved. She had to attend another elementary school in our city but we kept in touch with each other. I remember being invited to a big slumber party at Susan’s house and I discovered that although she had loads of friends, I was still her favorite and while the other girls slept all over the house, Susan and I and her little brother, Buzzy slept in her room.

It never mattered to Susan that her father was a doctor and my Dad was not. The differences in our family wealth mattered not at all to us.

By the time we were in the seventh grade Susan and I discovered that we were in the same junior high school. We only had one class together: P.E. One of Susan’s friends was a snob and one day she made fun of me. Susan came to my defense. She was always like that.

The summer before our tenth grade year Susan and her sister, Nancy were killed in a plane crash in Omaha, Nebraska. They had flown there to visit their older, newly married, sister, Linda.

Yesterday I was privileged to attend a presentation by Craig Scott, brother of Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the Columbine killers.

I remember that day, April 20th, 1998 when my family and I watched in shock as the horrible events took place at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

Rachel’s family discovered her last journal in the backpack she was carrying when she was murdered. (after it was released by the police) From her writings, it is obvious that Rachel Scott had a deep understanding of life and the kindness and compassion that make it worth living. In the last entry about an hour before Rachel was killed she drew an illustration of a rose watered with thirteen tears. She had revealed earlier to her family that she knew she was going to die young.

In an essay Rachel wrote she described her theory that if just one person does an act of kindness it will cause a chain reaction.

In Rachel’s own words, I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same. - Rachel Scott

As her brother, Craig Scott described his sister and her many acts of kindness the memory of my friend, Susan became vivid. Susan was a dark eyed beauty like Rachel and lived out her brief life by caring for others.

Rachel’s Challenge is a program founded by her family that carries her message of kindness and compassion to students, teachers and school administrators all over the U.S.

It might seem obvious that kindness and compassion are what the world needs but Rachel’s Challenge works to inspire students to change the climate and culture of their school. With so many negative cultural influences on students today a simple challenge to be kind to one another might seem a weak response but having seen the presentation by Craig Scott, the brother of Rachel I have no doubt that it will have an impact.

Susan, my friend, her sister, Nancy and Rachel Scott did die very young but their legacies in this world are sweet and inspiring. I was blessed to have had such a friend. Hatred killed Rachel, the Braniff airline plane that took Susan and Nancy’s lives went down in a bad storm.

Susan’s family moved away some years later. Her father, Dr. Chamblin never seemed to get over his daughters’ deaths. I know life goes on but in the deepest part of memory of precious days past Susan will always be remembered.