April 20, 1999, started like so many other days for the Bernall family of Littleton, Colo. It ended as the day they'll never forget.
"Bye, Cass. I love you," Misty Bernall said to Cassie, 17, as her only daughter left for school at nearby Columbine High School.
"Love you too, Mom!"
With those final words, Cassie left home and never returned. She died later that day, along with 13 other students and one teacher in the mass shootings at Columbine.
Cassie is remembered as the first Columbine student who said "Yes," she believed in God, before being shot. Misty Bernall's 1999 best-seller, "She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall" (Plough), told how her daughter dabbled in drugs and witchcraft before coming to Christ in 1997. Cassie's faith is said to have challenged countless teenagers with the reality of Christ.
Since that Tuesday one year ago, Misty and her husband, Brad, and their young son, Chris, gradually and painfully have grown in an assurance that Cassie's moment was foreordained by God.
A few days after the shootings, Michael W. Smith performed at the Columbine memorial service in Littleton. The somber event was staged in a mall parking lot behind a movie-theater complex where special guests met in the theaters with parents and teens. Smith and Amy Grant hosted one theater, where they met the Bernalls.
The peace Smith witnessed in Misty's eyes when they met, mixed with the emotion of the day, fused at once in Smith, and he collapsed into tears. Misty, who didn't cry, held him up.
"She's the one who held me and said, 'It's OK, it's OK,'" Smith says. "I just kept saying, 'I'm so sorry for crying.'"
It was the moment that crystalized Smith's inspiration to write a song for Cassie, which he later named "This Is Your Time." Returning to Nashville, Smith worked during the spring and summer on his new album by the same title, which was released in November.
"And [Misty] turns to me and says, 'I love it. I absolutely love it.'" The Bernalls later granted Smith permission to add the song to his record.
Misty told Charisma that she wept when she heard Smith's song because, in part, she knew it somehow captured the way she and her husband had come to feel about Cassie's death. She explains that months before, within a day or two after Cassie died, she was alone in her bedroom in Littleton when God unexpectedly spoke to her about what had happened to Cassie.
"He told me that He had been grooming Cassie all along for something like this," she explains. "He said that it had to be big, or no one would listen. Brad and I have clung to that word many, many times since, and we really believe it was Cassie's time."
During the time Smith was composing the song, he says God awakened him one night with the clear impression to add bagpipes to the end of the song. When he later called to tell Misty of the addition, he heard her gasp. The bagpipe, he learned, was Cassie's favorite instrument.
"Cassie used to listen with her dad to a group who played bagpipes in the park behind our house," Misty said. "At the [Columbine] memorial service, a huge bagpipe band played. I was in awe because I remembered what God had told me in the bedroom, and I knew He allowed the bagpipes to remind us He was near."
Though the Bernalls' grieving goes on, Misty says that whenever she hears Michael's song, "It reminds me of God's control and God's providence in our life...that this was Cassie's time."