Frank DeAngelis stuck it out.
DeAngelis was principal of Columbine High School the day of the tragedy in 1999. He stayed in that role until 2014.
“When I retired, I’d been here through the graduation of all the kids who were in elementary school during the tragedy,” DeAngelis said.
Today, DeAngelis is a consultant for Jefferson County Public Schools and a national speaker on recovering from tragedy. He’s thankful his work puts him back in touch with young people.
“I was a teacher, coach and principal for 35 years,” he said. “I missed the kids.”
DeAngelis rejects the accusation that swirled in the aftermath of the attack that Columbine’s culture pushed the killers to violence.
“Was there bullying? Yes,” he said.
But DeAngelis was one of a select few who viewed the “basement tapes,” lengthy video diaries made by the killers, before they were destroyed.
“In those tapes, they don’t talk about bullying. They talk about feeling godlike. Agents of natural selection. People who will be remembered forever.”
Instead, DeAngelis focuses his heart on the 13 victims killed in 1999.
“Every morning, I wake up and recite their names,” he said. “I’ll do that until the day I die.”
After 20 years, DeAngelis said, he hopes Columbine serves as a lesson that communities can heal after mass trauma.
“We’ll always remember that horrific day, but Columbine represents hope,” he said. “It’s not an easy road. There was a phrase that became popular after the tragedy: 'We Are Columbine.' And it’s true — we became one.”
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