Columbine Principal Says 'Be Flexible'

Deer Creek Middle School Opens Doors Friday

The principal at Columbine High says Friday's open house is the right way to slowly reintegrate a school and its community after an on-campus shooting.

"Teachers are anxious. They're not sure what to expect. Even though they're emotions right now may be all right, all of a sudden they see their students for the first time, it can cause some strong emotions," Frank DeAngelis said.

He'll deliver a big, red, hand-painted heart to Deer Creek staff Friday as they host students and their parents back in to the building for the first time since Tuesday's shooting left two eighth-graders with gunshot wounds.

Monday, instruction will resume.

This April 20 will mark 11 years since Frank DeAngelis faced the unimaginable: two of his own students intended to kill everyone at Columbine High.

Instead 12 students and one teacher lost their lives.

But the school did manage to come back together and move forward.

DeAngelis said one lesson he carries with him is to remember to account for the person you see in the mirror.

"If you can't help yourself, you can't help others," DeAngelis said, noting he got an e-mail Thursday from a teacher who'd been at Columbine in 1999 and was feeling anxiety over the Deer Creek shooting. "She said, 'God, I thought I was the only one until you talked to me and said you were feeling the same thing.' And so I think that's so important."

DeAngelis said he could tell the emotions getting to him this week, as he reached out to help fellow Jefferson County Schools staffers, but also had to re-live his own flash points.

"There's times I hear a balloon pop...and this is 11 years out...there's times I hear a balloon pop, I'll dive on the ground because of the experience that I had that day when I walked out of my office and the gunman was firing," DeAngelis said. "Unfortunately I can't take away the hurt that you're feeling right now. But the one thing that I can guarantee you is that you're not in this alone and I will walk every step of this journey with you."

Ironically, the Colorado Safe Schools Regional Training Conference will meet for the second and final day Friday in Adams County.

One of the speakers will be a man who also knows - firsthand - what it means to have a child shot at school.

On Sept. 27, 2006, his daughter Emily Keyes was the lone fatality at Platte Canyon High in Park County.

"Deer Creek was tough," said John-Michael Keyes, now the program director for the I Love You Guys Foundation. "Outsiders are tough, but outsiders are rare."

Keyes said he'll encourage law enforcement and school districts to drop the code-speak and get together to find common, basic language even children will understand and follow in the event of another campus crisis.

Typically he starts his speeches dispelling the notion that such a thing "couldn't happen here."

"Not here's probably a conversation that's a little more close to home again," Keyes said.