Columbine Principal Reflects On Past 10 Years

DeAngelis: ‘This Place Provides Strength For Me’

Following the shootings at Columbine High School, principal Frank DeAngelis promised the freshman class he’d see them through their graduation.

Ten years later, he’s still there.

"People said, ‘I'm amazed you're still there, that you have the strength,’ and I said, ‘this place provides strength for me,’ " DeAngelis told 7NEWS reporter Lane Lyon in a one-on-one interview.

DeAngelis said strength has come from all over the country -- and has helped columbine survive.

"What I saw over the past ten years is a community come together; we're stronger," he said.

As “Mr. D,” as he’s known by students, strolled down the main hallway, he reflected on the tragic event nearly ten years ago. The day 13 people died when two students opened fire in the school.

"I remember it very vividly,” he said, while walking down the hall.

DeAngelis said he was in his office when the shootings began.

"I came right by this trophy case and all of a sudden I'm thinking, ‘I'm going to die,’ " he explained.

With shots being fired, he saw one of the gunmen, and heard glass breaking all around him.

“Did you even know where you were going?” Lyon asked.

“No,” he said, “Something just kicked in."

He said he remembers seeing a group of girls trapped in the cross fire. He ran with them toward a room -- that was locked.

"I have 35 keys, and this is the thing that was so amazing, the one key that opened every door is the key I pulled out," DeAngelies said.

There have been changes since the tragic day. DeAngelis allowed a rare opportunity to photograph the new cafeteria and library – where most of the victims encountered the gunmen. Both areas are now full of light and rich with calming colors.

"It has aspen trees and blue skies and that's what Columbine High School is all about, a ray of sunshine looking down,” DeAngelis said.

DeAngelis says of 145 teachers and staff, 33 are still at the school.

He is pretty open to about the personal toll the shootings had on his life. His marriage of 17 years fell apart, and doctors warned him of raised blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

DeAngelis said he is healthier and remains very positive.

He said he believes schools everywhere are safer ten years later. And while there have been other school shootings, he points to the many cases where violence hasn't happened because more people are aware.

"(Cases) where students are reporting things about their friends or something that may not have been right."

DeAngelis, like so many, know that the word "columbine" will forever be associated with the tragic shootings.

But he hopes people will also think of the 13 victims -- and the lessons they've left behind.

"Hopefully that'll be inspiration for others to know it doesn't matter how much tragedy enters your life, there's hope for a brighter future," he said.

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