Nightly News   |  April 20, 2014

Columbine Principal to Retire 15 Years After Shooting

Frank DeAngelis vowed to stay at the school until every student in his district at the time of the shooting graduated. That time is now.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it was on this date in 1999 that two student gunmen opened fire at colorado's columbine high school . today 15 years later some of the families visited the memorial crosses erected in honor of the dead at the chapel hill memorial gardens in the town of littleton. this is an especially bittersweet anniversary for one survivor. the school's principal who protected many of the kids that day and has stood by them ever since.

>> all right, class of 2017 . smile! it's your first day in high school .

>> reporter: principal frank de angeles is making good on a promise he made 15 years ago. following the tragedy at columbine high school , he vowed to stay on until every student in his district had graduated. after a 35-year career that began as a teacher, principal de angeles is retiring this year.

>> these are all the students that i either taught or i was their principal. they're all teachers here at columbine now.

>> reporter: his office is a museum of memories.

>> although there are things now that represent sar rorrow, but it also represents strength. on some of those days i said i can't do anymore, i looked at my wall at '99.

>> it's this club no one wants to be a part of. but frank and i, we're family members now.

>> reporter: do you remember the first time sam came back after graduating?

>> i do. he was sitting in a chair and all of a sudden i looked up and tears are starting to come down his eyes and i start crying. even though, you know, sam is 30-plus, they're still my kids. and took me back to that day when they were teenagers and i just wanted to wipe away that hurt.

>> reporter: the memories are still painfully vivid. in the hallway, principal de angeles shows us where he saw the gunman and how he was able to usher a group of students to safety.

>> they said what's going on mr. d, what's going on? i said we've got to go quickly. the amazing thing is on that day -- i have a set of keys here. i mean, there's 30 keys. and i reached in my pocket and pulled out the one key that opened all the doors and it got us in there quickly.

>> reporter: even now he says he sometimes feels survivor's guilt but has always had the support of a strong community.

>> you're going to hear family and family and family. that's what columbine is all about.