HONOR, RESILIENCE & TOGETHERNESS: A REFLECTION ON 25 YEARS SINCE COLUMBINE

Originally published by Frank DeAngelis on LinkedIn

Blog hero image with blog title, Safe and Sound Schools logo above the title, and a headshot of Frank DeAngelis.

Each year, as we approach Columbine’s day of remembrance, my heart swells with both immense sorrow and renewed determination. Sorrow for our beloved 13, as well as for all of the lives tragically impacted, and determination to remain steadfast in our resilience.

In 2000, at the 1-year remembrance, I called for “a time to remember, a time to hope.” Regardless of the years that have passed, this message remains the same. We must continue to remember, to hope, to heal, and we must continue the school safety advocacy work that so many of us have dedicated ourselves to.

I often refer to the continuation of these efforts as a marathon, not a sprint. They also aren’t solitary endeavors. The ability to continue thrives within the embrace of dedicated support systems, communities, and individuals. Today, let us embrace and continue together.

First Things First

Each morning when I wake, I take time to recite the names of those who were taken from us far too soon. Today, I ask that, together, we remember the 12 students and teacher who died at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999:

Cassie Rene Bernall, Steven Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Ann Fleming, Matthew Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Lee Rohrbough, William Dave Sanders, Rachel Joy Scott, Isaiah Emon Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Albert Velasquez.

Twenty-five years later, the importance of this act will never diminish as I promised to ensure their lives would not be lost in vain. In their honor, we continue to find ways to move forward, even when the path seems insurmountable, as, together, it is our responsibility to carry the torch for a brighter future.

Continued Hope and Healing

Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

For me, the values of family, faith, community, and school have always been intertwined, with “service” as a lead guiding principle that has shaped both my personal and professional journey.

When asked how people can honor the lives lost and continue the hope and healing, my answer always includes service. Whether serving through time, talent or treasure, everyone has the opportunity to honor the memory of those lost, as well as those physically and emotionally impacted on that day.

For the 20th day of remembrance in 2019, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued a proclamation forevermore declaring April 20th as a Day of Service and Recommitment in the state. Through initiatives like the Columbine Memorial Foundation and Columbine Serves, there are volunteer and service projects available for those who want to join Columbine’s Rebel Family in giving back.

Additionally, The Colorado Healing Fund (CHF) is a Colorado-based resource established by victim advocates and community leaders focused on together supporting local communities with the financial, emotional, and physical needs of victims of mass tragedies. Influenced by lessons and legacies from Colorado tragedies, including Columbine, CHF works to facilitate continued healing by identifying immediate, intermediate, and long-term needs of victims, their families, and others significantly impacted by the tragedy.

Continued School Safety Advocacy Work 

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve had the honor of joining other dedicated advocates in work to continue improving the safety of our schools. I am grateful for those who stand as beacons of hope and healing, carrying the torch for those we’ve lost and illuminating the path toward a brighter tomorrow.

When experiencing an unimaginable tragedy as a leader of a school or as a parent of a student lost, you become a member of a club you don’t want to belong to. As mentioned earlier, the ability to continue thrives in the embrace of dedicated support systems, communities, and individuals. I’ve been proud to witness the contributions of organizations like the NASSP Principal Recovery Network (PRN), Safe and Sound Schools, and so many others whose work ensures that students and school communities are both supported and protected every day.

Furthermore, the Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation’s Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety has, to-date, trained more than 170,000 people, including more than 350 federal, state, and local agencies, in active shooter situations. This wide-spread impact stands as a testament to our commitment to preventing future tragedies. 

While there is still so much work to be done, I am proud of everything we’ve accomplished together to make certain the lives of our beloved 13 were not lost in vain.

Let Us Continue Together 

With sorrow leading us into renewed determination, let us continue our tireless efforts to prevent school violence and to support those affected by it. Above all, let us remember the importance of honor, resilience, and finding strength in togetherness as we strive to build a safer, more compassionate world.

With love and “Rebel Pride” always,

Frank DeAngelis

Former Principal, Columbine High School