"If I would've left, I would've struggled. I needed this place."

As he has every year since the shooting, Columbine Principal Frank DeAngelis today will read the victims’ names in the school to mark the moment everything changed. This will be the last time DeAngelis reads the names as principal. He’s retiring in June.

Though he struggled with survivor’s guilt, DeAngelis says his priest told him he was spared for a reason.

“If I would’ve left, I would’ve struggled,” DeAngelis says. “I needed this place … and they allowed me to fulfill something that needed to fulfilled, and that was to build this community back up.”

In the years that followed, DeAngelis has been called upon to aid shooting survivors at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, sharing his experience and explaining how both big and little things can re-traumatize victims. At Columbine, administrators changed the fire alarm sound and stopped serving Chinese food in the cafeteria to avoid invoking the smells and sounds of that day.

“I always get asked is when do things get back to normal,” DeAngelis says. “Well, you will have to redefine what normal is.”

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