Updated: Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013, 10:59 PM EST
Published : Wednesday, 27 Feb 2013, 8:55 PM EST
DANBURY, Conn. (WTNH) -- The principal of Columbine High School knows a lot about helping a community recover from a terrible tragedy and is talking to people about the Newtown shooting Wednesday night. He is set to speak at a community forum focusing on the healing process.
The purpose of the symposium is to get ideas from other communities that have dealt with mass shootings or other mass tragedies. Organizers are calling this event "Recovery and Resilience after the Sandy Hook Tragedy."
"All I could think about, like it happened yesterday, is what was it going to be like to be shot," said Frank Deangelis.
Deangelis is the principal of Columbine High School. He was there the day of the shooting in April 1999.
"Things happen for a reason that I can't explain and I'm not trying to tell you about faith, there's a way to go, but it's what worked for me. On that particular day, it was not my day to die," said Deangelis.
He spoke at a community forum at Western Connecticut State University, organized by the United Way of Western Connecticut. In the wake of the December 14 school shooting, the United Way of Western Connecticut helped set up "The Sandy Hook School Support Fund." The organization has also worked to connect Newtown residents with resources like counselors and anything else they may need to help move forward from the tragedy.
"This has no political agenda first of all so there's no discussions that are polarizing. It's really just learning lessons from communities who have experienced trama and tragedy and hearing a sense of hope, that yes, we're going to move forward and we're going to do that together as a community and others have done it before us and they can offer us lessons," said Kim Morgan, CEO of United Way of Western CT.
The panel included those who survived tragedy or helped in the aftermath. Chaplain Greg Young responded to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting last summer. Mary Fetchet is the founder of the advocacy group "Voice of September 11th." Her son died in one of the towers.
"I think you're going to find your community going through some of the same advocacy roles, certainly on the issues of gun reforms, school safety and addressing the mental health issues in our communities," said Fetchet.
As they move forward as advocates or every day people, the message to Newtown is you are not alone.
"The one thing that I can tell you as you continue this road of recovery, it's a marathon and not a sprint. That is so important and I gotta tell you, a day does not go by that I don't think about the 13 beloved children that I lost and all that were injured and all of the people that were deeply impacted but during that time, just like there are so many people here to support you. I had a lot of support. My family, teachers, the nation," said Deangelis.
On Thursday former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is expected at a symposium that is a private event for educators and first responders.