There was a sense of culpability, he adds, because the shootings "happened on our watch."
Long had reached 30 years in the classroom when he retired – the threshold that allows him to collect 75 percent of his salary. But the milestone had little to do with this decision, he says.
"I don't know how good a job I did that last year, either," Long adds.
He knew killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. He had taught them computers when they were "wide-eyed freshmen" but later saw another side to each boy when they got busted for stealing school locker combinations. Yet when Long watched Eric and Dylan the day of the shootings, he saw something he can only characterize as evil. "That's the only way I think I can describe Eric and Dylan's actions," he says.
In the days that followed, however, he also witnessed something equally as powerful in meetings with fellow faculty members: call it compassion. "There's a certain force that the human nature can also use to deal with those situations," says Long, who still lives in the area. "I found that very powerful. Just as powerful...."
Sense of isolation dogs a student
Devon Adams was 16 the Saturday three days before the attacks. Though she was only a sophomore, she was at the senior prom, dancing to the classic '80s track, "Take My Breath Away," with Dylan Klebold. She was not his date, but they were friends – close enough that she wanted to tell him how much that friendship meant to her. She never did.
Now it is a lesson she has carried every day since. "Not only do you have to appreciate what you have, but you have to express that appreciation. If there are things that are left unsaid, it's a lot more difficult to heal."
She is 26 now – an information-systems manager for a solar-energy company in Denver and is, at times, downright perky. But any mention of April 20 can turn her mood in an instant. Driving by Platte Canyon High School – site of another Colorado school shooting – can be a jarring reminder. Yet those who know her background and try to be overly sensitive only make her feel awkward.