TODAY   |  April 20, 2014

Former Columbine student meets other school shooting survivors

Sam Granillo, 32, was a junior at Columbine High School during the deadly shooting spree 15 years ago. His experience left him scarred, and to heal, he traveled around the country meeting other school shooting survivors.

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

>>> today is the 15th anniversary of the columbine high school shooting . it was a day marked with sadness understandably for the survivors and families who lost loved ones.

>> to this day many of them still struggle to come to terms with that awful violence. that's why one man who was a high school junior at the time decided to confront his fears and anxiety by traveling across the country to meet survivors of other school shootings . this is how sam grinio, a 32-year-old film maker, feels when the month of april rolls around and the columbine anniversary approaches.

>> it's a time when everything starts coming to life and really all i can think about is death.

>> reporter: but this year, he's decided to do something about his yearly anxiety. a cross country trip to meet the survivors of other school shootings in the locations where their misfortune took place.

>> that's a scary journey. and can open up a lot of pain.

>> yeah. because i didn't know what it would be like to completely submerge myself in just the whole idea of school shootings . i'm driving into jonesboro, arkansas, right thousanow. there was a middle school shooting here in 1998 which was a year before columbine. this is the first time i've ever stepped foot on the grounds of the location of another school shooting .

>> reporter: sam is meeting two teachers. debbie spencer, who saw several of her students die that tragic day. and lynnette bedford, who was shot and barely survived.

>> i'm surprised they didn't kill more than what they did. because, i mean, that was just --

>> reporter: healing, they tell sam , took a long time. physically and emotionally.

>> what are some of the greatest tools that help you get through any of these hard moments?

>> i just said, it's okay. that's the one thing i think i learned the most. whatever you're feeling is normal. that was the best piece of advice i ever received.

>> reporter: sam and the teachers talk for hours. and somewhere during the conversation, sam starts getting this feeling. that somehow he doesn't belong here.

>> sometimes i feel like i didn't go through enough to be able to talk to you.

>> yes, you did. you did. i don't care if you were shot or not. you were injured. you are a victim. i don't think you should ever let anybody minimize that. that is -- you know, you suffered.

>> well, thank you for that.

>> reporter: is that part of what you were looking for, some sense of validation that what you're going through, what this is really all about is entirely real?

>> yeah. debbie and lynnette, they really show med me that we're all in this together. that part was incredible.

>> sam has a pretty harrowing story of where he was in columbine and what he faced that day which you'll hear in the story. interesting, a lot of the shootings, a lot of the places he went to, they happen in the spring. virginia tech anniversary was last week. red lake , minnesota, the shooting there in 2005 . that was in march. of course, today is the anniversary of columbine. people who've gone through these, they face, you know, spring is this time of awakening and flowers and trees. but they get this sense of dread when the anniversary comes along. you can see more of sam 's journey tonight on "dateline" at 8:00/7:00 central right here on nbc.