Battling the beast called grief is often best done together, so on the anniversary of the Arapahoe High School shooting, the south metro community showed up in force to honor Claire Davis.
“We are stronger, we are more aware, we are focused, we are kinder, we are united and, ultimately, we are successful,” Sanjay Patil, student body president, told the hundreds who gathered at Clarity Commons on the Arapahoe High campus.
On the chilly evening of Dec. 13, friends sought each other out and parents held their children close. While many tears refused to be contained, mundane conversations about holiday plans, roofers, where to go for dinner proved that life must and does go on.But it must go on with a purpose, with a vision to make things better, said those who addressed the solemn crowd.
“If you want to change the world, love the person in front of you, love the person next to you,” said Jeff Brandberg, an Arapahoe teacher who had Claire in several classes. “Love them for who they are and who they are becoming, and love yourself for who you are and who you are becoming.”
Brandberg spoke of the love that exists in the Davis family, noting that Claire once wrote that her family was the biggest influence on shaping the young woman she was becoming — until classmate Karl Pierson erased too many chapters of her life that will forever go unwritten. On Dec. 13, 2013, Pierson shot Claire, who died eight days later.
“It's been a year since any of us last talked to Claire, or have seen the twinkle in her eye and the bounce in her walk,” said her father, Michael Davis.
“We have to learn from this. We have to learn what went wrong, and we have to work together to fix it.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper said that in this often-chaotic holiday season, it was good for the community to come together to support the Arapahoe community and the Davis family.
“We are all gifts to them and to one another,” he said.
Hickenlooper asked the guests to observe the 14 illuminated balloons that students were holding on top of a hill, explaining that they represented the 14 Colorado students who have died as a result of school violence in recent history: Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend and Kyle Velasquez, Columbine High School, April 20, 1999; Emily Keyes, Platte Canyon High School, Sept. 27, 2006; and Claire.
As Hickenlooper set the first candle ablaze, he asked that its light stand for healing.
“There is light and love within each of us that we must not be afraid to share,” he said. “… We will show that our love can actually touch the sky.”
As the healing light washed through the crowd, Bob Dylan's “I'll Remember You,” sung by Thea Gilmore, stirred a wave of emotion.
“I'll remember youAt the end of the trailI had so much left to doI had so little time to fail.”
When the students released the balloons, two of them separated from the others and lingered behind, perhaps not quite ready to go gently into that good night.
“They turned into stars,” said one small girl, watching them slowly rise as she held her mother's hand.A way to helpThe Claire Davis remembrance ceremony served as a fundraiser for TLC Meals on Wheels and Denver Health's Family Crisis Center.Desiree Davis, Claire's mother, said even if people couldn't make it to the ceremony, “We hope you'll consider honoring our daughter by supporting these charities.”Those who want to share can donate at www.tlcmealsonwheels.org. TLC Meals on Wheels enriches the lives of homebound seniors and others in south-metro Denver by providing nutritious meals and services.Donations of new stuffed animals can be dropped off at the Family Crisis Center Medical Offices, 2929 W. 10th Ave. in Denver. Many of the children served by the center have been physically or sexually abused, neglected or removed from their homes to be placed in foster care. The stuffed animals left at Arapahoe High School in the days following last year's tragedy were donated to the Family Crisis Center.
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