Focus on Claire Davis Writes New Ending to Familiar Mass-shooting Tale

December 25, 2013
Claire Esther Davis missed Christmas by four days, but she left behind a gift. She showed that an attention-seeking killer’s bid for everlasting notoriety can be foiled by a community that chooses instead to focus on a beloved teenage girl

Her name was Claire Esther Davis, she was 17, and it felt as if all of Colorado mourned when she died last week

CENTENNIAL—Her name was Claire Esther Davis, she was 17, and it felt as if all of Colorado mourned when she died Dec. 21.

She was the only victim of the Arapahoe High School shooting, fired upon at point-blank range as she sat in the hallway with a friend. She hung on for eight days, and it’s doubtful that she ever regained consciousness.

Even so, she did something extraordinary before she died. She became better known than the gunman who shot her.

She had a loving family and lots of friends, the kind of friends who would set up a memorial along the school fence and hold small but meaningful events there for her nearly every day. Her classmates lit candles and released balloons, and as a result, drew television cameras and reporters.

For eight days, there were stories about the life of Claire Davis. There were stories about how she loved horses and rode equestrian. There were updates on her condition. There were photos of a pretty girl with long chestnut hair and a squinty smile, looking just slightly embarrassed about being the center of a photographer’s attention.

You wonder what she would have thought about the spotlight she received during those eight days. Because her friends didn’t stop at the memorial: They posted a hashtag on Twitter, #prayforclaire, that received hundreds if not thousands of hits from supporters across the globe.

Her friends knew that her favorite group was One Direction, and a movement began on social media to bring the British boy band to Colorado. The #get1Dforclaire hashtag became so popular that, lo and behold, the band members sent her a video last week wishing her well.

By this time, those rooting for Claire Davis extended far beyond her immediate circle of friends and family. You knew she had become a phenomenon when people well outside One Direction’s fan demographic, like Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, were posting to #get1Dforclaire.

Everyone from Gov. John Hickenlooper to local television personalities to sports figures to high schoolers was pulling for her, willing her to recover, hoping that maybe one more #prayforclaire or one more candle lit in her honor would be enough to open her eyes and bring her back into the world.

One early news report said she had been adopted, and whether or not that was accurate, there was no doubt it was true. By the time she slipped away, on the darkest day of the year, as snow fell softly outside Littleton Adventist Hospital, Claire Davis had been adopted by millions of well-wishers in Colorado and beyond.

As Coloradans know perhaps better than anyone, this was not the usual script for a mass shooting. The scenario is that a deranged gunman enters a school or theater and fires on the crowd, killing and injuring multiple innocent bystanders.

The gunman lives or dies, but either way, he gains instant celebrity. In doing so, he provides grim inspiration for disturbed young men who see the mass shooting as their ticket to a twisted sort of infamy.

The Columbine killers appeared on the cover of Time magazine–twice. The Aurora theater shooter’s identity resurfaces every time he appears in court. Everyone aches for the victims, but their names are so many, their stories so easily lost in the mayhem, that they ultimately become supporting players in their own tragedies.

That’s not what happened at Arapahoe High School. This time, the deputy sheriff assigned to the school figured out where the shooter was and ran toward him, shouting for people to get back and letting the gunman know he was coming.

This time, the shooter killed himself before he could fire on more than one victim. This time, there was only one name to remember, that of Claire Davis.

This time, the antagonist was eclipsed by the protagonist. And next time, when a young man decides in a fit of murderous rage to open up on a school, you hope that he thinks not of Columbine but of Arapahoe. You hope he recalls a 17-year-old girl with long chestnut hair, a girl who rode horses, a girl who had a favorite band, a girl with friends and family who loved her.

And you hope that the young man’s eyes begin to sting as he remembers the name of Claire Davis, and that he takes a deep breath and swallows hard, and that the moment passes.

Claire Esther Davis missed Christmas by four days, but she left behind a gift. She showed that an attention-seeking killer’s bid for everlasting notoriety can be foiled by a community that chooses instead to focus on a beloved teenage girl. And she did it without ever opening her eyes.

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51 Responses to Focus on Claire Davis Writes New Ending to Familiar Mass-shooting Tale

  1. Jason
    December 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Very moving tribute.

    • Mary Jo and Harvie
      December 27, 2013 at 10:41 am

      We have a granddaughter who is the same age as Claire and is in the same school and could have been in the same place. My husband and I are grieving with her family more than words on paper can express.

    • Suzanne
      December 28, 2013 at 10:48 am

      I understand that the National Western Stock Show here in Denver will also be honoring Claire Davis in an event honoring her horsemanship.
      This (as I understand will become an annual event) and will be called
      (something to the effect) The Claire Davis Hunter Jumper event/competition. I heard this on NPR after her passing was announced.
      Kudos to Claire’s joie de vivre!

      • Nancy Larson
        December 29, 2013 at 4:56 pm

        My God-daughter is a hunter jumper and one of Claire’s best buds. This makes me so happy to hear and that will indeed be an especially significant tribute.

  2. Sydney
    December 26, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Very beautiful and well written. Lovely.

  3. Elise
    December 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

    I go to Arapahoe High School. I’ve been reading all the stories and watching all the videos. This by far is the best, most moving, and most true article of what happened and what we are doing, coming from someone who was there that day. This is an amazing article, I plan on sharing this with everyone. Thank you Valerie for writing this.

  4. Amy
    December 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Thank you for writing this. It is perfect and puts the spotlight on who it should be.

  5. Gary Shockley
    December 27, 2013 at 10:37 am

    You are right to honor this beautiful young girl who touched so many lives in ways she couldn’t comprehend. Thank you. However, there were other victims of the shooting that day. That is the family of Karl Pierson. I was part of the service of remembrance for him and yes while he should gain no positive notariety for his actions I couldn’t help but feel heart broken for his parents and younger sister. I would hate for them to read your article because it inadvertently ignores the pain and hardship they too endure right now. Mental illness masks itself in many forms. Our society has yet to take this seriously and tends to implicate the families of those who commit such horrible acts as somehow complicite in their actions. To refuse to name Karl or mention his family’s pain is sad. Thanks.

    • JoAnn S.
      December 27, 2013 at 11:59 am

      So true Gary. My mama heart aches for his parents, as they are grieving the loss of their child along with dealing with the aftermath of his actions. His actions do not diminish the pain of losing their child, but in fact compound and complicate things beyond what any of us could imagine.

    • Charity C
      December 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      I was shocked to read this comment after a very moving tribute to this beautiful innocent soul. If he had not taken his own life, would you feel the same? Do we mourn the actions of all those currently in prison who attack and destroy others? This article was a tribute to Claire, that’s all. Not an informing news alert that needed to include the details you suggest. I agree that society needs to take mental illness seriously, but this starts in the home, with the parents. What a shame and disheartening moment to review all of the positive uplifting comments to this article and have to see this one in the mix.

      • December 28, 2013 at 4:00 am

        This was about Clair! Well done. Thank you!
        I am sad for the shooter’s family, but this was about Clair!

    • Bonnie
      December 28, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      My thoughts exactly, Gary Shockley. Thank you for mentioning this other perspective.

    • Prudence Benjamin
      December 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      I am glad that you wrote so well about the grief of the young man’s family. There are always more victims than we count. I would go so far as to say that the young man himself is a victim of his own mental illness and a violent culture. I was a victim of violent crime and I could not stop asking how someone could try to kill me. I read about violence, and one book written by a prison psychiatrist spoke about the perpetrator being a victim of rejection and shame, and how I lead to the mentally ill state that made them able to kill people. It is not a person who feels good about anything that goes out and shoots up a school. He has some derangement of thinking and feeing that has overtaken all he does. Some people ponder if mental health medications themselves may have some part in creating the states of mind that make a person able to kill. Some blame violent video games and movies, which portray violence without real consequences…..that make a person hyped up to do violence. That view has some scientific fact to back it up. I know how hard it is to get a mentally ill person the help that they need in this country. There are practically no long term treatment centers for the mentally ill, and once a person says they are not planning violence to themselves or others they walk out of an evaluation without having to get help. Someone has to be held accountable for all this lack of treatment. An individuals rights are important, and they should be protected, but we as a society prevent a person getting treatment for their mental illness. When a person is mentally ill, their judgment is off. Their perception is distorted. The shortage of hospital beds, quality treatment for the mentally ill, and the lack of continuity of care keeps people suffering without or with seriously disjointed, mismanaged mental health care when they need it most, and look where it leaves us…….all of us are victims. We are not safe. Funds have been cut to mental health services and we can expect more violence an suicides and not less. I think in these times, volunteering has to step up and help educate people how to advocate for better mental health care.

      • Debbie
        December 30, 2013 at 8:56 pm

        Prudence, it is quite generous of you to admit to your feelings of sadness for the young shooter and his family. I’ve heard very little about this young man’s life and family but understand that he came from a caring, Christian home. This young man’s parents are struggling with the grief of loosing a child and carrying the guilt of “What could they have done better? How could they have seen this coming in time to stop it?” Clair’s family deserves every bit of sympathy they receive. Clair was about as innocent as a victim can be. But what has become lost in all this is the poor family that has no idea on a way to put this together in their own minds and no clue as to how to go on. These family members should also be in our prayers

  6. December 27, 2013 at 10:44 am

    A VERY wonderful change, in light of tragic, horrible circumstances. There is a campaign supporting this, as well:

    • Conni
      December 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

      Nicely done.

  7. December 27, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Beautifully written! There is also the equestrian side of her story as well. #ride4claire. Memorial Celebration of Claire’s life is 01/01 1:00 at the National Western Stock Show.

  8. Pat
    December 27, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for writing and sharing this tribute. Very well done.

  9. Katie Miller
    December 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

    What a beautiful tribute to Claire Davis. She & her family & friends,made a difference and left footprints on our hearts. May Claire now rest in peace in the arms of our Lord, and may her family & friends receive much needed love, hope & discernment to move forward. God Bless them all.

  10. Susan
    December 27, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Thank you for this article. I was just mourning the Davis’s loss of Claire this morning because as it stands right now, the bottom line in this complex incident is that a family lost its wonderful, innocent daughter. It could have happened to any Arapahoe High family.

    I do disagree with Gary. Writers are not under any obligation to mention a killer’s name. There are plenty of writers who write only about killers and never about victims.

    He is right in citing mental illness as a contributing factor as studies of school shooters have found serious mental illness in every incident. The shooter may be found criminally insane and therefore innocent or not. The family may have been made aware of the shooter’s problems by the school administration and may have sought appropriate evaluation and therapy or not. Maybe someone dropped the ball on the mental health issues or maybe someone didn’t. Certainly, we as a society could do a much better job raising awareness of mental health issues. The community will not have answers for another year and it has appropriately and maturely suspended judgement of both the shooter and the shooter’s family and I applaud the community for that. I did attend the shooter’s funeral and I do agree that the family and the shooter have all paid a very large price for something that might have been prevented.

  11. jeanette sander
    December 27, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Beautifully written, thank you for honoring Claire and her family in this way. I see Gary’s point of view and also grieve for the shooter’s family, they are also victims. BUT, their son stole a daughter from another family and innocence from thousands (if not more) of kids. This was the 28th ‘incident’ of a school shooting since Sandy Hook, and something has to change. If it’s the Claire Factor that makes kids think twice before opening fire on their classmates, then that’s a gift the Arapahoe Shooter gave us.

  12. Justin
    December 27, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I agree that the press did a much better job not glorifying the individual who does this sort of thing and I agree with the comments about there being more victims than just the obvious. However, I believe your story would have been complete without your personal profiling opinion of the gender and thought processes of future murderers. “In doing so, he provides grim inspiration for disturbed young men who see the mass shooting as their ticket to a twisted sort of infamy.” Unless you have a resume resembling someone like Dr. Park Dietz, I don’t think anyone knows what anyone is truly up to in their minds. “women commit the majority of child homicides in the United States, a greater share of physical child abuse, an equal rate of sibling violence and assaults on the elderly, about a quarter of child sexual abuse, an overwhelming share of the killing of newborns, and a fair preponderance of spousal assaults.” -Patricia Pearson (When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get Away with Murder)

    • Toni
      December 29, 2013 at 7:11 am

      Anyone who knows anything about history knows that women can be more cruel than the worst man. But, in defense of the passage in the article you refer to, to date out of all school shootings only three shooters are female. Gender bias, especially in the written word, is dangerous, but we need to stick to the facts, so we as a culture, can help these tortured young people before they explode. Part of that is not glorifying their deeds and another is facing facts….however politically incorrect they might be. “Copy cat crimes” is not just a label, but a fact and teens are particularly susceptible to it. The more notoriety, the more to copy. Simple fact. I say we focus on the victims in the media and the shooters (usually a different form of victim) within the Mental Health community. Through the information they collect and pass on to us as a nation, we have a better chance of dealing with the potential shooters before things escalate into another tragedy. IMHO arguing semantics and wordage won’t get the job done. Facing facts will. (loved Patricia Pearson’s book!)

  13. Jan
    December 27, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Beautiful tribute! Hopefully this approach can nurture feelings and reach the hearts of the troubled, angry, vengeful shooters, to offset and minimize the violence of TV and games that depersonalize killing another human being.

  14. Debra
    December 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Such a tragedy to lose such a beautiful girl. I thank God though, that the armed policeman got in the way of any more innocents being hurt! it is a sad reality of our time. Something different needs to be done.

  15. December 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    This was a beautiful tribute to Claire. Changing our perception is key to stopping this violence. Thank you.

  16. December 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    Still sobbing. Such a beautifully written tribute, a comfort during this heartbreaking, soul-searching event for our community. Thank you.

  17. Laurel Conley
    December 27, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I graduated from Arapahoe High School in 2012 and this tragedy has weighed heavy on my heart. Arapahoe was and still is one of the best schools full of tradition and love. What happened that day only made us stronger and I give Claire Davis all the credit for showing the world the support warriors have for each other. She is hero and will be missed so much. I loved this article because it hit every crucial part of how different this incident was compared to the past shootings. As I watched the news after the Aurora shooting and Sandy Hook I wondered why the media emphasized the shooters so much, and was glad to see a different twist to this story. We live in such a dark world where things like this can’t be avoided, but how we react to them can make all the difference for the future. The former principle of Arapahoe would always close out his speeches with, “warriors always take care of one another.” We have all become warriors against everyday challenges, so remember to always take care of one another.

  18. Brandon
    December 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    A very great article. However, you should not single out “men” as being the only ones prone to do such acts of terror. Say “people,” not specifically “men”.

  19. Ashley
    December 28, 2013 at 4:07 am

    I was there the day when the shooting occured. I was in the school, crouched in a room, praying that everyone would be safe. I knew both Claire and Karl. I was shocked to hear that Karl was the shooter because my first assumption was that he was the one that took the bullet. I knew him briefly and, at first I didn’t expect him to act so violently. Yet, now as I have learned more things about Karl through his closer friends and media intel, I understand why he took the actions he did. I am sad to see that things happened the way they did and hearing about it makes me upset to my stomach everytime. I could never believe that something like this would ever happen at Arapahoe. It is one of the greatest schools in the state with a great reputation that has lasted 50 years.
    I am glad to have seen the amount of support that was given to Claire and her family. I wish she could have made it through for the sake of her loved ones, the communities that supported her, and Claire herself. It truly could have been a Christmas miracle. She was only 17 with her whole life ahead of her. Due to the amount of support and healing process, I have become closer to all of my peers and techers like never before.
    The is a beautiful article in means of supporting Claire and everyone that supported and cared for her. It was written well with a breathtaking ending statement. Well done.

  20. December 28, 2013 at 4:44 am

    What an awesome story of a beautiful young woman. So sad! My prays and thoughts go out to her family.Sad and more sad.

  21. EricThePipe
    December 28, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I just figured it was going to happen that way when it came out that the shooter was a ragging progressive. It would not be the same if he had any conservative views…

    • December 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

      I really don’t think this is the time or place to assign blame to the shooter’s politics. These are comments on the article about Claire Davis. Your comment somehow doesn’t fit in with the rest. Just my opinion.

  22. Erin Galligan
    December 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I think this is such a good article. It’s true that now a days the murders who commit these crimes are more noted then the actual victims which is how copycats and other disturbed people get the idea the this is okay. I live in Colorado only about 3.7 miles from Arapahoe and let me tell you I have never in my life seen our community come together the way it has. I went to the Douglas County library one day and every single car I saw had something to do with Claire or Arapahoe and it really made me feel proud to be a part of it. Just as a little extra note at the end to all those saying that Karl’s family should be mentioned and how nobody cares about Karl’s family, I do not think that this was the purpose of the article the article is made to shine a bright light on a dark situation not to insult the family of the person who caused it. I think people really do feel awful for the family I just think that maybe they want to let the family grieve and heal without everybody pointing and staring and the mournful, and perhaps hateful, looks for the community. Personally, I think that the poor family should be left in peace to grieve the loss of their son.

    • Toni
      December 29, 2013 at 7:15 am

      And I believe you couldn’t be more right.

  23. Patrick Siegmann
    December 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Let The Bullies & The Bad Guys – Never Be Remembered, But Vanquished From What They Seek! – To Be “Remembered” As Such! Let Us Support Their Insanity No More!

  24. Mavis O'Neil
    December 28, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    What a lovely letter, so well written. A great tribute to Claire and her family.

  25. Tim
    December 28, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    A lovely article. Conveys a real sense of Miss Davis and both how special and how wonderfully normal she was. We all encounter young gems like her and are blessed by the encounters. Perhaps we can look around and be more aware of the young people who are the tapestry of our daily lives.

    Karl was also part of that tapestry. Many stories are circulating that point to “the other side” of Karl. Through elementary and middle school, our family has known Karl. It is very difficult to reconcile his actions on that day with the young man we knew. If Karl was fighting an internal war of some kind, then Claire became collateral damage to that war. Senseless. Tragic. Random. Undeserved.

    This article clearly denies victimhood to anyone but Claire, and while the anger and obvious judgement are understandable, that denial is unfortunate. There were many victims – both of the families – and the entire community.

    How does a community heal? Can it? One community that endured a similar suffering was the Amish community in Nickel Mines, PA. The following article appeared a year after their killer killed. ( ) It describes their response to the events of their dark day.

    Was their response the “right” response? It seems to have been for them but it almost seems too much, too high of a calling, as extreme as the their black buggies and straw hats. One thing is certain – their response is not one that could be faked. It recognized that our entire world is fallen, WE are all fallen.

    May God find a way to bless our community through this tragedy and may He give peace and blessing to all of the victims.

  26. December 29, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I’m not a Colorado resident. I live in Syracuse, NY, but from the moment I heard the news of this shooting, I began praying for Claire. Yes, I felt like I adopted her and my prayers were so intense for her to live. She is truly a beautiful girl but I didn’t pray for her because of her beauty. I prayed because she was such a young girl at the start of her life – the victim of yet another school shooting. I cried when I learned that she had passed because I had thought God had saved her because He had special plans for her. But I guess he had other plans for her. Claire’s impact was far-reaching. Let’s make school shootings a thing of the past.

  27. December 29, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Beautiful tribute. My daughter knew of Claire through the Equestrian world. Beatiful rider, beautiful young lady. My family will be at the Stock SHow showing our support.

  28. Dr. Joseph Panza
    December 29, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Amen, Claire brought out the best in those who were strangers brought together by the stunning randomness of madness.

  29. Pamela
    December 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

    This article was written the way it was to intentionally not mention the shooters name. That’s what it was all about. The intent was to never mention his name, so unlike the shooters of the past, he gains no notoriety. Of course my heart goes out to both families, but it’s only natural to care more about what happened to Claire. Not sure if the shooter had a mental illness (that’s not the case for every incident like this) He was angry. He was mad.He did not know how to process this anger. Someone should have seen it. Someone close to him. I think if someone would have acknowledge how upset he was, and encouraged him to talk it out, then this could have been avoided. This is why it’s so important that everyone put down your cellphones and electronic devices, from time to time, and stop texting each other…and teach our children how to communicate, how to express themselves, how to work through issues, and how to deal with anger. Parents should be checking in with their kids EVERYDAY. Make sure everything is okay with them. It’s not always about mental illness. It’s about having someone to talk to, to listen to you, to be there for you. My daughter is a senior at CCHS, it could have happened anywhere. I am scared for our children. As parents, it’s up to us to make sure everything is right with our kids. Love them, hug them, and talk to them each and everyday. Pray for them, and teach them. thank you.

  30. doris cox
    December 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    This was posted by a close friend. I have grandchildren this age. A few yrs. back a boy planned an attack to “take out” several of the kids in one of his classes. My grandson was number 3 on his list. Thank God this boy posted it on facebook—reason–he didn’t like them. My grandson is a fine Christian boy who had given he boy a pen when he needed on.God prevented this as the staff was called along with police when he posted. What happened—they were never told except he was no longer at their school.
    My heart aches at the pain we felt only to not be able to know what the family feels.
    Sure there are mental issues but still Don’t give the shooter glory by putting him in the spotlight. Too many copycats. As a Christian I know it’s hard on his family. I pray for them.
    Make Claire the spotlight. Pray God to use her death to turn this nation around.
    Prayers continue for all touch by this.

  31. Simon
    December 29, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    It’s the press. It’s the press. It’s the press. Until you pressure the press to stop showing pictures and names of shooters you will always see the shooter receiving notoriety. Tell the press no moe publicity for murderes and you will see change. Lastly, if the gun is designed to kill people then no one shd em allowed to buy or carry. (Excepting law enforcement people). Simon K, Melbourne, Australia where we banned all non hunting and automatic weapons 20 years ago and saw an immediate reduction on hate crimes.

  32. Ousa
    December 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Thank you for such a heartfelt article that focused on the wonderful, beautiful, albeit entirely too short life of Claire. May her family find some comfort in this sad time.

  33. SusanA
    December 29, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    What a wise and wonderfully-written article. Thank you so much.

    May Claire rest in peace, and may her family know that many mourned her death.

  34. December 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    This article was such an inspiration and the focus where it needed to be. Hopefully, in time, these atrocities will stop. My deepest condolences to Claire’s family, friends, and the entire community who lost so much…

  35. Stephanie
    December 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Gary obviously missed the point of this beautiful tribute to Claire. The writer specifically says that this shooting was different in that people focused on the victim and did not constantly mention the shooter’s name giving him a certain ‘notoriety’. The article was about Claire and a community coming together – it specifically was NOT about the shooter. I took this article as it was intended – a beautiful tribute to a life ended too soon. It is not for you to dictate how the article should have been written.
    Since Gary is so intent on geting the shooter’s name out there I have a question for him. Did you happen to think that maybe the shooter’s family is relieved that their son’s name is not plastered on the front of every newspaper, magazine, and article written? Perhaps for them to have some anonymity gives them time to process and come to terms with the horrible actions their son took and the devastating loss they are enduring.

  36. V.E.G.
    June 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    If possible, please remember Claire Davis when you go to Wendy’s. The founder of Wendy’s was adopted by a Thomas family.


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