DENVER – Friends and family of Arapahoe High School shooting victim Claire Davis gathered to remember the teenager who loved equestrian sports and had a bright spirit.
Her father, Michael Davis, thanked the paramedics and doctors who worked to keep her alive after the shooting.
“We are deeply humbled,” Michael Davis said. “We can’t imagine going through this without all of you who are holding us up.”
The memorial service, which was held at the National Western Stock Show Complex, included dignitaries like Gov. John Hickenlooper, Sen. Michael Bennet and Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin.
Davis competed in a horse show during the 2013 National Western Stock Show and was scheduled to compete again in 2014. This year’s nationally-renowned show — the 108th running of the National Western Stock Show — will honor Davis by renaming its annual hunter and jumper event the Claire Davis Memorial Gambler’s Choice Horse Show.
Davis, a 17-year-old student at Arapahoe High School, was shot in the head by a fellow student on Dec. 13. She died of her injuries on Dec. 21.
“Claire’s passion and love of horses and competition embodied what we deeply value at the National Western Stock Show,” stock show president and CEO Paul Andrews said. “She was an excellent equestrian and a great example for all youth in the world with her positive attitude and leadership.”
Davis died amidst violence. But there was not an ounce of anger at the service—only love, laughter and forgiveness.
The light that was Claire Davis illuminated the uncertain paths of her many best friends.
“She is a part of who I am, and although I will miss her every day, and for the rest of my life, I know she is watching out for me like she always has,” said one of her best friends.
“I loved Claire so much. I always will,” said Claire’s boyfriend, Alex Chapman. He told the group about the first time he saw Claire in class. “I said, ‘Wow.’ She is someone who would be amazing to be with,” he said.
Chapman said he purposely forgot to bring a pencil to class every day so he could ask her for one. Then, he said, she caught on and started leaving a pencil on his desk every day.
“Dang it. How am I supposed to talk to her now?” he said he questioned. “My next excuse was for a piece of paper.” The crowd laughed.
The talented equestrian lit up the lives of her friends and family with unconditional acceptance, her laughter and sense of humor.
“Claire was one most exuberant, nicest, funniest people I knew in my life,” said another best friend.
“She saw a classmate armed with a gun, and Claire she approached him. Armed only with kindness and concern. She asked him, ‘What are you doing?’” Gov. John Hickenlooper told the crowd.
Student Karl Pierson then shot her in the face. She would die eight days later.
Her parents say they keep the love of their only daughter alive in their hearts by practicing love, compassion and forgiveness.
“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did, because he did not know what he was doing,” said an emotional Mike Davis, Claire’s dad.
They ask everyone else to forgive him as well.
They say this is the only way to end school shootings—to end our anger and reach out to those who need it—like Claire did.
“That needs to be a rallying cry. We need to go through all our schools. And say, ‘Karl what are you doing?’ Go find the Karl Pierson’s in our community,” said Columbine United Church Pastor Steve Poos-Benson.
To that end, the family has set up the Arapahoe High School Community Fund Honoring Claire Davis.
One-hundred-fifty people have already donated to the fund.
It’s money that goes to support charities in the Arapahoe High community with mental health care and anti-bullying programs.