I couldn't help it. The news this afternoon put such heaviness on my heart. Claire Davis, 17, died of her injuries received during a school shooting. I'm not a bandwagoner, and I'm typically not a letter writer. But something about her being the only victim touched me; the only family to deal with such a tragic loss. When we had nothing else, we always had each other. And so I wrote the following letter to her family, which I'm recording here simply for me to have. God knows I hope it may bring a tiny ray of comfort.
Although we have never met, the scene that unfolded at Arapahoe High School is one that is all too familiar to me. I was 14 years old when two gunmen opened fire one April morning and changed my life forever. In the weeks, months and years that followed, we were the recipients of a world-wide outpouring of love and support I've sadly seen a few times since. While so much of it was generous and heart-felt, I was always troubled by a bumper sticker that read, "we are ALL Columbine." Though I appreciated the show of unity, the words seemed to intrude on what I viewed as a private tragedy, one which belonged to my classmates and me - those truly affected - alone.
In March, 2010, my husband and I welcomed our first child. On the anniversary of the shooting, I walked through the Columbine memorial with that bundle of new baby girl in my arms. As I read the words of survivors, teachers, parents and community members, it hit me for the first time what a terrible, terrible fool I had been. The words that resonated with me on that day were those of the parents, as I saw "my" tragedy through new eyes. At 14, I had failed to understand the unmatched love of a parent for a child, love which would gladly lay down its own life if it meant protecting the other. Only as a parent myself could I finally understand the depth of their suffering.
To say I am sorry for your loss sounds hollow, and fails to convey my horror and heartache that another life has been lost in this tragic way. So instead, let me pass on something I have carried with me these 15 years. These words were written on a sign placed next to the crosses memorializing those we lost. It read:
When you lose parents, you are called an orphan.
When you lose a spouse, you are called a widow.
When you lose a child, we have nothing to call you, for there are no words to describe such a loss.
There are no words. But please know that you are not forgotten, and neither is Claire. Her life mattered in ways and to people you probably never imagined possible. I hope the stories of those she touched will bring you comfort in the difficult times ahead.
May you also feel the love and support of thousands of unnamed voices, just as we did. Among them, I am certain, are our angels, who surely were there to welcome Claire with outstretched arms.
We are all Columbine.
We are all Arapahoe.
Much love and deepest sympathy.
If you're so inclined, letters are being accepted at
Littleton Adventist Hospital c/o Cards for Claire
7700 South Broadway, Littleton CO 80122