The paralyzing fear of a gunshot is like no other.
On Friday the 13th, 2013, I experienced one of the worst days of
my life. Nothing can prepare you for a school shooting, it’s not exactly
something we take preparation classes for. You do not expect something like
this to ever happen to you, and how could you? There is a 1 in 21,000
chance that you will experience school shooting which seems to
be slowly decreasing as the years go by. When it was first announced
that Arapahoe High School had just gone on lockdown due to the threat of
an armed student shooting, the words you hear are again? And another one?
My accounts of the day slowly become more vivid as the days go by and
slowly I start to remember more and more. Today was a really bad day for
me where I just felt like putting my face into a pillow and screaming for a
little while but then the next minute passing out due to over exhaustion
mentally, emotionally and physically.
I remember the day being a normal one. I got up at 6:30 as usual, did my
hair, brushed my teeth, finished getting ready and because it was a Friday I
drove myself to school. I had chemistry first hour which was normal final
preparation but I remember getting the message that broke my heart. This event
calls for a whole other story because it specifically had nothing to do with
the shooting. Next hour I went to the councilor to talk about the message I
received, missing class altogether. Third and fourth hour were pure finals talk
with nothing else but “prepare for your upcoming tests” coming out of
the teachers mouths. Later on that day I was supposed to do a speech on what
shapes and inspires the American voice for my American Literature final. Ironically
my main focus was on crime, and I heavily spoke about the shooting&nbsp;at
columbine that occurred in 2001. We had to bring in some kind of visual
aid&nbsp;for my presentation and my dad being a police officer, offered to let
me take in his bullet proof vest along with other various police related items.
My dad brought these in to get approved by the office administration around
11:35 roughly an hour before all of the Arapahoe students’ lives would be
altered forever. He offered to take me to lunch but selfishly I declined
wanting to spend a half hour with some friends.
After lunch I had Trigonometry that started around 12:15 roughly 15 minutes
before the shooter entered the school. My teacher was on edge because our class
was a bit rambunctious that day. She almost looked like she was going to pull
her hair out in those fifteen minutes because we were all so unfocused. I
remember having just set my calculator on my desk when we heard the first
gunshot. Everyone in the room jumped in their seats and the room went silent.
We all thought someone had just dropped a heavy book or kicked a locker open
but the sound was unusually loud for either of those. My teacher stood there
with her hand over her chest and took a deep breath and finally said
“don’t worry about it little darlings, just get back to work.” That
was one of the things she liked to call us, ‘little darlings.’ We had only
about ten seconds to look at our paper before we heard the next two gunshots.
This time my teacher and one of my best friends sort of went into panic mode.
My teacher cautiously opened the door quickly and shut it just as fast, “I
almost lost my fingers for you all just then,” because of how terrified
she was. Another teacher went down the hall to see if there was something going
on, but looked through the window with a confused look on her face and her
shoulders shrugging as high as her earlobes.
My class was in silent mode as we wondered what was going on just a few feet
from our classroom. It was just a short while later when we heard the static on
the intercom, instantly instilling fear into each of our hearts. Then the most
frightening words I have ever heard came over the PA system, “We are on
lockdown. I repeat we are on lockdown. Turn off the lights, lock your doors and
stay low.” Before they had even finished their sentence, my whole class
had shoved themselves behind my teachers’ desk as she locked the door and hit
There was terror on everyone’s faces, eyes wide and the beginning of teary
eyes were upon all of us. Even the strongest boys in the class were on the
verge of panic. Were they gunshots that we had heard earlier? Was the shooter
still alive? What is going on?
I stealthily pulled out my phone and turned down the brightness in fear that
someone from the outside looking into our classroom might see the faint glow of
my screen. I quickly sent texts to my parents asking if they knew what was up,
my dad quickly telling me he would check the news. A few moments later my phone
buzzed with the unwanted news that there was an active shooting at Arapahoe
High School, two known victims, unknown whereabouts of the shooter. I quickly
zoomed to the Denver Channels website to confirm what my dad had sent me and
sure enough to my disbelief, there was a shooter in my school, armed and ready
I passed around the article to update everyone, and this is when the tears
began to fall. Just about as soon as I got my phone back the fire alarm
began to sound. Almost immediately we heard someone get on the intercom saying,
“do not evacuate, I repeat do not evacuate. Stay in lockdown. I
repeat stay in lockdown.” That might have been one of the scariest
parts of the whole day knowing there was a possible fire in the school as
well and that we had to stay where we were like sitting ducks.
Some of the other students had scattered to the other corners of the room to
keep out of direct sight from the windows. My teacher had gone along with,
tears falling from her eyes as well. As my phone slowly made its way back to
me, I could see the fear in peoples wide eyes and clenched fists as if they
were about to go into a war zone. We were all scared. As you’re sitting there,
so many questions fill your mind. Will I ever see my family again? Will I ever
see my boyfriend again? Will I ever see the light of day again? Who are the
victims? Is the shooter still alive? Did anyone die? Whose footsteps are those?
When the swat teams and the other law enforcement officers finally arrived,
we could hear their heavy footsteps and deep voices echoing throughout the hallways
just a short distance from our classroom. When you hear things like, “he’s
this way! He ran into the classroom! Check the Library,” you aren’t sure
what to think. Where the hell is the shooter was my first priority. The fear
was the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I could be next or he is
going to come in here. I remember praying so hard that day, to save me, save
all of us, keep us from any harm, and let me see my family again.
Almost an hour went by before we heard officers running down the hall
yelling, “clear, clear, clear,” unknowingly allowing all of us to
breathe again. That simple word gave us a glimmer of hope. We could actually
make it home today.
When that SWAT officer came to our window in full tactical gear and an
automatic weapon, I think all of us believed that our lives were over and he
was the shooter. When he looked in and made direct eye contact with me I knew I
was going to be alright. “Everyone out! Evacuate now! Open the door!”
My teacher jumped up so fast, you would’ve thought she was flash from the
justice league. As all of us stood up there was no congestion out the door
because we were running as fast as any of us ever have in our entire lives.
“Run! Run! Run! Run! Run,” were the only words that we could hear as
we booked it down the halls.
My class ran right past where the actually shooting had occurred and without
actually taking in the sight, we had ran past all of the blood of one of the
known victims. Flashing back in my dreams now, I can see it all over the
hallway. As my class ran out the glass doors though the halls lined with SWAT
officers, I grabbed my best friends hand as we bolted&nbsp;across the street.
My lungs were reaching for air as this was the first time I had taken a deep
breath since before the shots were first fired. My feet hitting the hard ground
and my eyes adjusting to the bright sky and puffy clouds we\as one of the best
moments of my life knowing my heart was still beating and my lungs could still
We hurried across the street and reconnected with one of my friends from my
class who was a complete wreck and consoled her as she was panicked about the
whereabouts of her brother. After she found him, I used her phone to call my
dad to tell him I was safe but didn’t go through. Leaving that message was the
first time I cried, letting him know I was safe and I was going to be okay. We
eventually traveled into a church building where a huge majority of the
students were directed. The grocery store next door donated snacks and water
bottles to keep all of us hydrated and our blood sugar up.
When I was in my classroom I received a text from my boyfriend asking if I
was okay, exchanging ‘I love you’s’ and ‘I am so glad you are safe.’
unfortunately while I was within the safety of the church building, he
was still inside the school. None of us had information on the
status of the shooter yet so while inside the church I feared for his life. I
held back tears for a long time unsure if I would ever see him again. When a
few of his friends started to trickle through the doors my hope increased and I
slowly began to believe he was going to be alright. Then that moment when he
walked through the door, I cannot even begin to explain. It was almost like a
movie when I ran to him and jumped into his arms. I started to cry when he just
simply whispered ‘hey’ in my ear. It was so simple but it was the best thing I
had heard all day.
Parents lined the outside of the building waiting for their chance to get
close to the door to reconnect with their children as we all had to be signed
out one at a time. My dad thankfully waited outside for me as I was still
shaking inside with terror of the traumatic things that had just occurred. I
fortunately wasn’t held inside the church too long as my dad connected with one
of the sergeants there about his bullet proof vest I had in the school for my
presentation that was supposed to happen later that day. He so graciously
pulled me out of the gym and reconnected me with my dad who was frantically
answering all of the family texts and calls concerning my safety.
I can say I have never been so happy to see a person in my entire life. I
hugged him like I have never hugged anyone before. We made our way around the
church and to our home only a block away. We got stopped by the endless
reporters outside asking for my account of the recent events. I don’t know how
many people took our picture because I could do nothing but hold on to my dad
to keep me upright. We refused any offer for an interview and rushed home so I
could just cry and cry and cry. He turned on the television when we got home
and immediately the first thing that popped up on the screen was my school, my
home, wrapped in caution tape with dozens of police parked outside, lights
When my mom got home the tears came again and we hugged for a really long
time. I heard ‘I love you’ a lot that day.
After I had time to sit at my house, not in fear of a gunman for a while,
everything started to sink in. We were all just involved in a shooting. We all
just went through the same thing. Hearing the news later of how the shooter had
shot one girl Claire Davis, point blank in the head and shortly after taken his
own life with a shotgun, really tore us all apart. The shooter was a boy who I
went to school with and who I knew. He was someone I had made conversation with
and seen on a regular basis.
The saddest part of it all was knowing that Claire was rushed into surgery
and had slipped into a coma because of this one boy’s decision.
The days after are almost worse. Now I can’t fall asleep without someone
next to me and the simple shower is impossible because the beating of the water
droplets on the tub can only remind me of those obnoxious gunshots. Or sitting
in Tokyo Joes and falling into the fear I felt sitting in the classroom when
one of the cooks drops a pan in the back to make a huge bang on the floor. The
perpetuating fear of what happened will always be a part of me and I know the
slightest noise will make me jump for a little while or a long while. The thing
though that saddens me the most is Claire. I know she will never lead a normal
life again or have any sort of normalcy in her life. I know though that she
probably won’t make it and I feel helpless knowing that all I can do is pray
for her. This is something that will always be a part of me and I know it’s
scary but I’ll never let it define me because I am an Arapahoe Warrior, and we
are Warrior strong.