What parents, former students and district officials had to say looking back on Dec. 13, 2013, and what has changed since then:
How Littleton Public Schools has looked to cultivate an environment of health and help: Arapahoe High tragedy spurred change, officials and parents say
A former student who was on site during incident talks mental health, reacting to gun violence: ‘Talk about mental illness ... with anyone that will listen’
An LPS mother talks raising kids with backdrop of 'normalized' school shootings: Mother of LPS students recalls 'terrifying situation' five years ago
LPS superintendent talks lessons learned, what work remains to support students' mental health: ‘We’ve learned that there is so much more to do. The stress our teens feel in today’s culture is increasing’
Erica Blair was just 17 years old and a high school senior, but outside the public eye, she felt like she was doing damage control.
“I know that was impossible for one 17-year-old to do by herself — just unrealistic,” said Blair, who focused on being there for others after she lost a close friend, Claire Davis, in the shooting at Arapahoe High School five years ago.
It took Blair lot of soul searching to realize putting herself second may have been unhealthy. Seeing her performance in school slip was a “big sign,” she said.
“I really needed to be selfish and focus on my well-being, and I didn’t do that,” Blair said. “That had repercussions down the line.”
Now a 22-year-old student at Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Texas, she still feels Davis’ presence, and she’s made progress facing the hurdles that come with processing tragedy.
“I went into college with this thought process that I was going to not be able to retain any friends because at that point — and still sometimes — the first thing I think about is, `My friend’s going to die, I can’t be friends with them,’ ” Blair said. “And now, I can realize that’s not likely.”
She still talks often about the tragedy because it helped put many choices in perspective for her and, she believes, others who went through it. And keeping the public from sweeping it “under the rug,” she said, is imperative to healing.
“I think what people forget about the most is it’s not about the first week or first month or first year,” Blair said.
“It’s about what happens when the spotlight is no longer on the town and no longer on the community — that’s when the real healing starts.”
People need to keep checking in even when the news coverage fades and the public largely moves on, Blair said.
“Unfortunately, love and support are really hard to get when you’re in high school. Going through a shooting, support was more readily available for a while, and then a month later, people started to forget — even other students and teachers,” Blair said. “And that’s OK if forgetting is what they needed to do for themselves.”
But support is still needed for those who process differently, she said.
Looking back, she was lucky to have Davis and others who were “life-changing” for her, she said.
“At the same time, there wasn’t enough love going around because this still happened,” Blair said. “People forget the shooter’s family and friends are equally victims.”
A tragedy like Arapahoe’s makes a lifelong impact, Blair said, but she still feels her friend with her.
“I definitely believe that Claire is around and that she’s still my friend,” Blair said. “She still comes to see me. That doesn’t mean she’s tangible, but that’s so healing for me.
“You can’t see love, but you know it when you have it. And I was lucky to be loved by such an amazing friend, and her family.”
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