CENTENNIAL, Colo. - It was an emotional day as juniors and seniors returned to Arapahoe High School early Thursday to retrieve belongings left behind during last week’s hasty evacuation.
It was the first time they were allowed back since a classmate walked in with a 12 gauge shotgun and opened fire last Friday, critically wounding Claire Davis.
“It was hard to deal with at first,” said Blake Duff, a junior. “Just being in the classroom where we left our stuff felt weird. Granted, we were with friends, but it was a dark feeling.”
"I got to see all my friends and teachers, which was good,” said Tyler Smith, a senior. “But it was still hard just walking in there and knowing that what happened, happened, and you couldn’t really do anything about it.”
Students told 7NEWS that the only area of the school that was blocked off was the library, where the gunman took his own life.
School Principal Natalie Pramenko emailed a letter to parents and students informing them that the library will be remodeled.
Simon said that may not make much difference.
“There’s always going to be a reminder,” he said. “I mean, knowing that he went in there and did what he did.”
Last Friday, Karl Pierson, 18, went into the school armed with a shotgun, a sling of ammunition, a machete and three Molotov cocktails, looking for the school's librarian, Tracy Murphy, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.
Murphy learned quickly that Pierson was looking for him and left the building, a move the sheriff praised as a "very wise tactical decision."
On his way to the library, Pierson shot 17-year-old Claire Davis in the head at point-blank range.
As the school’s resource officer approached the scene, Pierson took his own life.
Returning students are still grappling with that violence.
Colton Smith, an Arapahoe High junior, told 7NEWS that Pierson was a smart kid with anger issues.
“One time we were at a team feed for cross country,” Smith said, “and somebody stole some of his food and he strangled that kid… that’s my main memory of him, especially now that I know he was the gunman.”
Many students say their thoughts are focused on Davis who is still in a coma and in “very critical condition,” according to the Littleton Adventist Hospital Facebook page.
A candlelight vigil will be held for Davis at 6:30 Friday night at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Centennial.
When asked how the shooting will affect the holidays, student Jack Cook said this will be a Christmas like no other.
“You’re going to appreciate your family a lot more,” he said, “because events like this can happen anywhere and anytime. You really don’t know.”