PHOTO SUBMITTED / August Clary, son of Brookhaven native Jane Kees Clary, is a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., where another student critically injured a 15-year-old girl before fatally turning the gun on himself.
PHOTO SUBMITTED / August Clary, son of Brookhaven native Jane Kees Clary, is a student at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., where another student critically injured a 15-year-old girl before fatally turning the gun on himself.

Local native gives perspective on Colorado shooting

Published 10:31pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

Brookhaven native Jane Kees Clary, who now lives in Arapaho County, Colo., said the shock of Friday’s shooting at her son’s high school left her with feelings of terror, a sense of loss, sadness and relief.

Friday at Arapahoe High School, Karl Pierson, 18, entered the school hallways with a shotgun looking for one of his teachers, brandishing and firing his shotgun. He critically injured a 15-year-old girl before fatally turning the gun on himself.

Clary – a 1989 Brookhaven High School graduate whose mother, Jane Kees, was a teacher there – said she grew up in a place where there was never the fear of this kind of violence. But, she said even though Arapahoe was very near to Columbine – eight miles away – she compared it to the tranquility of Brookhaven.

“You could still not imagine anything like that happening here,” Clary said. “This is really a good school system, and it’s sad to think that the teachers would be trained to the extent these teachers and faculty are. The students are trained, too. What’s even worse, and scarier, is the thought that your child was in a school where they had to use those skills for a real shooter.”

Clary’s son August is a senior at Arapahoe. He said he knew the gunman.

“I’ve known him since the third grade,” he said. “He might have been a little different, but never thought he could do anything like this.”

Clary said Arapahoe High School and all other schools in the area went on immediate lockdown when the call went out that there was a shooter at the high school. She said the terror of the shooting on Friday killed something in the community.

“There is a lot of sadness, too,” she said. “For a sort of loss of innocence. We are sad, sad for the family of the girl who was shot and sad for the shooter’s family. Imagine what his parents must be going through. But, we were also really thankful that no other children were hurt. We are praying for the girl who was shot.”

Clary said that in a recent news conference “the girl’s father said she was not doing well, but that she is fighting for her life, I don’t know the nature of her injuries, but I know she lost a lot of blood.”

August said the community is already coming together to heal.

“We just got back from a candlelight vigil,” August explained. “There were about 2,000 people there – in a park near the school. We came together to show that we are all going to get through this. And we were there to show our support for Clair Davis.” Davis is the 17-year-old senior Pierson shot before killing himself.

Clary credits the quick reaction of the students and the school staff for the fact that only one other student was injured.

“My son said to hear a shotgun go off in a concrete building was really loud,” she said. “They immediately went into action. Locking the door, turning off lights, taking cover. I really think it’s the Active Shooter Protocol they’ve been trained to do. And they do certain things when a shooter is present and they did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

August explained that the school has drills for this about four times a year. He believes it saved lives.

“If we hadn’t had these drills on how to react,” he said, “we think it could have been so much worse.”

August said his class was about 50 meters from where Pierson opened fire.

“But, no one thought it was an actual firearm at first.”

He said it was after the third shot they knew something wasn’t right and his teacher immediately shut and locked the door and told them to take cover.

“We hid in between lab tables for about half an hour,” he said. “They trained us to stay away from windows or doors – to not give the shooter any chance of seeing us and we were told to stay very quiet.”

August said students, faculty and others involved the shooting are being offered free crisis counseling through the school, local churches and other charities.