The first day of school is one of the most exciting times of the year for Darrell Herring, principal at River Ridge High School in Cherokee County. But this year’s first day wasn’t typical.
On Monday, shortly after 6 a.m., Carter Davis, 17, a senior at River Ridge, was found dead behind a Roswell Publix with Natalie Henderson, 17, a student at Roswell High School. Each was killed by a gunshot to the head, according to autopsy findings.
Herring said guidance counselors, administrators and staff have put everything aside for a moment to let the school community grieve.
“(They) said, ‘We’ll give you a hug, we’ll let you talk, we’ll let you cry,’” he said. “It’s all part of the healing process.”
That process continued Tuesday evening as about 200 people, including Carter’s parents, attended a vigil at River Ridge High School to honor the young man.
Carter’s lacrosse teammates led the vigil in the shade of a tree within the school parking lot. And after the vigil, some students gathered in the grass beside the school, joining hands and bowing their heads in a large circle.
Herring said speakers shared stories of Carter’s kindness and easygoing demeanor. His parents also talked about how welcoming the community was after the family moved to the area last year from South Dakota.
“They shared some good times and shared some stories that brought tears,” Herring said. “Just sharing and getting some pain out and talking with each other is what we did here tonight.”
His lacrosse teammates remembered Carter for his laugh, how he started every story with, “When I lived in South Dakota,” and his commitment to the game.
“He would always push us to be the best player we could be,” River Ridge senior Tyler Reuss said. “He was always trying to teach us new things and to learn things from a different perspective.”
But he also pushed himself. Reuss said everyone knew where Carter was heading because he always talked about it. His dream was to play college lacrosse at Oglethorpe University.
His coach, Mike Britt, said that kind of focus, combined with his dedication to the team, earned Carter respect.
“He led our team in a sense, and that is indicative of the type of young man he was,” Britt said. “He wanted to assist others to success. We called him a coach on the field. Coach Carter.”