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February 13, 2012 / northernillinoiscouponingmoms

Taking a break from coupons to remember…..Forward Together Forward

On Feb 14,2008 at approximately 3 p.m.our Huskie family at Northern Illinois University was changed forever. A young man, Steven Kazmierczak, age 27, of Champaign, opened fire in Cole Hall killing 5 NIU students and injuring many others before he took his own life.

The fallen Huskies  were:

Daniel Parmenter, age 20, last of Westchester, Ill.

Catalina Garcia, age 20, last of Cicero, Ill.

Ryanne Mace, age 19, last of Carpentersville, Ill.

Julianna Gehant (pronounced Ghee-hant), age 32, last of Mendota, Ill.

Gayle Dubowski, age 20, last of Carol Stream, Ill.

You can read about our fallen Huskies here

I walked onto campus that day approximately 5 minutes after the shooting. It was chaos. I had no idea what happened. I ran to my department chairs office and got a few details. I went to the classroom to find several students outside of the classroom door shaking with fear. I let them into the room and locked the door. I watched them go through every emotion in the book. I watched them huddle in the back of the room behind a table they overturned. I watched them cry, be angry and yes even be in denial. We had no cell service, the towers were flooded. They couldn’t call home and their parents couldn’t call them. We were able to get onto the internet and they signed into their email and sent emails to their families assuring them they were ok.We watched on line live CNN news feed and realized that CNN and other news stations had helicopters over our campus. Thankful for information but weird and scary just the same. That drove home just how horrible this was. This couldnt possibly happen HERE! Things like this only happen other places. But there was NIU all over the major news stations.

Then I watched our Huskie family start to recover. It took less than a day for makeshift memorials to pop up all over campus. I watched students reach out to each other on Facebook. I watched our family at Virginia Tech reach out to us. Facebook pages were started between VT and NIU. VT students provided support for NIU students.Students  started making T shirts, talking about starting a scholarship fund, making red and black ribbons. Students, in their own way start healing. Campuses all over the US reached out to us. When students returned to campus they were greeted with red and black ribbons and signs of support from the DeKalb community. Memorials are now permanent at NIU

As faculty we struggled with returning to classes. What do we say to students? Do we deal with it head on or just ignore it and get back to class? We had meetings to discuss. We met with counselors ourselves to help with the grief and in hopes to better prepare us for returning to classes. Nothing could prepare us. As faculty we did the best we could when classes resumed. I watched as students jumped everytime a door closed hard. I watched them go through campus, not out in the open but from building to building as if hiding. I watched them try so hard to focus on their studies. I held them when they came to my office and cried. I watched the fear return every time a helicopter  flew over campus.

Now four years later many who were freshman then are now seniors. We have graduated many. I have watched our Huskie community grow stronger.  I have watched Facebook as every year, even if just for one day, Facebook profile pictures change to remember NIU on that day(yep and again this year 🙂 ).  I watch as we continue FORWARD TOGETHER FORWARD.

NIU has always been a family. After Feb 14, 2008  we became a stronger family. Many students and faculty continue healing from this unthinkable event. We are healing. We will never be the same but we ARE HUSKIES!  WE ARE NIU! Huskie strong!

Praying for peace though out the world. Praying for those students and faculty who still are not healed. Praying for the families of the victims and the shooter who may never recover.



You can view the Memorial website here


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