NIU continues to stand forward, together


Sean Reed

NIU President Lisa Freeman hugging Patrick Korellis (left) and Harold Ng, two surviving victims of the Valentine’s Day shooting that took place in 2008 within Cole Hall, at the 15-year anniversary “Forward Together Forward” memorial for the victims this afternoon at the Peaceful Reflection Garden outside of Cole Hall. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

By Bridgette Fox, News Editor

DeKALB – The NIU community stood together in remembrance of the students who were killed 15 years ago. Tuesday’s vigil also came less than 24 hours after a fatal mass shooting on the campus of Michigan State University.

On Feb. 14, 2008, five NIU students were killed by a gunman in Cole Hall. The memorial by the lecture hall hosts the annual vigil in remembrance of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter.

Over 100 people attended the quiet vigil.

“I’m glad that we come back every year to remember and reflect,” said Steve Lux, a retired NIU professor. “Unfortunately, so many of this has been repeated so many times, just even the other day, Michigan State (University). Maybe we haven’t learned anything, but we’ve got to keep trying.”

It isn’t uncommon that these memorials reach beyond the scope of remembrance for NIU’s fatal shooting.

“We were at the 10-year memorial here, and everyone’s phone started going off about a shooting in Parkland High School there, and we all just shut down,” said Patrick Korellis, a former NIU student and survivor of the shooting. “The news about Parkland was in our head.”

Harold Ng, another former student and survivor, commented that the turnout was smaller than previous years, but that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“A lot of people are younger, we were just thinking about it, this happened 15 years ago,” Ng said. “So, a lot of the freshmen, or even the sophomores, were 3 or 5 years old – I think that knowing that, that’s cool. It’s good that we’re moving on.”

Annalise Swanson, a junior psychology major, expressed her condolences to the victim’s family, spoke about the anxiousness she feels on campus, knowing the history of NIU’s shooting.

“Something like this could happen at any time again. I feel that walking around campus, it’s an open area. I mean, I just came from a lecture hall with like, 100 plus people,” Swanson said. “I know it’s kind of silly to be terrifying, but I mean, I just feel like they (NIU) don’t really do a whole lot within the security aspect of all this.”

NIU Police Chief Darren Mitchell attended the vigil to offer his condolences to the community. Mitchell also discussed the influence of mass shootings at Virginia Tech and MSU.

“Chiefs and sheriffs have become better at responding to these extreme acts of violence, because you’ve been forced to, because their frequency has increased, because the community demands that we are prepared and ready to keep them safe, and stop these threats as soon as possible,” Mitchell said.

Korellis and Ng gave words of comfort and advice to people who’ve lived through mass shootings.

“We’re here,” Korellis said. “We talk to people who’ve gone through their own mass shootings … Sandy Hook parents, Parkland victims, the list goes on, but we’re in a private Facebook group with mass shooting survivors that we help help each other.”

“Find hobbies to deal with it – do whatever you can to get your mind away from it,” Ng said. “For me, I started doing random stuff. Taking pictures, (watching) Carmen Sandiego, writing my own book, things like that. Get your mind away from it, and if it helps me, hopefully if you take that if you keep that advice, it will help you as well.”