Open Letter: To the NIU community

By Northern Star Staff

It is with heavy hearts we mourn the loss of two members of the NIU family: student Trevor Wehner and alumnus Clayton Parks.

One day following the anniversary of the shooting that took place on our own campus Valentine’s Day of 2008, the lives of two more of our own were taken by an incident of mass gun violence only 30 miles from campus.

At 3:06 p.m. Thursday, the NIU bell tolled five times in remembrance of those lost 11 years prior, once for each of the victims: Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace, Daniel Parmenter and Gayle Dubowski. In less than 24 hours, word of another tragic loss would ring heavily through campus as the circumstances surrounding the shooting at Henry Pratt Co., 401 S. Highland Ave., Aurora, became known.

Wehner was a student of the College of Business set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in management. Friday was the first day of 21-year-old Wehner’s human resources internship at Henry Pratt Co., the beginning of a bright and promising future. His friends and family described him as a kind and passionate person with a heart of gold, enthusiastic about his work and known to bring smiles to the faces of those around him.

Parks graduated in 2014 from the College of Business and worked for Henry Pratt Co. as a human resource manager. He joined the company in November, and those who knew him at NIU remember him as a caring friend and dedicated colleague, always seeking leadership opportunities to better himself and his endeavors. 

The NIU community did not need or deserve another grim reminder of how random, senseless violence can take from us those with so much more to give.

It is, unfortunately, in times of grief we are most reminded of how one life has the ability to touch so many others. The ripples felt by the loss of Wehner and Parks are wide-reaching, in a bittersweet indication of how much these individuals meant to those who knew them and how deeply they were loved.

Aurora is close to where much of our faculty and student population grew up, and, as made evident by social media posts of those close to the area, the fear, anger and grief brought on by this incident were felt by many.

The name and identity of the gunman are secondary and should not overshadow the names and identities of those who lost their lives Friday. Behind each of the names listed as victims on news reports and television broadcasts, there are stories, friends, families and successes. The circumstances of their deaths do not replace these.

At many junctures in life, the world seems to hand us cruelty without justification. However, while the process of mourning and rebuilding is one that takes time, we can all do our part in ensuring the lives of our fellow Huskies are honored with compassion.

May we remember Wehner and Parks not for what happened to them, but for who they were: loved by many, each making a profound impact on those they knew.

May we recognize the suffering brought on by the loss of the other victims of the shooting: Josh Pinkard and Vicente Juarez of Oswego and Russell Beyer of Yorkville. The Northern Star sends its warmest thoughts to their loved ones and stands in solidarity with their grief.

We are a broken country, but not a broken community. In the days, weeks and years following this tragedy, let us not forget who we are. It is a time for fellow Huskies to show our most loving sympathies for those who knew Wehner and Parks. We must extend our hearts to those who are hurting.

There are few easy answers in this life, nor are there easy remedies for unthinkable heartache. However, as a community, we can default on what we know to be true: There is power in love. Reach out to your friends, and remind them they are cared about. Seek out those grieving, and offer your support. Embrace your fellow students and faculty with kindness. These are the essential first steps in moving Forward, Together Forward.