Shooting survivors united during wreath laying ceremony

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Over 100 people attended the wreath laying ceremony at 3: 06 p.m. Wednesday, where a silence fell over the crowd as the bell tolled 10 times.

The families and friends of those who died Feb. 14, 2008, visited the university on the 10th anniversary of the shooting in Cole Hall.

President Freeman led the families of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanna Mace and Daniel Parmenter and survivors of the shooting to the Forward, Together Forward memorial. Family members carried wreaths and roses as they made their way, in silence, to the memorial outside of Cole Hall.

Survivors, as well as past and present university officials, stood behind an island of snow and bare trees, as the families stood in front of the memorial, silently remembering their loved ones.

Joe Palmer, alumni and Forward, Together Forward scholar, said he has attended the wreath laying ceremony every year since coming to NIU as a first-year student.

“It’s an extraordinarily humbling experience to stand there and see what this experience means to so many people,” Palmer said. “It’s kind of who I am at this point.”

NIU spokesperson Joe King said while the wreath ceremony occurs every year, there was a little more “weight” because of it being 10 years later.

“There’s something about that 10-year mile marker that just has a certain resonance to it,” King said.

King, who worked at the university at the time of the shooting, said members of the DeKalb community reached out in support of the university, and it’s important to remember not just the shooting, but also the community’s response.

“We made a promise 10 years ago, and we said we’d never forget,” King said.

Cherilyn Murer, former member of the Board of Trustees, said she remembers the emotions felt the day of the shooting.

“I was here 10 years ago when we all cried together,” Murer said. “I have to say those five individuals have made us stronger and has made this university stronger.”