Community honors Feb. 14, 2008, victims with moment of silence


Kaitlyn King (left) and Joe Palmer, recipients of the 2014 Forward, Together Forward Scholarship, lay flowers by Gayle Dubowski’s memorial stone at a ceremony Saturday. The ceremony honored those lost when gunman Steven Kazmierczak killed five students before killing himself on Feb. 14, 2008, in Cole Hall. The scholarship is given to students who best embody the qualities of the shooting victims.

By Kelly Bauer

The families of the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting victims were accompanied by friends and community members at a quiet remembrance ceremony Saturday.

At 3:06 p.m., they listened as NIU’s bell chimed five times. They looked at each name — Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter — on the memorial stones in the Peaceful Reflection Garden outside Cole Hall and paused to talk to each other. They hugged, laughed and cried, and some put down flowers or candles.

The memorial honored those who were lost when gunman Steven Kazmierczak killed five students before killing himself in 2008 in Cole Hall.

“It’s hard to imagine that it’s been seven years already,” said Linda Greer, mother of Parmenter.

The Greers were accompanied by the families of the other victims, NIU employees and groups of present and former students, but the Saturday ceremony featured a smaller crowd and was quieter than in years past.

NIU decided to scale back the event, which previously featured a wreath-laying procession and speeches from NIU’s president and politicians, in 2014 to reflect “the continued healing of our campus community, while still ensuring that Gayle, Catalina, Julianna, Ryanne and Daniel are not forgotten,” according to an NIU announcement at the time.

Despite the change, the memorial remains a gathering place for those who wish to remember and honor the victims of the shooting on its anniversary. Cirse Vertti, who graduated in 2010, wept as she deposited white flowers at each of the memorial stones outside Cole Hall. Saturday was her first time at the remembrance ceremony, though she said she has wanted to attend for years.

Vertti and a friend attended “just to kind of pay our respects to the people who died and see what was done for them,” she said.

Though Vertti did not know the victims, she can remember being in DuSable Hall during the shooting and subsequent lockdown. She was in a room on the second floor and was able to call her mother and let her know she was OK.

When a woman fleeing Cole Hall “came knocking at every door,” asking to be let in, Vertti and her companion brought her into their room. Once they realized the severity of the shooting, which left six dead and more than 20 people injured, the lockdown “seemed like forever,” Vertti said.

Though it was hard to be at NIU Saturday, Vertti said she would like to attend the ceremony in the future.

Joseph Dubowski, father of Gayle Dubowski, said he and his wife, Laurel, find ways to honor their daughter every year besides attending the ceremony and a luncheon for the Forward, Together Forward Scholarship. The Dubowskis and Greers said they have also found healing in their faith, as both families believe they will see their children again. It’s “just a question of time,” said Robert Greer, Parmenter’s stepfather and Linda Greer’s husband.

“We look forward to that,” Joseph Dubowski said.