We all feel loss of Feb. 14, 2008 shooting

By Danny Cozzi

Friday’s chilling winds accompanied memories of the Feb. 14, 2008, tragedy among the NIU community.

At 3:06 p.m. the five bells remembering the five victims — Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter — rang out across campus. I felt a peculiar mix of community and heartbreak in that moment, knowing the tragedy in Cole Hall affects every person who sets foot on campus.

I wasn’t a student here in 2008. I was a high school sophomore sitting in a U.S. government class when Steven Kazmierczak entered Cole Hall. I didn’t learn what happened until the next day, when NIU was far from being a part of my life.

As I was among the people, in the memorial garden, who lost friends and family members, I felt a profound sense of connection to Feb. 14. It’s not firsthand experience that ties all of us to the events that day; it’s our ability to empathize the feeling of loss we’ve all had. Even those of us who weren’t at NIU that day can find unity through the memory of the students.

“Cole Hall is an indication of us coming through these darkest times and moving forward and trying to flourish,” said Brad Hoey, director of communications and marketing.

If anything indicates we’ve flourished, it’s the beauty of the memorial garden outside Cole Hall and those who came to remember their lost loved ones this Friday.

There was a distinct sense of unity in the air surrounding the small crowd that gathered at the memorial. We’re all moving on together from a tragedy only few experienced firsthand.

Some shed tears that nearly froze to their faces and they quietly thanked those around them for showing their support. With the company of those sharing condolences, I saw how we’ve survived as a university one of the most tragic college shootings in U.S. history.

“Although many current students and faculty were not on campus during that tragedy, it’s still important that everyone uses this day to reflect and remember our fallen fellow Huskies,” said a Friday Northern Star editorial.

The fact many of us weren’t here on the day of the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting doesn’t mean we can’t connect to the memory, but it still means something to be a part of the university.

Hoey said the events six years ago aren’t part of a distant past and the monuments and Cole Hall serve as constant reminders of what happened that day.

“I don’t think you have to have that personal experience [of the events],” Hoey said. “And I think students who come here 10 years from now will have no recollection of the actual incident. But they will know, I think, what happened, and they will realize what an impact that it’s had on our campus community.”

The reminders we see on campus every day show the connection we have to the NIU community.

We’ve come a long way since that day, and as we move forward together we ought to reflect on the memory of Feb. 14, 2008, as often as we can.

Whether it’s a moment of paying respects as we pass the memorial garden or remembering the heroic response of the police, let’s remember we’re all a part of the memory.

We find strength in the darkest times to grow and carry on. Friday’s memorial showed me a community like NIU can be closely united through reflecting on the connection we all have to Feb. 14, 2008.