NIU remembers students at wreath-laying ceremony


Loved ones of the five victims of the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings put roses on the Cole Hall memorial during the wreath-laying ceremony in 2013.

By Robert Baird

Gov. Pat Quinn, NIU President John Peters, students and community members came together Thursday to remember the lives lost Feb. 14, 2008.

They presented memorial wreaths at 3 p.m. at the Forward, Together Forward Memorial Garden outside of Cole Hall.

Ryanne Mace, Julianna Gehant, Catalina Garcia, Gayle Dubowski and Daniel Parmenter died on Feb. 14, 2008, when former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak entered a class in Cole Hall and opened fire, killing those five and injuring 21 before killing himself.

Current DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks was in attendance and was on the first fire engine to respond Valentine’s Day 2008.

“I’ve attended the memorial every year,” Hicks said. “As a first responder, we were focusing on triage and transport. It feels like yesterday.”

The wreath ceremony began with the families of the students lost approaching their lost loved one’s statues at the memorial garden. Quinn spoke at the event about the impact of the students lost.

“All of us mourn the loss of those students lost five years ago this very day,” Quinn said in his speech. “Dan had a good heart and was a friendly man.”

More than 100 people and several news stations were in attendance. Following the two speakers, audience members walked up to the memorial to reflect and pay their respects.

“The ceremony is always a solemn time, especially to those in the NIU community,” said Paul Palian, director of media and public relations. “I wasn’t here at the time, but the way we honor them every year always touches me.”

Peters’ speech elaborated on the lessons of the legacies of the students lost, including the generosity of Dubowski and Garcia’s ability to “brighten a room by entering.”

“It [the shooting] forever changed Northern,” Peters said. “It taught us lessons on what it means to be a Huskie.”

Bradley Hoey, director of communications, is an NIU graduate and attended the ceremony.

“You don’t know how your emotions will come back until you’re in the situation,” Hoey said. “Memories of that day are still fresh and vivid.”

Hoey said that it’s another day in the healing process.

“It means a lot to the families that were affected,” Hoey said. “We won’t forget, their spirit lives on. We are reminded of them by this garden.”