Students: Feb. 14 shooting brought NIU closer together


A wreath rests next to the Feb. 14 Memorial Sunday afternoon. The presentation of the Memorial Wreaths will take place at 3 p.m. Tuesday outside Cole Hall.

By Felix Sarver

Though many students were not attending NIU on Feb. 14, 2008, those who have joined the community since then are still reminded of the tragedy.

That day – when Steven Kazmierczak entered a class in Cole Hall and opened fire, killing five students and injuring 21 before killing himself – continues to affect current students, though not all fear for their safety.

Lesley Rigg, associate dean for research and graduate affairs, said she thinks younger students are aware of the shooting.

Rigg said she doesn’t sense any apathy toward the tragedy from younger students.

“It’s a focal point for things that happen on campus,” Rigg said.

While many students who were at NIU during the tragedy are graduating or have graduated, the students who have entered NIU since the shooting are reminded of it through on-campus memorials. Freshman psychology major Sarah Schwarz said she notices “Forward, Together, Forward” signs across campus.

“[The shooting] brought the campus closer together,” Schwarz said. “Knowing that, yeah, it happened–what can we do to stop it from happening again? How can we get to know each other better to keep it from happening again?”

Sophomore communications major Walter Jones said he was in high school when the tragedy occurred, but he continues to hear about the shooting.

Jones did not avoid NIU because of the shooting. He said he could not resist the communications program NIU offered and felt the risks of another shooting were low.

Akin Bakare, sophomore business management major, said he feels the tragedy made a lasting impact on the campus.

“Ever since then, it seems like there is something happening every two months,” Bakare said. “I think that shooting has cursed this campus.”

Other students feel differently about how safe the campus is. Jones said he knows if anything bad happens on campus, the police will be there.

Students are aware there are safety issues at NIU and other university campuses are no different, Rigg said. However, students know the tragedy brought NIU together.

“It’s less of what we have gone through and more of what happened here, that we’ve survived something,” Rigg said.

Bakare said it is always good for people to remember the tragedy, but they should not let it hinder them.

“You can’t let that stop you from what you have to do,” he said. “Keep yourself safe; keep your education going.”