Forward, Together three years later: Community gathers to remember the five victims

By Candice Beasley

DeKALB | Monday marked the third anniversary of the Feb. 14 shootings at Cole Hall.

NIU President John Peters spoke to an estimated 2,000 students, staff members and community members in front of the Forward, Together Forward Memorial Garden on Monday afternoon in remembrance of the anniversary.

At 3 p.m. a bell tolled to begin the ceremony. NIU faculty and students lined up along the sidewalk while Peters, family members of the victims of the Feb. 14 shootings and friends walked in a procession from the MLK Commons to the front of Cole Hall.

“We have not forgotten you and your spirits continue to live on,” Peters said of the five students killed three years ago.

As the years pass, the memory of Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace and Daniel Parmenter will still live on, Peters said. He also reflected on each of them and their impact on NIU. Peters said this fall Cole Hall is expected to reopen with a new appearance and purpose. He expressed appreciation to the state for its financial commitment in helping the NIU community move forward.

After Peters’ speech, everyone was invited to gather in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center.

“Valentine’s Day will always be different,” said senior history major Colleen May. “It’s both happy and sad.”

May was in her dorm room when the shooting took place. On this day she said she finds herself crying and laughing at times.

It’s a bittersweet day but being around people and hanging out makes it less sad for her, she said. Senior kinesiology major Jim Sronkoski, said he felt Peters’ speech was a sign of strength.

“I wasn’t here when it happened but after today I feel closer and a part of the NIU family,” said senior math major Angela Hess.