Community gathering held in honor of Antinette ‘Toni’ Keller

Rikki Cottrell and Amy Kreeger

As students filed into the Duke Ellington Ballroom Tuesday night, they were handed candles with Dixie cups, ribbons and key chains to prepare for the community gathering held to honor Antinette “Toni” Keller.

Keller’s disappearance was declared a homicide investigation Tuesday morning at a press conference. As the case has evolved from a missing persons case to a death investigation and so on, NIU has rallied together in an effort to find and honor Keller.

This was the theme of Tuesday night’s gathering, as students mingled with one another, lit candles and listened to Keller’s favorite songs.

“All of her friends described her as the daughter of the sun,” said Jill Thomas to the audience, president of Huskies United. “We love you Toni, and you will always shine like the sun.”

Mary Tarling, cousin of Keller, addressed the audience and said she and the rest of the family appreciate everything that the NIU community has done thus far.

In response to the posters NIU sent over, Tarling said Keller’s father “read every single message, and to every message, he sends a kiss.”

Tarling said she and her family could not express the love they felt from NIU.

“We can be sad together, and we can bear it together,” she said. “When you see artwork, you think of her. When you see a sunflower, you think of her. You keep her alive.”

Students can take care of each other as long as they stand by each other throughout this investigation, said NIU President John Peters.

“This community rallied together at the first indication she was missing,” Peters said to the audience. “If one Huskie goes missing, we all join together to find them.”

Questions and rumors continue to circulate about the investigation, and this fact was not lost among the students in attendance.

“This is good that all these people came to support her and her family,” said Rebecca Qualkenbush, junior family, consumer and nutrition science major. “I just wish we had answers.”

Thomas said that in this time of uncertainty, is it important for the community to remember to stand together.

“This shows how courageous and able we are to come together,” she said.

This was the theme as the ceremony came to a close. Students remained silent as the songs “Here Comes the Sun” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” both by The Beatles, came over the speakers. Students raised their candles together in a last tribute to Keller for the night.