Column: Keep your head high as you return to class


The air was very still Saturday afternoon as I slowly made my way around campus.

I, along with dozens of others, was visiting each of the various memorial sites that have been constructed in honor of the lives we lost on Feb. 14. Those paying their respects that afternoon were mostly DeKalb residents; many were NIU alumni coming back to what was once their home.

Despite the chilling silence surrounding these memorials, a clear vibe was bouncing off the walls of the campus buildings that chanted: Together, we will get through this.

Message boards covered edge to edge with words of hope, encouragement and sympathy stand strong in the King Memorial Commons. Many of these messages are left anonymous, suggesting a clear unity through common tragedy among those that came to leave their thoughts. Icy, snow-covered hillsides and street corners are layered with flowers, religious words of comfort, pictures and memories. Office windows, street lamps and restaurant marquees are displaying words weighted with courageous strength.

Words cannot express the pride that swells through me when I think about all that has been done to honor and respect the students we lost. Our president has stood tall and proud, providing our student body with letters and speeches filled with conviction and assurance, resources in order to help us cope with our grief, various opportunities to gather together, and the time many of us needed to collect ourselves. In the same way, our student body immediately stepped into action, organizing and carrying through dozens of fundraising efforts in order to provide our memorial fund with enough to properly honor Gayle, Julianna, Catalina, Ryanne and Daniel.

Still for some, today’s return to the regular routine may prove to be difficult. For that, many of Saturday’s mourners offered words of advice.

“It’s best to be with your friends,” said junior communication major Kevin Smith. “Try not to watch the news or read the newspapers.” Glancing at Cole Hall with a somber respect, he added, “Everybody’s got to walk past this building, eventually.”

Laura Wasilewski, a senior child developmental major at Indiana State University, doesn’t have class until Tuesday, but she will return to work on campus today. Her advice for students is to “Stick together. Be nice to everyone – don’t be antisocial.”

Her friend, Kyle Haslam, a senior psychology major at ISU, agreed. He said he thinks students need to continue to join together in this troubling time. “It’s going to take everyone to lift each other up. If you see someone down, try to lift them back up. We’re all going through this together.”

An unmistakable reverence will float above us as we trudge through the chill to our warm classrooms today. As Smith noted, for many of us, that trek will take us by Cole Hall. I implore you all to hold you head high as the building nears. Think not of the tragedy that rings inside those empty walls, but of the band of support that has been created outside of them.

Forward, together forward.