|NIU honors victims of shooting with vigil|
|Written by Andrew Steckling, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Monday, 15 February 2010 22:50|
It’s been two years since what many students would say felt like yesterday, when former student Steven Kazmierczak opened fire in a crowded Cole Hall room on the Northern Illinois University campus, killing five and wounding 18.
Since the unspeakable tragedy, NIU has come together and been able to move forward together. A vigil was held Sunday evening to remember those lost.
In the brief service, NIU President John Peters gave support to the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who witnessed a school shooting last Friday, when an assistant professor killed three and injured three.
“Just as the Virginia Tech Hokies reached out to us in our time of sorrow and need, now we extend our hearts and support to the Chargers,” Peters said in the opening statements of the vigil.
The speech remembered the five victims, who Peters stated have been forever woven into the fabric of the NIU community.
“Each of them has a message for us by the way each lived her and his lives,” he said.
The messages included living life to the fullest, keeping a positive attitude, always putting others first, pursuing a dream no matter how challenging or difficult it may prove, taking time to listen and care for others and working hard but always making time for fun.
Peters repeated each individual message after concluding the description of each victim and said the NIU community had a response to the five important messages.
“Two years later, the NIU student body still continues to move forward — together forward. We are united. We are strong,” he said.
“Yes, there are still physical and emotional scars, but the strength of our community will not allow even one brick to fall, will not allow even one brilliant color to fade, will not allow even one thread to be pulled from our tapestry.”
Peters then addressed the significance of lighting candles for remembrance and healing. He said the lighting is also used to chase away the darkness, to illuminate one’s path and warm one self from the winter chill.
“Tonight, we let our flames burn bright, even if just for a minute. And let those lights send a message into the heavens: we are here in solidarity, we share an enduring love for each other. We will never forget. We are NIU,” he said.
A silence fell as the university bell was struck five times. A moment of silent reflection soon followed, and the vigil concluded with the playing of “Taps.”
Peters said in the aftermath of the shooting, the NIU community resolved that it would not be defined by the act of violence but would not forget those lost.
“I think the turnout at Sunday’s events demonstrates that we have been successful on both counts. It is difficult to describe the mix of emotions I experienced Sunday night while looking at candlelit faces of the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and community members who came out in the bitter cold for the vigil,” he said.
“There was sadness in recalling our lost, but also pride in the realization that two years after the fact, the sense of community and camaraderie forged by that tragedy remain strong.”
ISU President Al Bowman said Peters is a close, personal friend, and has often shared his emotions regarding the campus shooting.
“He was deeply affected by the terrible tragedy that occurred two years ago. He told me recently that he thinks about it each and every day,” he said.