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NIU says ... ‘Thank you': Formal appreciation shown at Convocation Center

Northern Illinois University President John Peters visits with Malta Assistant Fire Chief Dave Gommel (left) and NIU Police Lt. Darren Mitchell during the Community Thank You and Appreciation Reception hosted by Peters at NIU’s Convocation Center on Tuesday. The university president met with community members, NIU faculty and emergency personnel to acknowledge them for their assistance following the Feb. 14 campus shooting. KATE WEBER | kweber@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois University President John Peters visits with Malta Assistant Fire Chief Dave Gommel (left) and NIU Police Lt. Darren Mitchell during the Community Thank You and Appreciation Reception hosted by Peters at NIU’s Convocation Center on Tuesday. The university president met with community members, NIU faculty and emergency personnel to acknowledge them for their assistance following the Feb. 14 campus shooting. KATE WEBER | kweber@daily-chronicle.com

McHenry flight paramedic Scott Anderson and flight nurse Laura Dagdick were among those thanked Tuesday for assistance on Feb. 14, a day they will never forget. “You kind of want to come here and hope everyone is doing better than when you saw them last,” said Dagdick, dressed in a blue uniform with “Flight For Life” printed on the back. The two Flight For Life emergency responders were among more than 200 people from the greater DeKalb-Sycamore area who attended Northern Illinois University's Community Thank You and Appreciation Reception on Tuesday at the Convocation Center. The event was the first formal “thank you” from NIU to the community for its support and response in the wake of the Feb. 14 shootings. Former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak, 27, walked into Room 101 of Cole Hall shortly after 3 p.m. that day and opened fire, killing five students and injuring another 16 people before turning the gun on himself. “We all shared in the initial shock and pain and grief,” NIU President John Peters said to the crowd. “But we all did what we needed to do to respond to the situation.” Before his speech, Peters mingled about the room, chatting with emergency first responders, local law enforcement officials and hospital personnel. “To those people who arrived on scene within seconds, who secured the area and tended to the injured,” Peters said. “They didn't hesitate for one second, and their actions were heroic.” Local municipalities and media, community residents, counselors and NIU staff were also mentioned. Peters wasn't the only member of the university community expressing gratitude. Many NIU faculty, like Joan Laurino, attended to connect with those who lent a hand. “I just want to say, ‘thank you' for all (their) love and concern,” said Laurino, an assistant in the NIU Office of External Affairs. “I know it's been said before, but it's really overwhelming what people have done for us.” Malta Assistant Fire Chief Dave Gommel looked on from afar. The emphasis on planning and practicing an emergency response was made more clear on Feb. 14, he said. What he appreciated most of all on Tuesday was the opportunity to reconnect with others who responded to the scene, he said. “It was a tremendous reaction of the community to get together as one and become solidified,” Gommel said. “It's something that will always stay with me, and I think we all had our eyes open up that day. We're not as naive as before.”

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