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Local

NIU planning memorial events for Feb. 14

Northern Illinois University student Stephanie Hartwig and her boyfriend Nick Kennedy, of DeKalb, take part in the candle light vigil at Martin Luther King Jr. Commons on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009.
Northern Illinois University student Stephanie Hartwig and her boyfriend Nick Kennedy, of DeKalb, take part in the candle light vigil at Martin Luther King Jr. Commons on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009.

DeKALB – Two memorial events will be held at Northern Illinois University on Feb. 14 in honor of the five students killed there nearly two years ago during a campus shooting.

NIU Remembers: A Day of Reflection will include a laying of wreaths at the Forward, Together Forward Memorial Garden, which will be done by university officials and family members of those killed in the shooting at 3 p.m.

The second event will be a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m., said Kelly Wesener, assistant vice president for Student Services, who has been coordinating the day’s events. NIU President John Peters will make short remarks at each event, Wesener said. Each event will be followed by a reception in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center.

Feb. 14 marks two years since former NIU graduate student Steven Kazmierczak walked into a classroom in Cole Hall shortly after 3 p.m. and opened fire.

The 2008 shooting left five students dead, at least 21 injured, and Kazmierczak was dead at his own hand. Killed during the shooting were 20-year-old Gayle Dubowski, 20-year-old Catalina Garcia, 32-year-old Julianna Gehant, 19-year-old Ryanne Mace, and 20-year-old Daniel Parmenter.

A motive for the shooting remains unknown. Cole Hall has been closed since the shootings, and the school is waiting for about $8 million in state capital funds to renovate the building.

Planning for the two-year marker started in October, and the vision has been led by Peters and other officials, Wesener said.

Peters said he asked his staff last fall to plan “a dignified event that would be a fitting memorial to those we lost, provide comfort to their families, and recognize the ongoing struggle of all those touched by the tragedy,” he said in a written statement.

The planned events are appropriate ways to memorialize the two years since the shooting, he said, and all community members are invited to take part.

“I remain extremely gratified by the many ways in which our community has come together in healing,” Peters said in the statement. “We experienced our darkest hours together, and we continue to draw strength from that unity. In the words of our fight song, Forward, Together Forward.”

This year’s memorial day is a more subdued affair from that of Feb. 14, 2009, when there were three main events – a memorial service, a wreath laying and a candlelight vigil – as well as 17 other events held throughout the day.

“The first year is really the significant marker,” Wesener said. “As we move forward and we heal, it is important certainly that we mark this day, and we remember this day in our history. We are there to support the families of the victims. We have to respect the day but also understand that as we move forward, it is focused on healing, and how we do that will change over time.”

If you go



What: NIU Remembers: A Day of Reflection

When: Feb. 14

What: At 3 p.m., a presentation of memorial wreaths will be made at the Forward, Together Forward Memorial Garden. People can gather starting at 2:30 p.m. in the MLK Commons. A reception will follow in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center. Atá 6 p.m., a candlelight vigil will be held in the MLK Commons. People can begin to gather at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow in the Regency Room of the Holmes Student Center.

On the Net: www.niu.edu/forward/

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