In the wake of Thursday's shootings at Northern Illinois University, four DeKalb residents created a memorial using material provided by nature. On Saturday night, Dave Pearson and three NIU students - his daughter, 21-year-old Sarah Pearson, her boyfriend, 20-year-old Nick Zangler, and their friend, 20-year-old Katrina Olle - used snow to spell out N-I-U in block letters in front of the Pearson home on Cynthia Place in DeKalb. The monument is about 7 feet high and 16 feet wide. “I thought it would be a therapeutic thing for them,” said Dave Pearson, 50. “A memorial, a symbol, instead of having a pile of snow on the front yard.” While Saturday's sculpture was certainly inspired, the Pearsons have been creating snow sculptures for more than 15 years. The elder Pearson also volunteers his time at the Stage Coach Theatre as a set designer. “I did kind of think it would be neat for them and for me, too,” Dave Pearson said. “We grew up on that campus and it's close to me, too.” It took about five hours to build the monument. Dave Pearson and Zangler marked the letters with spray paint, and Olle and Sarah Pearson, with some additional help from Dave Pearson's wife, Patti, helped to dig out the letters. More snow was added before freezing the monument with water from a hose. “It was more fun than I thought it was going to be,” Olle said. For Sarah Pearson, the action was a welcome respite from the emotional strain of the past few days. “It was good to know we were doing something in support of Northern,” she said. “I feel much better.” Sarah Pearson said she feels a need to be around people who are going though the same experience she is. The university is closed this week. “I'm excited to see how everyone's going to come together,” she said. “That and there's not that much to do around here.” She and her mother created about 125 red and black ribbons, which she distributed at the South Fourth Street branch of American National Bank, where she works. Her mother, who works at Jefferson Elementary School in DeKalb, also gave out the ribbons. They have made more to donate to the community. In the virtual realm, a picture that a passer-by took of the snow letters has been posted to a Facebook group titled “Pray for Northern Illinois University Students and Families” that now has 136,000 members. “Me and Nick have been checking it every half-hour watching to see how people are showing their support,” Sarah Pearson said. “We wanted everyone to know that we support Northern.” Photographer Eric Sumberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.