It’s been a decade since five Northern Illinois University students were killed by a gunman in a lecture hall in Cole Hall. Several upcoming events will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the shooting.
Every year on Feb. 14, the bell in the tower on the DeKalb NIU campus tolls five times at 3:06 p.m. to honor the lives lost on that day in 2008. People gather around the “Forward, Together Forward” memorial outside Cole Hall as wreaths are laid to pay their respects for the victims, their families or those who were injured in the shooting.
NIU officials say more activities, in addition to the annual memorial event, are planned to remember how far the community has come in the last ten years.
“The scheduled commemorative events are intended to express our gratitude to all who contributed to the response and healing of our community ten years ago,” Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman wrote in a campuswide message. “We have planned receptions for first responders and medical personnel; occasions to acknowledge NIU faculty and staff who participated in the response; and opportunities to express appreciation to members of our local community who stepped forward to help.”
NIU Dean of Students Kelly Wesener-Michael says the university is still grateful ten years later for the outpouring of support that came from around the world after the tragedy.
An exhibit of archival materials and items sent to the university following the shootings will be displayed in Holmes Student Center on the NIU campus through Feb. 14.
Wesener-Michael says NIU officials wanted to give the community multiple opportunities to reflect on the time passed.
“Folks came together in amazing ways,” she said, “and it’s important that we understand the strength and resiliency and hope that came from a really, really difficult time and how that’s become part of the fabric of our community.”
NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips says police response tactics for similar events across the country have changed after a “decade of hard-learned lessons.”
“When we forget history, we’re doomed to repeat it,” he said, “and I think that we need to remember what happened here.”
Other events include a 2.14 mile reflection walk, a music concert, and first responders’ night during NIU basketball games on Saturday. A full listing of the commemorative events is available on the university website.
- WNIJ's Katie Finlon contributed to this story.