NIU shooting: Vigil held in memory of victims

Matt Spector

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Lauren Pond/the daily northwesternWeinberg freshman Shanika Gunaratna participates in a vigil held Monday night at Alice Millar Chapel to honor the victims of the Feb. 14 Northern Illinois University shooting.

Monday night, Alice Millar Chapel was filled with the voices of students and faculty calling for campus-wide solidarity in the wake of tragedy.

More than 100 students came together to show their support for those affected by the Feb. 14 shooting at Northern Illinois University, in which a gunman killed five people and wounded 16 others.

“We are here to try to find answers to a tragedy that has no explanation,” said Associate Student Government President Jon Webber. “With NIU only 70 miles away, our community is particularly saddened and shaken.”

University Chaplain Timothy Stevens urged attendees to talk to the university’s religious leaders, Counseling and Psychological Services employees, their professors, community assistants and one another.

“Coming together in a troubled time is one of the signs of a healthy community,” he said. “We must not forget our most cherished and precious values – our freedom and openness, the freedom to pursue knowledge wherever it may lead.”

CAPS Director John Dunkle related the vigil to his experience counseling at NIU on Friday. He and other CAPS members spent time on the campus consoling students and their families.

“The first thing we did was meet with the staff there – their response was so good – I was so impressed with the response of all areas of student affairs and university,” Dunkle said.

He added that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich extended his condolences to students and spent time with those who were traumatized by Thursday’s events.

“In situations like this, they bring us face-to-face at once with the evil in human nature but also with the best of human nature,” Dunkle said. “There were over 100 volunteers there.”

A contingent from the Latino-interest organization Alianza attended the vigil to show their support for an NU staff member who lost her sister in the shooting.

Communication senior Rishi Taparia urged attendees to learn a lesson from the tragedy and maintain their support systems.

“I urge you all to look out for one another. We are very diverse in our origins, we are all one big family,” Taparia said. “We together can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

On Thursday, college students across the country will be wearing black in remembrance of the individuals killed and injured in the Feb. 14 shooting, said SESP junior Ruth Orme-Johnson.

A memorial service will be held Feb. 24. Classes resume at NIU Feb. 25.

Dunkle and campus religious leaders will be on hand at the NIU campus and will be stationed in classrooms to offer support for students returning to life after a tragedy.

“They’re asking for clergy and counselors to come to campus and help talking with people if they need it,” Stevens said.

Dunkle said the bulk of the counseling responsibilities will come when NIU students must acclimate themselves to campus life and continue the grieving process.

“This is going to take a lot … the hard part is going to begin when students come back to campus,” Dunkle said.

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