student

I remember sitting at the Junction restaurant with a good friend the night of the shooting. I felt completely overwhelmed and helpless. I felt anxious just sitting there drinking coffee, thinking about everything that was happening just across the street on campus: armed police officers from every town in Northern Illinois, news helicopters, and a lot of caution tape. There was a moment where I could not sit there any longer—I knew I had to do something with the anxiety, fear, and pain growing inside of me. So I started texting all of my friends to meet me in central park between the dormitories to sing our hearts out to God. I wasn’t exactly sure what we would do or what songs we would play, but I knew that it would be healing for all of us to be together and express ourselves in one enjoined chorus of grief and a longing for answers. It was freezing that night—but within that little circle of people singing, there was a supernatural kind of warmth. My hands hurt while I strummed and tried to hold down the chords, but I didn’t care. After a few minutes I opened my eyes and realized that cameras had flooded the scene from various local news organizations. It all felt so surreal. I was interviewed regarding why we had joined together that night. The next morning when I woke up, I learned that my neighbor in the dorms freshman year was one of the students killed in the shooting. It took awhile to feel comfortable in my own skin again.

student survivor

It feels like it happened to me years and years ago. Even when I was there just laying on the floor, it was just so unreal. I was mad, and I was really upset for a long time, and I just wanted to scream from the top of my lungs, but there’s no reason for me to be angry with him if there’s nothing I can do about it. I went back, because I felt that was the way for me to heal completely, emotionally. Right after I got out of the room I felt like it was over. The doors are closed. Let’s move on.

student

I was in an art class when the school went on lock down. My classmates and I were making jokes about it until I saw that I had a voicemail from my dad asking if I was okay. A couple other students got texts asking if they were alright, but the phone towers were so saturated no one was able to dial out. We checked the University web page, and it said there was a shooter on campus and 30 people were injured or dead. As I walked home from class that day the campus was eerily quiet. I walked and prayed with the silence. I felt sad, but also guilty; I wasn’t as torn up or effected as others. In some ways, I didn’t know if I could feel anything at all. I was numb. Painting allowed me to release emotions I didn’t even know I had. Sometimes when you ‘create’ you don’t know why; you just do.

student

I was in the building next door with my boyfriend. He was originally signed up for that class but I talked him into taking the class I had. We got out early and were waiting for the bus. We saw people running, and then a kid said there was a shooting. I’ll never forget that terrifying walk/run back to my dorm praying there wasn’t another shooter around the corner.

student reporter

News spread about the shooting at Cole Hall within minutes. Confused whispers filtered into classrooms and dormitories about 3:10 pm The whispers became louder and more insistent inside my public relations class in DuSable Hall with John Puterbaugh, the school newspaper’s editor-in-chief. We knew something terrible had happened at Cole, but not what. Many of us worked for the Northern Star, so when we left class, we went looking for the story. We were being pulled in a lot of different directions emotionally and professionally. On one hand, we were student journalists trying to do our job of covering the story. But on the other, we were part of the story and we were being interviewed by other media about covering the story. And another part of it was we were students and colleagues of people lost in the tragedy. So it was tough to figure out at times what role to play.

student

That day I was studying in my dorm room for a test I had later that day. My room overlooks Cole Hall. I used to zone out my window looking at the students walking around the fountain just in front of the building. I never could have imagined what I saw that day. I didn’t hear any gun shots, but I heard the screams of the students running from the building. I was so scared. I locked my door, grabbed my cell phone, and hid under my lofted bed. I sat alone in that spot for three hours before the cell towers let my mom’s call through.

student

I lived in an apartment across the street from Neptune North Hall and Cole Hall. I was leaving my apartment for class when I saw people running out from behind the Student Center. Everyone on the street including myself was corralled into a nearby building. People were crying and praying. I couldn’t call out on my cell phone, because so many people were trying to call as well at the same time. I just couldn’t be in that room anymore, so I snuck out a side door that said an alarm would sound if I opened it. I figured all the alarms were going off anyways. I walked through a small wooded area behind the building to get back to the street my apartment was on. When I was almost home, I saw one of my friends wandering blank faced in the streets. He walking past Cole Hall when it happened. He came back to my place with me, and we watched the news. He was super shaken up. He kept saying that he thought he walked through blood and that he thought it was on his shoes. I didn’t see any blood, but I wiped them off anyways. It made him feel better. After a few hours, our other friends started coming over since the apartment was so close to campus. I was glad to not be alone.

student reporter

I was at the Northern Star newsroom when I heard about the shootings. A bunch of us grabbed pens and our notebooks and ran to Cole Hall. My fellow reporters were staying outside, because they thought going into one of the building would mean they’d be put on lock down and miss the story. I went into the Holmes Student Center to cover the emotions of the students in there. I never expected what I actually saw. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation until I walked inside the student center and saw one student covered in blood, a blank stare on his face, another suffering a gunshot wound. It’s an image I will never forget. That’s when I realized it was more serious, when I realized the gravity of the situation. I felt a sinking sensation.

student

February 14, 2008 was probably the most surreal day of my life. Just a day that you are almost unaware of your surroundings. You feel like you’re watching something from the outside. You know completely disconnected to what you think is reality at the moment. I will never forget where it was when I found out. I was out at the Trident, the cafeteria that is across from Cole Hall. it was Valentine’s day. I was a couple friends and we were excited about a fraternity mixer that we were attending the weekend we were talking about it really excited for what the weekend laid in front of us. Then all of a sudden this girl ran into the cafeteria and the only way I can describe it is, the most overly dramatic face any actor could try to portray. Her expression was of sheer terror. And I just remember her face being completely pail. She was running like couldn’t have any balance. She couldn’t run straight. So she ran up to the counter and said, “We need ice. We need ice. Somebody’s been shot.” And that moment everyone just sat there still, most of us, silent.

student

It was February, and I was sitting by the circle fireplace in Neptune Central when all of a sudden the students at the top of the stairs yelled to us that there’s been a shooting at Cole Hall. At that moment we were paralyzed. We were not sure what to do. Should we run? How we handle this? We walked up to where we saw the windows, but we didn’t see anything. Then we saw the police force barge in. At that moment I realized this is real. This is happening right now. This is sheer chaos and panic and I don’t know what to do. Other then try to console my friends who were in a state of fear and shock, all I wanted to do was let them know that I was okay, first, rather then any speculation they would find on the news. I was able to get ahold of my parents right away, which I was very thankful for. Then we were brought into the dorms after all of Neptune Hall had been put on lock down. I was in a room with students I’d never seen before.

student reporter

I was a reporter for the Northern Star. It became very clear that people very close to us were injured and dead. It immediately changed the complexion of the newsroom. We knew we had to cover the story, yet we were clearly attached to what we were reporting about. We weren’t outsiders looking in like most of the national media; the victims were just like us—they walked past the same buildings, ate in the same dining halls—and there is absolutely no way you can remove yourself from that. And then to find out that Daniel, one of our own, was among those killed... It was the most difficult story I’ve ever had to cover.

student

I remember this day clearly. I lived in Lincoln Hall. I was in my dorm about to take a nap, and my roomie was in the room too. Her sister texted her saying there had been a shooting, and we so didn’t want to believe it! But, shortly after we heard all this chaos and ambulances and we just knew it had to be true. Everybody was so scared people were trying to get a hold of us on our phones, but couldn’t get through. I would never wish this situation on anyone. But we have gotten through it. Forward, Together Forward.

student

I was at NIU that day. I was in that room six hours before it happened. The question of “what if?” It still haunts me. I remember that I was walking home and cop cars raced passed me. I made a joke that Neptune probably set off the car alarm again, and that’s when somebody told me there had been a shooting. I just ran after that. Everyone was running. People were stuck in traffic, police cars were racing. It will never be a sight I’ll ever forget.

student

It looked like a theatrical thing the way he walked onto the stage, but then people were saying: “He’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” On the way out, people couldn’t believe what they had seen. People were questioning, “Did that really happen? Was he really shooting?”

student

I had a weird feeling that morning. I’m not a mystical person, but on my way to class that morning I swear there was something uneasy in the air. It gave me goosebumps. I mentioned it to my classmate, but we both dismissed it and kept working. I never imagined anything like that could have been in the works. I wonder often what he was doing or thinking the moment the hair on my arms stood up. I know there was nothing I could have done to stop it, but I can’t help but question why else I would have felt something.

student reporter

I learned a lot about being a reporter that day. The story didn’t happen to ‘them,’ it happened to ‘us.’ It happened to me. After fielding hundreds of calls from national news outlets, I mentally knew what had happened, but it didn’t feel real until I called my mom. Then I realized there were parents out there who still hadn’t heard from their children on campus, and who were probably going nuts trying to reach them. Then I realized there were parents out there who would never speak to their children again.