Since 2013, there have been 291 school shootings in America.1 There is a growing club of survivors that no one wants to join. From here to there, our stories unite us. This memorial seeks to let the shape of the public memory around this type of tragedy be formed from the texture of the individual narratives of those personally involved.
As a student on campus at the NIU shooting in 2008, I have my story, as do others. Yet, our stories are not usually aggregated, shared, or combined. Through sharing our memories, we can process them individually. Collaborative storytelling allows us to put these stories together, forming an overall shape, without losing the texture of each individual narrative.
This collective creates not only a public record, but a pulpit—shining light on greater issues of gun violence and control through the lens of human experience. The voice of the memorial is not a curatorial voice nor a historian’s, but rather it resounds directly from the people who experienced history that day.
1 School Shooting data from everytown.com
This project was started in 2012 by NIU alumn, Lauren Meranda, for her MDes thesis on Design after Loss.
Collective negative events often invoke within an individual a natural desire to memorialize. Whether in the stone memorials at the National Mall, the posters designed for the Tsunami in Japan, or the roadside memorials filled with teddybears and hand-made cards, their is a presence of creation and creative expression following tragedies. Bringing creativity to the grieving grieving process can be a powerful tool, but one that should be considered respectfully. What is the role of design after loss? Beginning with a brief understanding of memory and remembering, the motives of memorial can be split into two categories–the psychology of loss and the creation of public memory.
The question lies in who decides what story gets told. In memorials stemming from collective tragedy, design should seek to facilitate the grieving process and the public memory-making that comes from those who the tragedy affects. A single story should not be the only one we tell.
Northern Illinois University
I wrote this ten years ago on Feb. 15th, 2008. I think I’m sharing this because so many others are also remembering in their own ways. ——————–
It’s hard to think right now of what to say to express all of the emotions that ran high through me yesterday. At the time the shooting occurred, I was at work at the Art Museum in Altgeld Hall (that castle tower logo you’ve probably seen on the news, is the building I work in). I had been at work for an hour, when some students filtered into the gallery and were talking quietly amongst themselves. I wasn’t really paying much attention at first, until I heard a girl out in the hall say something about a shooting on campus and mentioned the Holmes Student Center. I immediately spoke to one of my co-workers and told her to go tell the director of the museum. Within seconds she returned and said “we need to start locking the gallery doors.” We did this, and the director ushered in the students that were out in the halls. I grabbed my coat and my laptop and belongings. We moved into the office and those doors were locked as well. There were about a dozen of us in the office, and frankly, …it was surreal.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.