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posted: 2/14/2018 1:00 AM

Editorial: NIU shooting survivors still have much to teach us

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  • The names of the five students killed a decade ago in the shooting at Northern Illinois University are carved in granite. This plaque adorns a tree that was planted to honor the strength of the survivors.

      The names of the five students killed a decade ago in the shooting at Northern Illinois University are carved in granite. This plaque adorns a tree that was planted to honor the strength of the survivors.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Forward, together forward.

Ten years ago that saying meant trying to look ahead in the hours, days, maybe months after five Northern Illinois University students were killed and 21 others injured in a classroom shooting in DeKalb.

But today, on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, those most affected by that shooting -- surviving relatives and shooting victims themselves -- can say that battle cry, which is part of the NIU fight song, has helped them honor the victims while working on a new normal for their lives.

Their stories, as chronicled Sunday and Monday in the Daily Herald, are important to share because much can be learned from them on how to cope in the face of tragedy.

"Time doesn't do anything to help you feel better," said Joe Dubowski of Carol Stream, whose 20-year-old daughter, Gayle, was among those killed that day in Cole Hall. "It's what you do with that time."

Joe, 61, became an NIU student, earned a master's degree and now is a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in grief counseling.

Patrick Korellis, a Lindenhurst native and one of the shooting victims, has found his voice as an advocate for gun control.

"I felt like I needed to speak out," said Korellis, 31, recalling how he felt after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut in 2012. "I can't imagine what was going through those kids' minds. I decided I want to use my story to try to help save lives, to try to prevent these things from happening."

Gary Parmenter, whose son, Daniel was killed, also speaks out about the senseless shootings that still occur 10 years after his boy was killed.

He wants more attention paid to mental illness and keeping guns and ammunition out of the hands of would-be killers.

Maria Christiansen is right back where she was on that day, on the NIU campus, but this time as a campus police officer. It's a job she was destined to do, having received an OK from the Elgin Police Department for a ride-along the morning of the shooting, which occurred later that afternoon.

"It motivated me even more," she said of what happened. "I don't want to block it out . ... As horrible as that was, it's still something that made me who I am."

And Jim Phillips, who was the NIU athletic director and a close adviser to the NIU president, doesn't forget either. He remembers that day vividly, "the senseless tragedy, the unspeakable evil."

But forward, together forward also meant "the coming together of a community against evil that would not prevail. That this horrific event would not define us, our community, our family and our future."

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