Student reflects on NIU tragedy, recounts struggle during shooting

By Alissa Groeninger

Valentine’s Day in 2008 started just like any other day for Dan, a Northern Illinois University student.

“I made the trek across campus just like you do any other day,” said Dan, a sophomore who wished to have his last name withheld.

As soon as he left a meeting, though, he heard loud pops.

“I immediately knew what they were,” Dan said.

He said everyone outside turned and stared at Cole Hall. When the first student managed to push through the doors of the hall, the students outside the building ran away. However, he remembers how the building’s doors didn’t close because of the constant swarm of people on the ground fighting to exit. Dan stayed and helped his peers.

Dan’s parents had heard that a York Community High School graduate named Dan died. They spent hours thinking their son, who had attended York, was killed.

When Dan finally reached his parents (the phone lines were completely blocked in the hours following the shooting), he learned that a high school friend, Dan Parmenter, had been killed.

Dan said he believes the incident was not preventable. Don Grady, chief of police and public safety director at NIU, reviewed all their safety procedures after the attack and found that they were well prepared. Dan said he felt the police responded quickly and effectively.

“Campuses are as safe as you can make them,” Dan said. “This was an unavoidable event. Safety is just an illusion.”

Grady said the police are always working to make campuses safer and to implement new prevention techniques. However, he also said preventing an attack, such as the Valentine’s Day shooting, would be impossible.

“If a person is willing to die in order to harm others,” Grady said, “you’re not going to be likely to stop them.”