The Northern Star remembers

By Erik Allgood

The shootings last year affected everyone on the Northern Illinois University campus – even the people who wrote about them.

The staff of the Northern Star, NIU’s student newspaper, remembers coming together in the confusion and terror of that day and the days that followed fulfill their obligation to the community.

Justin Weaver, a junior who is their photo editor and former managing editor, said that the paper, like the campus, just wants to move on.

“The toughest thing anybody on our staff could have done at the time was go out there and be a reporter,” said Michael Van Der Harst, a senior, editor-in-chief and former campus events editor.

In fact, the Northern Star had most of its staff doing its best to cover the shootings.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“We had everybody available out covering the story,” Weaver said. “We even had our advertising editor on the scene snapping photos.”

Daniel Parmenter, who worked for the paper as an advertising representative, was one of the five slain in the shootings.

“I have heard gentle giant thrown around a lot when referring to him; he was 6-foot-4,” Van Der Harst said. “He is sorely missed in his department.”

Weaver remembers that the weight of the situation did not sink in until he saw a CNN interview with the editor-in-chief of the paper.

“They were showing a building where I had attended class two hours earlier with our editor-in-chief talking in voice-over,” Weaver said, “It was surreal.”

Jim Killam, advisor for the newspaper, remembered that it wasn’t very long before all national attention was directed at NIU. He said all of the Chicago media was there within a few hours, and the national media was there the next morning.

The Northern Star won several awards for its coverage including a Pacemaker, one of the most prestigious awards for student newspapers. Weaver said he had mixed feelings about receiving so many career opportunities because of the work he had done covering such a personal tragedy.

“I was talking to Jim about this and told him that I felt terrible about getting rewarded because of this tragedy and he said, ‘That’s good that you feel that way because it means you still have a conscience.'” Weaver said.

Van Der Harst said he would give back all the job and internships offers he received for his role in the coverage in a second.

“I would rather cover city council meetings the rest of my life than go through that again,” Van Der Harst said. “We didn’t do all that work to win awards but to help the community cope under the circumstances.”

Van Der Harst said that the Northern Star did several feature stories for the anniversary of the shootings. The paper allowed families of the students free reign to say whatever they wanted about the deceased. They also interviewed five students who were injured in the attacks and asked local community organizations how they had helped the campus move on.

Killam said the campus is beginning to move on and that there is a new class of students who don’t understand what it was like to experience the shootings.

“I would gladly trade anything for it to not have happened,” Killam said, “I wish I could just turn back the clock.”