Cole Hall college

My Saint Valentine's Day Massacre

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 Kenny Muzzey

I will always remember where I was that day
when I heard the news
everything seemed so surreal
it was as if the moment wasn’t real
events that occurred interfered
with the lives of the hundreds near
what had happened was anyone’s worst fear…

T-minus two days here, and surprisingly, the opinions surrounding Valentine’s Day seem to be similar amongst men and women. A general disdain for the day, being labeled as an ‘excuse to go out to eat’ and that was meant in a good way. All kidding aside, February 14th, has a different meaning for some of us, no, not singles awareness day, or whatever creative name people have given it.

February 14th has a darker meaning for me, not just me alone however. For those attending school at NIU, Northern Illinois University, on that Thursday, February 14th 2008, know what I am talking about. Those affected by the shooting on campus that day were not just students, teachers, family, friends, but a community, a nation.

On that particular day, I had skipped classes and went to work early. Midafternoon the calls and text messages started to roll in.  There were countless messages asking if I was okay, being a bit confused, and completely oblivious to what had been going on I nonchalantly replied. Eventually, I had received a text from a close friend and former NIU student, Amanda; inquiring if I was okay and telling me that ‘there was a shooting at NIU’. Chills ran down my spine as my heart sunk, I rushed to the only computer in the office that had internet access and immediately jumped online to find the details and there I had stayed for the rest of the evening.

In the days following, an eerie stillness had fallen over the university. Vigils were held, makeshift memorials had been erected. The once bustling college campus was essentially empty and blanketed in a fog of despair. I remember walking with a friend of mine, Katlin, to pay our respects and visit the various memorials scattered about the campus. She and I had stopped to sign a memorial that the school had constructed outdoors. There stood five or so white boards, measuring several feet in length. Markers had been placed below, resting on a white ledge which matched the unknowingly innocent snowy background. I snapped a photo as Katlin looked over the kind words that had been written. A few seconds later, I grabbed a black marker and signed the board, reciting a poem I had written the night before in reflection.

Once class had resumed, a date I do not entirely recall, the campus was very much alive with social workers, therapy dogs, support groups, and almost everywhere one looked something was going on. Each building was seemingly having some sort of function that helped the returning students cope. At the time, I had been studying accounting, so I spent a vast majority of my time in Barsema Hall. Upon entry to the building there had been booths and tables set up offering slices of pizza, doughnuts, coffee, in addition to various other snacks and beverages,  a young woman asked me what shirt size I had worn. Moments later she handed me a red memorial shirt. The front of the shirt depicted the school’s mascot Victor E. Huskie in black, above was written ’02.14.08 Today We Are All Huskies’ and below ‘Forward, Together Forward.’ The back reading ‘I have seen expressions of love and togetherness. We will get through this together.’ As stated by NIU President John G. Peters. 

In the wake of this tragic occurrence, I did not personally know any of those who had lost their lives, nor any of those who had been wounded. And those who do, I do not pretend to know the repercussions that still effect you as much today as they had six years ago. It was hard enough for me to write this piece as it hits close to home. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who were, and still are affected by the events that had taken a community by surprise on February 14th 2008.

In the years following, I had paid a visit to the campus on the 14th of February to mourn those who had lost their lives that day. It is, and was, very moving to see memorials that had been put together by schools, the community, the students, staff, family and friends. For those acts of kindness I thank you, we thank you.

February 1
4th, Valentine's Day, holds feelings of positivity, togetherness, and happiness, for many. For many, it has been, and still is, a day of anguish, grief, and heartache and for those, we hold you in our hearts, our minds, and our prayers for on February 14th, we are all Huskies. Forward, together forward.

In honor of those who lost their lives that ill-fated day in February, may they rest in peace,
Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace, Daniel Parmenter, and Gayle Dubowski.

~Kenny Muzzey~
Halfstack Blogger & Photographer

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