Producer's Coverage Blog

February 15, 2008 9:16:41 PM PST
ABC7 producer Jason Knowles chronicles his experience covering the Northern Illinois University shootings.2/15/08 - 8:51 p.m.

From the moment photographer Glenn Holcomb and I pulled into the NIU campus we could feel the grip of the gunman and the effect the of the killings . It was bitter cold and police lights were flashing near every corner of each sidestreet that led into the campus . We first approached Lauren Carr, a student who witnessed the shootings and in the classroom. Her mom was by her side and they were on their way back to Carol Stream . Carr said she was not sure how she would ever face the classroom again.

We talked to several other students who were inside the classroom or the building at the time . They echoed similiar stories of people ducking for cover, dodging bullets and panic. Overall they share the same feeling of disbelief and are puzzled how or why anyone would do this.

After gathering as many interviews as we could, I checked in with reporter Chalres Thomas who was awaiting the news conference to begin. In between coordinating more interviews and continuing to think ahead to what we needed next, I grabbed subs for the crew. On the way to the get the food, I met up with a young lady who was just standing alone on a quiet corner away from campus with a weekend bag in her hand. I asked her if she was a student and she said yes and then I asked her if she had seen anything and she replied that she too was actually in the building at the time the gunman struck. She was waiting for her sister to pick her up and said she saw the sea of people diving to the ground int he hallway of Cole Hall. She was on her way home to escape the nightmare.

After the final interviews we sent the footage back to the station and they placed the elements into Charles Thomas's and other reporter's stories that needed other reaction from students. We were set for the 10 pm newscast but there was no time to relax . Next up was planning and securing live interviews for the Morning News shows. Its very difficult to convince people, especially those who are victims or witnesses of a tradgedy to participate in a live interview at 5:00 or 6:00 am. However, students who were in the classroom felt it was important for them to speak out and share their stories. We also made sure to get the President of the University to speak to us live so he could update parents and other concerned residents on the latest actions from school officials.

After the moring show I met up with another photographer, Jim Mastry and we went to track down people who knew the shooter. I-Team Reporter Chuck Goudie had given me information about a woman, Alexandra Chapman. She knew the shooter , former graduate student ,Steve Kazmierczak. He tutored her and they were in the same educational program. Chapman told me that although what Kazmierczak did was horrifying and wrong, that he was not a monster. She said she had remembered him as a kind and gentle person and that soemthing inside of his head must have gone terribly wrong.

We then went to a local church for a noon memorial service and talked to several more students who were alll connected to the massacre one way or another. It had seemed that everyone had either a friend, or a friend of a friend who was injured or killed. Many people there had no ties to anyone in the classroom. It made me realize that even if someone was not directly affected by the killings, they still cared just as much and felt just as vested in the heeling process of the community.


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