More victims' services held; NIU teachers return

February 19, 2008 6:53:02 PM PST
Three victims of the campus shootings were remembered Tuesday. A funeral service for 20-year-old Dan Parmenter was held Tuesday afternoon at Christ Church in Oak Brook. He will be buried Wednesday in Milan, Illinois, which is near the Quad Cities.

Several hundred people packed Parmenter's service, which ended around 4 p.m. and lasted about two hours. It was very emotional, with red ribbons worn by most of the mourners, each of whom left carrying a single red rose.

Parmenter was sitting with his girlfriend, Lauren, near the front of class when shooter Kazmierczak opened fire. She was shot twice but survived and was still hospitalized.

In Oak Brook, the former rugby and football player was memorialized by his sister and several fraternity brothers.

"He was one of the nicest guys and knew my name before I knew his," said friend Matt Heines. "He was just a really friendly guy, very personable."

"In just 20 years, this young man impacted hundreds and hundreds of people. And one of the most exciting elements was listening to his fraternity brothers talk about the leadership that he provided in their lives as a friend, as a scholar, as an athlete," said Senior Pastor Daniel Meyer, Christ Church of Oak Brook.

And in Medota Tuesday afternoon, visitation was being held for 32-year-old Julianna Gehant at Schwarz Funeral Home. She will be buried with full military honors Wednesday.

The oldest of the victims, Gehant served in the Army and Army reserves for 12 years before enrolling at NIU. A former carpenter in the reserves, Gehant wanted to be a teacher, and now her family is getting ready to bury her.

"She is going to be missed terribly. I knew her dad. He used to work for me. I knew her very well," said Bernard Bodner, Mendota resident.

"She was just good, just full of life, and just fun. And I really enjoyed having her and glad I knew her; (it's) an absolute tragedy," said Dave Schroder, Mendota resident. Visitation began Tuesday afternoon for 20-year-old Gayle Dubowski at 3 p.m. at Salerno's Rosedale Chapel in Roselle.

Dubowski was a devout member of her church, loved the arts and sang soprano in her high school chorus, and that is where she will be memorialized Wednesday.

"This is one of those times where you have a person who did a lot for people, but a person who didn't live in the limelight at all and did things without recognition and without any glamour or glitz or anything," said Chris Zillman, DeKalb Church of Christ.

NIU officials have announced that there will be five minutes of silence and bell-ringing on campus this Thursday at 3:06 p.m., precisely one week following the deadly shootings.

On campus Tuesday, NIU Police Chief Donald Grady met parents of the deceased students and showed them around campus to view the various memorials.

Members of the Northern Illinois University faculty also returned to campus Tuesday morning to begin training to help students cope with last week's tragedy.

Students will return for classes on Monday February 25, and that will likely be a very emotional experience for many.

Like most students, many faculty members also decided to leave campus after the shootings last week. Tuesday, they started returning to work. In addition to preparing class work, they will also be preparing to answer questions and lead discussions about last week's tragedy.

The bitter wind-chill made the NIU campus feel desolate early Tuesday morning. The empty buildings, parking lots and walkways represent a blank canvas for a university community in need of a fresh start.

Most of the students and faculty have been gone for several days. But slowly, the campus is waking up. Small groups of teachers walked by Cole Hall Tuesday morning to reflect on the upcoming challenges.

"I think the reality is we just want to come back and make sure it was still our campus. It really isn't. The press is still here and a lot of other things. We all agreed as a team we wanted to come down. Pay our respects to those kids," said Shevawn Eaton, NIU faculty.

Faculty and staff reported for work Tuesday. They'll be meeting with counselors throughout the week.

"Most of us don't feel confident really to handle the questions that are going to come up," said Fran Falk-Ross, professor of literacy education.

"We have a department meeting scheduled at 11 to see how faculty members could help students," said Yoshi Takei, professor.

Working in small groups, counselors will try and help teachers prepare to lead the student body through a tough transition and recovery effort. Counselors are in DeKalb from around the country, some representing various Christian groups.

"We're here for one purpose and one purpose only. That's just to have the presence of Christ here and share the love of Christ. So as people are coming, we're just gathering with them and just standing with them," said Chrissy Nelson, counselor.

Most students will arrive back on campus this weekend. Senior Jasmine Cain decided to come back early.

"It feels very sad, of course. The campus is desolate. I think it weakened us all. We'll get stronger as time goes on," said Cain.

Starting Tuesday, groups of faculty members were meeting in small groups with counselors. They will probably be anywhere from 20-50 teachers in each group. They will be meeting like that throughout the week. Starting on Monday, the university has arranged for a team of more than 300 volunteer counselors to come in from around the country to work with students. Classes will resume on Monday.

"Since we've never gone through this before, how do you handle the situation?" said faculty member Karen Williamson.

"How are we going to continue with our work, and to heal? And how, I guess for me, do the work we're supposed to do and yet be very concerned and aware what people are going through," said faculty member Judy Chitwood. "You can't live your life on campus in fear, either. We have work to do. We have students to teach. And we have to move forward."

"Everybody grieves in different ways, and some students are going to be affected more than others. And they just have to move at their own speed and just try to get them past this and move on," said staff member Cliff Goldon.