Students, families still mourning NIU losses

February 20, 2008 8:57:42 PM PST
A vigil was held at Northern Illinois University while mourners at a suburban high school gathered to remember Gayle Dubowski.She was one of five students killed by a gunman on campus last week.

Three-oh-six Thursday afternoon marks exactly one week since Steven Kazmierczak interrupted a class at NIU and started shooting. Moments of silence are planned for Thursday.

Cole Hall is still surrounded by police tape as the investigation continues. Investigators say they have talked to more than 120 different people so far, but they are still no closer to determining a motive. In the meantime, vigils and memorials continued.

It was a somber procession. Few students were on campus Wednesday night. But many who were there were praying for the victims and for the community, walking from a nearby church to Cole Hall, the scene of last week's violence.

"It still hits you hard, and you think about it and it hurts. But I think it's getting better," said Dina Bach, NIU student.

In the central campus, condolence boards are nearly full of messages, full of prayer and encouragement.

Also, a memorial service was held 7:30 Wednesday night at Glenbard North High School for 20-year-old sophomore Gayle Dubowski in Carol Stream. She sang in the choir during her high school years.

"The more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes to try to make sense of this," said Matt Janecek, high school teacher.

A military salute was part of Wednesday's funeral for another of five NIU students killed in the shooting rampage on campus last week.

Thirty-two-year-old Julianna Gehant was buried Wednesday in Mendota with full military honors.

Gehant spent 12 years in active duty in the Army before enrolling at NIU. She was studying to be an elementary school teacher.

The service was private, as hundreds of friends and family offered a final tribute to Juliana Gehant, known as Julie to most. Having served 12 years in the Army, her services got the escort of the Patriot Guard.

"She was continuing to be a soldier and didn't put that behind her. And sitting in the classroom, the unthinkable happens," said Master Sgt. Lee Clement, co-worker.

Among those attending were friends from Meriden, the small town where Gehant grew up.

"I grew up with her and lived next door and we all grew up together. It was a small town. And we all played together and spent the night together. And she was a really nice girl," said Tina Hensley, friend.

"We lived in a small town. So the siblings were all gone and she was always fun loving and joking around and laughing," said Tammy Caddell, friend.

"She was a sweet kid. I'd known her her whole life. She will be missed," said Robin Ridley, friend.

After Gehant's military service, Gehant wanted to do something new.

She wanted to teach. So she enrolled at NIU last fall to get her teaching certificate. She was known as a serious, focused student, usually sitting in the front of the class. Unfortunately, she was near the front of the classroom when a gunman opened fire last Thursday.

Gehant was one of five students killed in a college lecture hall before the gunman killed himself. She was buried Wednesday with full military honors. Her finally resting place is Holy Cross Cemetery in Mendota.

Gehant's fiance was killed four years ago in a car accident. Friends say they had been childhood sweethearts.

Another victim of the NIU shootings was laid to rest Wednesday. Family of 20-year-old Dan Parmenter held services at Taylor Ridge Methodist Church in Milan, Illinois, which is near the Quad Cities. During the shootings, witnesses say Parmenter shielded his girlfriend from the gunfire, saving her life.