NIU holds moment of silence

February 21, 2008 3:03:29 PM PST
Five minutes of silence marks the moment one week ago that a gunman killed five students on the campus of Northern Illinois University. Many attending Thursday's memorial were overcome with emotion.

The tribute Thursday afternoon in DeKalb began at exactly 3:06 p.m. That's the precise moment that authorities claim Steven Kazmierczak opened fire in a NIU lecture hall.

The president of NIU says that Cole Hall is hallowed ground and he wants the space where five students plus the five gunman lost their lives to be some kind of learning center. He made these comments to a large group of people who were gathered on campus to reflect on the deadly violence seven days ago.

"I call on each of you to gather up your own strength and to remember and love and in caring, let us pause in remembrance," said President John Peters, NIU.

First came words of comfort and encouragement from the president of NIU to students, parents and faculty. Then silence while bells started ringing at 3:06 on campus and at churches throughout the community. That was the time of the deadly shooting seven days ago when former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak opened fire in Cole Hall, killing five students before taking his own life.

The bell tolled for five minutes honoring each of the victims.

"I was able to look out and see everyone sit down and hugging and just really consoling each other," said Kiarri Andrews, NIU counselor.

For many students who came to the moment of silence, this was their first time on campus since the shooting.

"I was driving up here and that's where I wanted to be," said Glenn Reschke, NIU sophomore.

"A strengthened allegiance to the school for both students and faculty who have tried for the past seven days to process this tragedy," said Jessica Soto, NIU freshman.

A group of students from Virginia Tech planned to visit the campus Thursday evening to pay their respects. They are fraternity and sorority members who just happened to be in Chicago for a leadership conference. But they are also members of a group called Hokies United which was formed after 32 members of the Virginia Tech family were shot to death 10 months ago.