NIU's Cole Hall, site of deadly shootings, reopens

January 17, 2012 4:23:47 PM PST
Cole Hall reopened Tuesday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. That is the building where a gunman opened fire nearly four years ago killing five students.

At one point the school planned to tear it down. Instead Cole Hall got a $6 million makeover.

It may not look like it outside, but Tuesday was the first day of the spring semester at Northern Illinois University. As freshman students try to find their way around campus, many will find they now have class in a building that has remained closed for nearly four years, Cole Hall, the site of one of the worst campus shootings in recent memory.

"I was a bit freaked out to take a class in this building," said NIU student Harry Geocaris.

"I just got a student after class ask me if he could miss class on that day because he was here at the time, so certainly I'm going to work around that with students who have some memories," said anthropology professor Judith Calleja.

There was no ceremony to mark the opening. But that is not to say the university isn't extremely proud of what they have done with the space. After initially planning to tear it down and start fresh, it was later decided that the memory of the five students who were shot and killed on Valentine's Day, 2008, would best be served by simply remodeling the existing structure.

The result is a state-of-the-art building that is now the crown jewel of NIU's campus.

"It's part of the new NIU," said NIU spokesperson Paul Palian. "And that's what we're really excited about...We're changing lives for our students."

The lecture hall where the shooting happened is no more. In its place is a high-tech classroom where students can collaborate on their projects.

Also, occupying part of the old lecture hall's space is a new museum of anthropology scheduled to open next month. A newly remodeled lecture hall sits on the other side of the building.

"The whole space is different," said Dr. Lesley Rigg, a geography professor. "I felt it this morning when I saw students walk in here. It made me feel really good. It's nice to move forward."