NIU Still Healing Following Cole Hall Shootings

Alan Edrinn
Alan Edrinn is a reporter for The Northern Star, and a summer 2007 intern reporter for eNews Park Forest.(PHOTO SUPPLIED)

Editor’s Note: Alan Edrinn served as an intern reporter for eNews Park Forest during the summer of 2007. He serves as the City reporter for The Norther Star, Northern Illinois University’s the independent student news publication. He was reporting from the DeKalb Police Department when the first calls came in that there had been shootings on campus in Cole Hall. He describes the day, and how his perspective has changed since.

Commentary

By Alan Edrinn
Reporter for The Northern Star, the all student-produced independent media of Northern Illinois University.

It has been about one month since tragedy struck Northern Illinois University.

While I am lucky enough to walk away from the events that day, I think every NIU student carries a piece of what happened with them.

When I first heard about the shooting, I was at the DeKalb Police Department reporting on an unrelated story, and had just finished interviewing the chief of police. I started writing up the daily police blotter when I noticed several officers wearing bulletproof vests running out the door. Puzzled, I asked the chief’s secretary what was happening, and she told me there had just been a shooting at Cole Hall. Being the police and fire reporter for my paper, I quickly drove to the scene to see what had happened, having no idea at the time the magnitude of what had occurred.

If asked to describe the state of the campus at the time, confusion would come before chaos. I parked my car at my newspaper and started heading into campus. Traffic was packed from people attempting to leave, and police cars stopping traffic into the area. Outside of Cole Hall, police had already set up boundaries for press and onlookers.

While looking over the crowd, it was easy to tell who was inside the class, and who had wandered by. People were shaking, and not from the cold. The student I interviewed described what took place as the scariest thing he had ever seen.

From where I was standing I could not see into Cole Hall, but I was able to see one student who was injured lying outside of the building who was being given medical attention. In hindsight of what happened, I feel almost lucky I never saw inside the classroom. While reporting, my phone was constantly ringing with friends and family trying to get in touch with me to make sure I was ok. Throughout the day, cell phones became obsolete from the networks getting packed with calls. It took about five minutes of trying to get a call out on a cell-phone, making the only way to communicate land phones or text messages.

Everyone who was on campus that day was affected by it in some way, and has a connection to that room. Cole Hall is mostly used for general education and large lecture hall classes. I have taken at least one class there each semester since my freshman year. This year, I had a class in the room an hour before it happened. All I can really think is what if the shooter came an hour early? It helps things to let that thought pass.

Because most of my work deals with crime, my general outlook toward humanity is pretty low. However, what I saw happen at NIU in the weeks following the shooting gives me hope. It can only be described as a time of immense love and unity from the community. While giving gratification in my stories is not common, I do want to thank all the police departments that helped at the university, and also the university itself for how that day was handled.

I have heard a few different arguments for what is to be done with the building, but I am in favor of keeping it intact. The students who died that day were in that room to learn, and the best way to preserve their memory would be to keep it as a classroom. While I respect the governor’s efforts, NIU is still waiting on money for repairs to another building we were promised from the governor that never came through. It has been my fear from the beginning that this event would become a political edge for somebody, and I fear promises like these that could potentially be empty, that’s what it will become. However, I am very happy with the way Senator Barack Obama handled himself while at the NIU memorial service. Considering the number of attacks in the presidential primaries between the two democratic candidates, I am happy that he was there as a State Senator and not a presidential candidate.

It is hard to describe what NIU has been like in the weeks following the shooting. All I can really say is that the university is healing. Surrounding communities have continued to show support for the university, and everything I have seen has really changed my outlook on humanity.


Alan Edrinn served as an intern reporter for eNews Park Forest through the summer of 2007. He currently works for The Northern Star, Northern Illinois University’s student newspaper. He can be reached here.