NIU shooting victims remembered during reflection walk
DeKALB – Ryanne Mace, age 19, from Carpentersville.
Daniel Parmenter, 20, from Westchester.
Julianna Gehant, 32, from Mendota.
Catalina Garcia, 20, from Cicero.
Gayle Dubowski, 20, from Carol Stream.
Harold Ng, a survivor of the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting at Northern Illinois University in which those five lives were lost, walked his way through the Reflection Walk on Saturday in the Student Recreation Center, 325 N. Annie Glidden Road, and stopped to write something on each poster at every station in the 2.14 mile-long path.
But Ng, who is working on a book he began writing after the tragedy, said he’s having a hard time putting his thoughts and feelings about being back on campus into words.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years,” Ng said.
Every station had a picture of each of the five students who were killed in the shooting and blank poster space for people to leave notes remembering them.
Ng said he didn’t know them at the time of the shooting, but he said he felt like he got to know them through correspondence with their families following the incident.
“I think we’re here to just really form that common bond and be there for each other when we need it,” Ng said.
Chrissy Tluczek, assistant recreation and wellness director at NIU, said the original thought was to have a 5K run/walk, but weather concerns led her to come up with an alternative. The idea was that it would still have the spirit of a 5K, but it would be indoors and would allow participants to go at their own pace from station to station.
Tluczek said she wasn’t working at NIU when the shooting happened, but she said she knew some of the survivors when she started in 2009. She said event organizers wanted to create a safe environment for people to feel whatever emotions that need to be felt.
“It’s humbling, for lack of a better word, and I almost feel like we need to do our best to give that time and reflection to those families, to those friends, to those first-responders,” Tluczek said.
While current NIU students Brendan Lochbaum, Amanda Alhambra and Pablo Marquez were not at the university at the time of the shooting, they said they all came to the event to acknowledge what happened on the DeKalb campus 10 years ago.
“I’ve just heard stories, and I came to support everyone that was involved,” Alhambra said.
Eric and Mary Kay Mace, the parents of shooting victim Ryanne Mace, said they are both grateful for the university administration for everything it’s done for them and other affected families since the shooting and for them being as helpful as they can be in such circumstances.
Mary Kay Mace said she knows a lot of parents who have children who were killed or died that don’t have those kinds of memorials. She said the fear of those parents is that no one is going to remember their children when they’re gone.
“We don’t have that worry,” Mace said. “We know that Ryanne is going to be remembered here.”