Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: DeKalb

NIU Victims Are Buried; Wounded Recover

As you approach the makeshift Memorial on campus in DeKalb, Illinois at Northern Illinois University on this bitterly-cold evening, you are struck by the steady stream of students coming and going to pay tribute to the victims of the shooting that took place on Valentine’s Day on campus.

Memorial On Campus at Northern Illinois UniversityStudents trudge up a slight hill crusted with frozen snow and ice to the crosses. They lay fresh flowers at the base of the Memorial. Some linger a moment, silently feeling the immense weight of the sadness. One boy blessed himself as he left, making the traditional Catholic Sign of the Cross.

As you leave your floral or written tribute, as I did, —-hundreds of pounds of fresh roses and other fragrant flowers, dying quickly in the frigid air, despite efforts to cover and protect them with a plastic tarpaulin— you feel like crying on this hushed frigid night. The emotional impact is overwhelming. You think of the students, themselves, almost as fragile flowers. The plastic tarp that won’t protect against the cold that kills is much like our parental concern, that can’t protect against a gunman gone mad.

When I asked how I might walk to Cole Hall, the UNI student I spoke with said, “Oh, the cops won’t let you get within a block of Cole Hall.” Cole Hall will not be used for classes for the rest of this school year. It is cordoned off.

Tomorrow, here in Milan, Illinois, one of the Quad Cities that I call home, one of the shooting victims, 20-year-old Daniel L. Parmenter of Taylor Ridge, Illinois, will be laid to rest in Milan at Chapel Grove Cemetery. Daniel’s first funeral was held at 2 p.m. today (Tuesday, February 19) at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Illinois. His second funeral will be held Wednesday at Taylor Ridge Methodist Church with burial at Chapel Grove Cemetery immediately afterwards.

Daniel’s older sister, Kristen, graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, another of the Quad Cities. The funeral home director at Hursen Funeral Home in Hillside, Illinois, handling Daniel’s funeral arrangements, Anthony Rainiero said, “We’ve had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people in line since 2:30 this afternoon (at the funeral home).” He described the profound sadness in the eyes of the hundreds of people who attended Daniel’s visitation as “amazing”, something unparalleled for him in his more than 20 years in the funeral business.

Meanwhile, Lauren DeBrauwere, Daniel’s girlfriend, who was sitting right next to him in one of the front rows in Cole Hall the day of the shooting, struggles to recover from both her physical and psychological wounds. She remembers everything.

Although groggy from stomach surgery, with a tube still lodged in her throat, Lauren remembers how gunman Steven Kazmierczak walked onto the stage literally minutes before the geology class was to end. Lauren assumed the black-clad person was there to make an announcement. Then, he tried to shoot the instructor, who ducked behind his podium. (The instructor was shot in the arm, but is expected to fully recover.)

Next, Kazmierczak pointed the shotgun at the students in front of him in the large lecture hall and pulled the trigger. Lauren was near the front of the class and saw the gunman use a handgun to shoot and kill her boyfriend, Dan Parmenter, before he shot her in the abdomen and hip. Steve Kazmierczak proceeded to shoot the girl sitting next to Lauren, as well. Mark Debrauwere, Lauren’s father said, “It was almost like he went down a line.”

Lauren didn’t know the shooter and she never had a chance to run. She lay crumpled on the ground, talking to the fatally wounded Parmenter before losing consciousness. When rushed to Kishwaukee Community Hospital, doctors discovered that one bullet had exited her buttocks; the other bullet had traveled up her body and lodged above her left breast, narrowly missing her heart.

Lauren was conscious when she was transferred to the hospital. She kept saying, “My stomach hurts. Please make it stop.” Then she would ask about Daniel. Doctors and family lied to her about Daniel, for a while. “She knew what had happened. She kept asking us about Dan, and we lied to her for a while, but she knew (he’d been killed). She saw it. She definitely had seen what happened,” said Lauren’s father Dan.

Lauren was airlifted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. In time, she is expected to make a full physical recovery. The psychological effects will be harder to assess. She won’t be able to be present at Dan Parmenter’s funeral today, to see the Pi Kappa Alpha floral tribute near his coffin, with a tag reading, “We will all remember your son Dan as a wonderful person.” The photos of Parmenter as a child, Boy Scout and young man, skiing and playing volleyball, sit near his coffin, but Lauren won’t be able to be there to view them for herself, to seek closure on the tragedy of her near-death experience and the loss of the boy she cared for deeply.

Mourners snaked around the side of the Hursen funeral home in Hillsen on Monday afternoon, dozens and dozens of sad people, waiting in near-zero temperatures, some clutching flowers and cards, all waiting to pay their respects. Family friend George Sefer of Elmhurst (IL) said, “Dan was a quiet young man. Very nice and very determined.”

Meanwhile, in Cicero, Catalina Garcia was mourned by a huge crowd at her funeral at Our Lady of the Mount Catholic Church as “a daughter of Cicero” by attending city officials, while her grieving family buried her. The youngest of four children in a family that migrated to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico, Catalina was studying to become a teacher.

A mariachi band played hymns during the Spanish mass. Photographs around her coffin spelled out her nickname, “Cati.” The photos flanked Catalina’s body, dressed in a pink ballgown-style dress and wearing a jeweled tiara, lying inside a pale pink casket. Mourners wore pink ribbons and ties and hair bands in honor of Catarina. Pink was Cati’s favorite color.

Those shot but still hospitalized, like Lauren DeBrauwere, try to recover from the devastating psychological effect of routinely going off to the geology class lecture hall with 120 other students (160 were enrolled in the geology lecture class, but only 120 were present) on a normal class day, but emerging from that class on a stretcher, boyfriends and classmates killed in front of their eyes. One female member from the Quad Cities described her panic as she ran for her life, thinking, “I’m dead! I’m dead! I’m dead! Now, if I run, he’s going to shoot me. I’m dead! I’m dead!” To run or to play dead was not an option if you were wounded as quickly and as badly as Lauren DeBrauwere. And, too, she was concerned for her boyfriend, Dan, who lay next to her, fatally wounded.

In DeKalb, Samantha Dehner, a DeKalb native who was shot twice during the attack, was released from Kishwaukee Community Hospital. Dehner, 20, had a 2-hour surgery on Friday to repair a shattered bone in her arm. She was too overcome with emotion to speak at a Monday news conference with her doctors. Samantha began to cry, and was removed from the room. Doctors are unsure whether Dehner will ever regain the full use of her right arm and elbow. Samantha Dehner had been friends since fourth grade with Gayle Dubowski, who was also killed in the attack, and she was close friends with another of the wounded students.

Her father, Robert Dehner, said, “She’s a tough kid. She’ll make it. She said to me, ‘You know, Dad. I was shot. I think I deserve a car.'” Then he choked up, detailing what will happen next. In the fall, Dehner will return to campus and move into her sorority house, Sigma Kappa. Her father was visibly upset when he added, “We do consider ourselves lucky that we’re able to take our daughter home.”

More Bizarre Details Emerge on Northern Illinois Shooter

Memorial On Campus at Northern Illinois UniversityMore Bizarre Details Emerge Concerning Northern Illinois University Shooter

As time passes, following the modern-day St. Valentine’s Day massacre at Northern Illinois University, several bizarre bits of information have emerged regarding 27-year old assailant Steven Kazmierczak.

While the shooter’s 28-year-old girlfriend, Jessica Baty, gave CNN an exclusive look at Steven’s farewell note to her, she echoed his ex-nurse (Laura’s) comments that Steven was just a sweetheart of a guy. Ms. Baty recalled a midnight phone conversation the night before the shootings in which her boyfriend of 2 years said, “Don’t forget me. Goodbye, Jessica.” This did not strike Ms. Baty as unusual, apparently.

Kazmierczak then mailed to Ms. Baty, among other items, a package containing 2 textbooks, a new cell phone, and a gun holster with ammunition. [Right. Sounds very normal to me.]

So did Steven’s light reading: Friedrich Nietzche’s “The Anti-Christ” and “The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers.” Ironically, Steven and his girlfriend were enrolled in law enforcement classes. Steven is further described as having had a fascination with prisons and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Jessica tells us that “Steven quit taking his medication 3 weeks ago because it made him feel like a zombie.”

Last, but not least, there is a MySpace photograph of the heavily-tattooed Kazmierczak, with a skull with a dagger on his left arm and, on his right arm and one of the characters from the gory movie, “Saw.” (The source said “The Saw”, but the movies were named “Saw,” “Saw I” and “Saw II.”)

The worst thing about Steven Kazmierczak’s mental state is that innocent students like 20-year-old Daniel Pamenter of Westchester were gunned down randomly, in cold blood, for no reason other than that Steven Kazmierczak didn’t like taking his medication. A new word stronger than “tragedy” needs to be created to thoroughly encompass events like this that represent a complete and total waste of valuable life, even though, in violent movies like the “Saw” series (and violent video games) the respect for life and the understanding that it is fragile and precious sometimes seem to be lost amidst senseless carnage.

Northern Illinois Students Describe the Horror of Shootings on Campus

NIUNorthern Illinois Students Detail Horror of Shootings on Campus

I was online with my young friend Phil, the person helping me to learn the ins-and-outs of making a blog, when he instant messaged me that his friend from East Moline, Illinois (our mutual home town) had just bolted from a classroom in Cole Hall on campus at Northern Illinois University, running for his life.

DeKalb, Illinois, where Northern Illinois University is located, is about an hour and a half drive to the east on Interstate 80.  Many students from the Quad Cities attend NIU. I have taken workshops at WIU and my husband graduated from Northern Illinois University, a campus of about 25,000 students, many of them commuters from the Chicago area or nearby towns.

The friend told Phil that his girlfriend was still inside the lecture hall at Cole Hall, in a geology class.  She had been sitting right next to a student who was shot in the neck by the black-clad gunman, who entered Cole Hall at approximately 3 p.m. (CDT) in this DeKalb, Illinois college town.  The gunman was armed with a shotgun and 2 pistols and, within 2 minutes or so, used that shotgun and those 2 pistols to shoot 22 students, five, including himself for a total of 6, fatally.

Said students Desiree Smith and Geoff Alberti, “I saw four people down on the ground. We were all crawling toward the exits in the back of the room on our stomachs.”  Desiree added that she saw the gunman shoot their instructor onstage “in the arm.” (The instructor was expected to recover, as 6 remain hospitalized four days later.)

Jim Donohue, who sustained about 20 buckshot wounds to his shoulder and the back of his head in the attack, said, “The gunman came out of the emergency exit on the right-hand side of the stage.  My girl and I ran outside together.  I consider myself fortunate.  I feel horrible for others who weren’t so fortunate.  My dad and I had actually talked about what to do if something like this happened, after there were threats I December (2007), and my dad said, “Don’t think. Just run.”

Another eyewitness in the room, George Gaynor, who said he was 30 rows back, taking notes in the geology class when the gunman opened fire on the front rows, said that the gunman was very thin, white and was wearing blue jeans, a gray sweatshirt and a white knit cap, which differed from the versions of most others, who described the gunman as “black clad.”  Gaynor added, “There was a lot of screaming and confusion. The gunman didn’t say a word. He just pointed his gun and opened fire.  He seemed very intent. As we ran, we were all saying, “Is this for real?’ It was surreal. He looked like a typical college student. He could have been anybody.”

Northern Illinois University President John Peters announced later in the day that six people were dead, 4 females and 2 males, including the gunman, who killed himself at the scene.  Hospitals treating the wounded announced on the 6:00 p.m. news (CDT) that another 6 students were in critical condition, many with head wounds. One female student had a bullet lodged near her heart. It was reported that the gunman had been a Sociology graduate student at NIU in the spring of last year, but was not currently enrolled, and had no history of being in trouble at the university. Don Grady, the DeKalb Police Chief, reported that the entire shooting was over in minutes.

Local residents Brett Nowack of East Moline and a Moline girl named Armenid described a scrawled message found on a restroom wall in December, threatening an attack like that at Virginia Tech would take place at NIU.  After that threatening message was reported to authorities in December of 2007, some adjustments in security were made on campus. Still, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to stop a psychotic gunman from carrying out a lethal attack of this sort, as we know all too well after Virginia Tech.

Phil’s friend on the scene said that the gunman was not wearing a mask, although the student had heard reports saying that he was.

Later follow-ups on the gunman’s identity report that the shooter, Steven Kazmierczak, stayed at a Travelodge near campus in Room 105 for three days prior to the rampage, and numerous empty drinks, and consumed bottles of cold medicine were discovered there.  He had purchased all 4 guns legally, near Champaign where he was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, but, more tellingly, he had been an outpatient in a mental health facility in Chicago 8 years ago. He was discharged from the Army 9 years ago and was, in all likelihood (judging from symptoms described by his former nurse) bi-polar, but not taking his medication. The woman, “Louise,” who worked at the outpatient resident treatment facility when Steven was a patient there said that Steven had a history of cutting himself. ‘There were only problems when he didn’t take his medication. He didn’t want to be classified as someone with a mental health issue, so he would sometimes not take his medication.”

As of Sunday, February 17, six NIU victims remain hospitalized. Maria Ruiz Santana remained in serious condition at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Sherman Yau, 20, was listed in fair condition with a gunshot wound to the chest at the same hospital.  Two other victims were listed in serious condition at hospitals in Rockford and Chicago: a 20-year-old woman who underwent surgery on her armn Friday at Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb, remained in fair condition on Sunday, February 17th. A 19-year-old woman was in fair condition at the University of Illinois-Chicago Medical Center after being transferred from Good Samaritan on Saturday morning.

Hordes of angry parents, including John Roszkowski and Jennifer Bishop were featured on the Channel 2 news in Chicago sayingm, “This is craziness. We, as parents, have to take action.” They were pushing for more stringent amendments to and enforcement of what is known as the Brady Bill, an anti-gun bill that came into effect after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. Also, an e-mail threat of similar violence against the University of Chicago campus, made by a 24-year-old, had that campus worried and anxious in the wake of the tragedy in DeKalb, Illinois. Said freshman student Drew Stephenson at the University of Chicago, “I did feel a bit apprehensive, coming on the heels of the Northern Illinois University shooting.”

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