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Tracey K

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Tomorrow marks the fifth year of this tragedy, and with that date comes sadness as well as gratitude.

As an NIU staff member at the time, I was on lockdown that day and took to my blog on myspace to distract myself from the realities of what was happening. The following is that blog post and I'm also posting a follow-up blog that I wrote a couple weeks after the tragedy. Please note that there is some "adult" language in these posts. I'm also posting these "as is" without correcting my grammar and typos.

Feb 14, 2008
scary ass shit

so i'm typing this as the university is on lockdown due to a confirmed shooter on campus. apparently someone shot several people in a classroom; rumors are flying and we are all locked in our offices with our lights off. i'm trying to remain calm, but this shit is fucking scary! actually, i'm more pissed off than scared. i just don't get it. i really don't. what the fuck is wrong with people!

i don't want to overreact to this, but still...these days you never know. i don't want to live in fear all the time because there are asshole nutcases out there. it just seems like this type of thing is happening more often...i really don't have anything poignant to say about this...i just need to type this out.

**Update** just got word that there is no longer a threat here...all i can hope for is that the people who were shot will be ok. please keep them in your thoughts.

Feb 26, 2008
forward, together forward

although i tried to pretend that i was OK after the NIU shooting, the truth is, it affected me more than i wanted to admit. yes, being on lockdown in my office wondering if there's a gun-wielding madman running around campus (seriously, i was afraid to look out my window!), and then learning about the student deaths, was difficult to deal with at first. but my initial feelings of anger and sadness worsened throughout the week after the shooting. i was depressed, disillusioned, and furious about what happened here. tragedies like that happen "out there," not "here" in my little world. i was irritable and moody; i just wanted to be left alone, but at the same time, i also needed comfort. but i was afraid to share my feelings as i thought no one would understand. i couldn't even understand why i was so grief-stricken over the deaths and suffering of people i never knew. i didn't understand why i would get chills every time i drove by a makeshift memorial or saw NIU on the news, or why i got tears in my eyes when i saw the victims' pictures. i still don't remember their full names, but i know their faces. no matter how much i tried to talk some sense into myself and embrace all of the positive messages of love, hope and support sent here from all around the world, i still felt overwhelmingly depressed and pissed off. i felt the cynical, disillusioned, "the world fucking sucks" side of me start to emerge and i struggled with not letting it consume me. i don't want to slip back into that mode of thinking again just because of some whacked-out fuckwad. if i allow myself to feel shitty about life again, then he wins. i can't let that happen. and if i truly want to honor those who were killed and injured, then i definitely cannot succumb to the darkness that has clouded my mind lately.

fortunately, i am finally feeling better -- still sad about what happened, but no longer consumed by those feelings. perhaps it's because the students are back and campus no longer feels empty and lifeless, like an eerie "day-after-tomorrow" scene with people walking around with looks of sorrow and disbelief etched on their faces. what also helped is realizing that i am not alone in my feelings of grief and mourning over people i never knew. i feel an incredible connection to NIU. it's my alma mater, as well as my mom's, sister's, uncle's, and cousins'. i've worked for the university now for almost 10 years (and that's the longest i've ever been in the same area). in my previous position as a writer for the university magazine, as well as being the PR guru that i am (ha ha), i got to know the people who comprise our campus community on a more personal level. those sentiments about NIU and the people here are shared by many others. the outpouring of support and sense of unity here is amazing. an online guestbook has been set up for people to leave their condolences to the NIU community regarding the tragedy. it's up to more than 520 pages. even more incredible was seeing over 12,000 people come together on campus for Sunday's memorial. just as i was typing this, my co-worker walked into my office with a poster-size condolence message that was signed by all the students at another law school. the human spirit and our capacity for compassion is amazing.

the police tape around cole hall has been removed. the homemade memorials around campus eventually will succumb to time and the weather. soon all the media will pack up their cameras, microphones and notepads and head out to the next "big" story (such as another Brit-tastrophe...i think she's about due for something crazy now...). the world spotlight on NIU will fade, and we will be remembered as "that illinois school" that had a campus shooting. life around here eventually will return to "normal," but a "new normal" as one counselor put it. from what i can tell, i think we are well on our way to healing and becoming an even stronger, more compassionate campus community. in the end, we will prevail over this tragedy, moving forward with a greater appreciation for our own lives and for those we share it with.

i am damn proud to be an NIU huskie!

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