Nearly every college-prepared high school student in Illinois applies to Northern Illinois University (NIU). For many, NIU isn’t just a backup; it’s their first choice. My hometown of Streator, Illinois boasts an unusually low amount of graduates that eventually pursue higher education. Going to NIU is considered a luxury.
Nearly everyone I knew from Streator goes to a state school. In fact, I know about fifty or so people currently enrolled at NIU, which is a high amount of people figuring less than forty percent of my high school’s alums even attempt a four-year university.
The day of the massacre, I knew about the shooting almost as it was happening. Being a Facebook addict, I checked my profile to find that a few of my friends from NIU had updated their status from their cell phone to “SHOOTER ON CAMPUS! GET TO SAFETY!”
I immediately broke down crying because I knew there was no way it could be a joke if more than one person updated from their phone with the same status.
Frantically, I began emailing everyone I knew who goes to school there to find out if they were safe. Rendered dumfounded, I just sat in front of my computer waiting for responses. About a half hour later, the guy who was captain of my soccer team my junior year of high school told me he and everyone we knew from Streator was okay from what he knew. He told me how he could hear the shots ringing from next door and saw all the aftermath.
One of the women who died was from the next town over. Who knows – I could have run a track race against her. DeKalb, NIU’s hometown, is a mere 45 minutes away from Streator.
This shooting was the fifth school shooting in one week.
Starting on Feb. 7, a teacher was stabbed before being shot by her husband in her classroom full of elementary school children in Portsmouth, Ohio. The next day, a shooting took place at a Louisiana technical college. A few days later, shootings at a Memphis high school and a junior high in Oxnard, California occurred. The week ended with the NIU shooting.
It’s easy to feel detached from school massacres when they are so far from home. This is the first time in my life when something having to do with home makes national news.
More so, this act of violence has made me realize how exponentially the rate of violence is growing in the United States.