NIU to Va. Tech: 'We understand what you're going through'


NIU to Va. Tech: 'We understand what you're going through'


By Chris Green
Posted Apr 16, 2008 @ 11:00 PM
Last update Apr 17, 2008 @ 07:38 AM


Northern Illinois University senior Sonia Salazar said Virginia Tech students put their feelings of sorrow on hold to help the students at NIU heal.

And on Wednesday, Salazar was joined by nearly a thousand other NIU students and staff who wanted to return the support for the students at Virginia Tech.

NIU students and University President John Peters recognized the one-year anniversary of the shooting deaths at the Virginia Tech campus with a candlelight vigil in the Martin Luther King Commons, an outdoor venue in the center of the campus near the student center. One year ago Wednesday, a gunman took the lives of 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty before taking his own. It was the largest such campus massacre in the history of the country.

Peters recalled the initial hours and days following the Feb. 14 slayings at NIU, when five students were shot and killed by Steven Kazmierczak, who also took his own life. He said the entire campus felt "isolated."

"We simply couldn't imagine that anyone else could understand what we are going through."

Then the phone calls and e-mails came in.

"We understand what you are going through. You are not alone."

Peters said a "collective hand of support" was extended from Blacksburg, Va., to DeKalb.

"They shared openly and lovingly."

The two universities are linked not only in their empathy for one another, but also by an unnerving coincidence.

Green Bay gun dealer Eric Thompson told authorities his Web site,, sold two empty 9 mm Glock magazines and a Glock holster to Kazmierczak on Feb. 4, just 10 days before the 27-year-old opened fire in a campus classroom.

Another Web site run by Thompson's company,, also sold a Walther .22-caliber handgun to Seung-Hui Cho, who shot down 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus before killing himself.

Peters added, "One day, two Virginia Tech students came by my office and surprised me. They gave me a hug. I needed it."

Nolan Owen, 19, a freshman on the university's football team recruited from California, said he could relate to the surprise visit from the Virginia Tech students.

"After the shootings here, I flew home. I had all my NIU gear with me, and people at the airport and on the plane hugged me. They cared."

David Duma, 22, an NIU senior, said attending Wednesday's vigil was the least he could do to pay respect not only to the students who lost their lives, but to the Virginia Tech Hokies who are forever united with the NIU Huskies.

"They came all the way from Virgina to be with us."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Staff writer Chris Green can be reached at 815-987-1241 or

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Chris Green, “NIU to Va. Tech: &#39;We understand what you&#39;re going through&#39;,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,