Thursday, February 14, 2008

New St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Another painful anniversary created: Six people are dead in February 14th's Northern Illinois University shooting, including the shooter. There have been 22 casualties in all.

Updated information has clarified some details. The gunman turned the gun on himself on the stage at Cole Hall.

All of the victims are students, including the instructor of the class, who is a graduate teaching assistant.

The class being taught was a course in the Geology department, an introductory section in ocean science. A total of 162 students are enrolled in the course, but only 100 or so were in the 400-person lecture hall (later reports say 200-person) at the time of the shooting.

Witnesses say the gunman came from behind a curtain at the front of the hall and started firing from the stage, targeting the instructor first.

Police have identified the suspect but have yet to name him, as of 10:00 pm ET on February 14, 2008. During Spring 2007, the shooter was enrolled as a graduate student in sociology at NIU, but based on a student id found on his body, authorities think he was currently attending another Illinois university.

(An overnight update notes the shooter was a current graduate student in social work at the University of Illinois.)

The assailant was described by several witnesses as a tall young man, apparently college-aged, dressed in black or dark clothes, with a black or dark knit cap on his head. He reportedly first fired the shotgun before turning to the handguns and inflicting several head wounds, according to media reports.

Early reports said three weapons were found with the man’s body — two handguns, including a Glock, and the shotgun. (One cable news outlet said there may have been a third handgun, based upon the ammo discovered that did not match the two recovered handguns. This report appears to be unconfirmed. Later, police confirmed there were four weapons used.)

This is truly a tragic event, happening on St. Valentine's Day, a day of some infamy already in Illinois because of the St. Valentine's Massacre in 1929, which took place in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago's North Side.

Personally, this day is a powerful and deadly one in my own family. My maternal grandmother, Nellie Gray, was killed in a murder-suicide in Decatur, Illinois, on this 14th day of February in 1940. The bullet that killed Nellie was fired through a picture window, whizzed by my 12-year-old mother-to-be ironing clothes in the middle of the room, and hit my mother's mother on the front room davenport. The shooter (Nellie Gray's estranged husband, my mother's stepfather) then took the rifle, went around to an alley, and killed himself.

As I was growing up, Valentine's Day was always treated differently in my family than the way I saw other people experience it.

I empathize with all the families that shall never be able to go through another St. Valentine's Day without reliving this tragedy.

Anniversaries are important. All holidays are not joyful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loren, I am so sorry to hear about what happened to you and your family on Valentine's day in Decatur! Like you, Valentine's Day will never be the same for me. It will be a day of awful memories, one of which being my fellow TA's frantic call to find out where I was because he was worried I could be on campus and near Cole. It's a life altering event and I wouldn't wish it on anyone! Again, I am sorry for your own loss on this day!