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A decade later, NIU shooting survivors try to reclaim normalcy

Ted Gregory and John Keilman, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- On Monday morning, Laurel Dubowski brought out the three full-size photo albums and a scrapbook, all the sympathy cards and letters people wrote in those early years. Her husband, Joe, estimated he was looking at 500 pieces on the dining room table.

It is a tricky exercise for the Dubowskis -- taking in that outpouring of sorrow, sympathy and support while trying to move on from the day 10 years ago when a gunman dressed in black stormed the stage of their daughter's lecture hall at Northern Illinois University and killed her.

He killed five people that afternoon, wounded about 20 others, then turned the gun on himself.

"We're finally at the point in our lives where we have the house to ourselves and have a little time to go through it," Joe Dubowski said. "It's challenging because even though we still have it and haven't gone through it, this is like re-experiencing the whole thing again."

The couple planned to pare down the collection.

"I need to live in today," Dubowski said, "and is keeping all that going to help me do it? No."


Terrifying as they are, college campus shootings have become part of the grim narrative of anxious, contemporary life in the U.S.

From 2001 to 2006, shootings at or near colleges totaled 40, with 61 people killed or wounded, according to a report released in 2016 by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. From 2011 to 2016, there were 101 college campus shootings, and the number of people killed or wounded was placed at 208, the report found.

"Based on current trends," the report stated, "the problem is likely to become much graver over the next decade." It concluded that enacting "meaningful reforms" are "imperative."

Joe Dubowski changed his career partly in response to the shootings that claimed the life of his daughter Gayle, a 20-year-old anthropology major from Carol Stream and four others who were enrolled in the ocean science class in Cole Hall on Valentine's Day 2008: Catalina Garcia, 20, an elementary education major from Cicero who was active in the campus Latino Resource Center; U.S. Army vet Julianna Gehant, 32, an elementary education major from rural Mendota; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville, an honors student in psychology; and Daniel Parmenter, 20, a graduate of York High School in Elmhurst who worked for the school newspaper and played rugby.


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