The spate of school shootings that has hit America in recent months struck close to home yesterday, February 14, 2008, when gunfire shattered the serene atmosphere at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois. A gunman burst into an amphitheater and shot 22 students, killing five, and then turned the gun on himself.
NIU DeKalb is some 65 miles west of Chicago, and a mere 35 miles from my home. It is also my alma mater. My wife, also an NIU alumna, works with the mother of one of the victims.
So here we are again, faced with another senseless shooting at another American university campus - citadels of learning have now been transformed into war zones. These days, death by gunfire occurs in the most unlikely places; malls, churches, playgrounds, schools, etc. No place is sacred… or safe.
One of the victims, 32-year old Julianna Gehant, served in the U.S. Army for 12 years. Her family was thrilled beyond words when she abandoned her military fatigues for the classroom. They thought she was finally out of harm’s way, and that they would never get that dreaded knock on the door informing them that their loved one had died in some distant land. Alas! What the family feared finally occurred in the most unlikely of places – not on some IED booby-trapped road in Iraq but in an amphitheater in a major university in the American Midwest - a very cruel irony and a symbol of what modern America has become.
May the souls of the departed rest in peace.
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