U.S. News

Fear and emptiness after deadly college shooting

DEKALB, Illinois (Reuters) - Fear and a feeling of emptiness prowled the deserted sidewalks at Northern Illinois University on Friday, the usually busy campus cold and silenced after a gunman killed five students before shooting himself.

“Right now, I feel helpless. This changes things a lot. I’m scared to be here. I’m 22 years old and scared to be on a college campus,” said student Rosie Moroni as she made her way to a memorial service for Thursday’s victims.

Monsignor Glenn Nelson remembered during the service that this tragedy was only one of many that have shaken campuses across the United States.

“It’s not just here. It happened at Virginia Tech. It happened other places. It will probably happen again. And that’s terrifying,” he said at the Mass inside the Newman Roman Catholic Student Center.

“Whatever the answer is, it’s not going to comfort you.”

The Gospel reading from Matthew warned against vengeance.

Last April, Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Virginia, was the site of the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history when a gunman killed 32 people and himself. Just last week, a nursing student shot two women and killed herself in front of classmates at a college in Louisiana.

On Thursday at Northern Illinois, Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, a former student, killed five students and himself and wounded 21 others during a lecture. His motive was not known, but investigators said it appeared he had been taking some type of medication, ceased using it recently and had become unstable.

Among his victims was Julianna Gehant, 32, of Mendota, Illinois, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq, helped build schools in Laos and had gone back to school to become a teacher.

“I think she just loved being around kids,” said Josh Becvar, 25, treasurer of a student veterans group that was on the campus Friday to erect a memorial with Gehant’s picture.

“It still hasn’t hit me,” he said. “It’s not ever going to make sense,” said Becvar, who served as a combat engineer in Iraq during the first months of the war.

On a snow-covered knoll not far from the killing site, someone had erected five white crosses, each one with the name of a victim, each with a single red rose secured to its base.

Editing by Patricia Zengerle