As a long-time resident of Illinois and Wisconsin, yesterday’s shootings on the Northern Illinois University campus hit close to home. The towns from which the victims hailed are familiar to me – Carpentersville, Cicero, Westchester. Kids from far, far Chicago suburbs and farming communities who went to college to be killed by a madman.
My initial thought was of James, but Anne quelled that fear by letting us all know within minutes of the massacre that her son is alright. Needless to say, the phone lines out of DeKalb were swamped. Then, I thought of the ex who is a professor there; thankfully, he is not on the list of victims. Following that came the news that the killings took place in an introductory geology class and that the graduate teaching assistant was one of the first to die at the scene. Oh lord. Finally, a friend emailed me that the shooter had randomly picked that class to vent his ire, like that was supposed to make anyone feel better.
What’s going on with these university killings? What makes Steven Kazmierczak, Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and others like them? We look for answers in gun control debates and mental health advocacy, but it could be that these people simply are and that these things just happen in a stressful society. It is entirely possible that even someone from the most stable and loving of families, with access to the finest in health and mental care, can succumb to sheer homicidal rage. And it’s usually the
nice, quiet types.
That discussion is for another time. Today, my thoughts are with NIU and the families of the departed. Rest in peace.
Update: As Ron mentions in the comments, the grad TA was not killed but only wounded in the shoulder.