NIU shaken, C-U stirred

By now you know what happened up in DeKalb, Illinois, this past Thursday, February 14, so I won’t bother recounting the details. It’s astounding to consider how single individuals can change the course of countless lives with a single, reprehensible action. And now, in our media-drenched society, those individuals are pretty much guaranteed their 15 minutes of infamy whether or not they were even looking for it. We all feel various shades of sadness for the students that perished and the friends, family, and Northern Illinois University personnel in mourning who will eventually need to move on from this tragedy.

Additional undercurrents of a disquieting nature are plaguing the hearts of people who coexisted with the shooter just prior to the incident. Friday morning news reports connected suspect Stephen Kazmierczak with Champaign-Urbana, currently enrolled as a graduate student of the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois and living in the Country Fair Apartments complex on the west side of Champaign. Was this “erratic behavior” that the 27-year-old allegedly exhibited the past couple of weeks enough of a personality shift that neighbors, students, instructors, or his girlfriend should have confronted him about it? I’m not understanding how this escaped scrutiny, especially given the mental health issues of his past that the authorities uncovered all too easily between Thursday and Saturday.

Bigger questions remain. Why did Kazmierczak allow his (as yet unidentified) medications to lapse? Was it a conscious decision? How did he earn the license that allowed him to legally purchase four weapons in Champaign? Why did he take out students at NIU instead of UIUC? Did Kazmierczak have something (dubious) to prove beyond all his lauded research and writing about social justice and the prison system? On the inside, was he simply mad at the world?

Unfortunately, dead men tell no tales except for ones they choose to leave behind. Just as with the Virginia Tech massacre, some answers will slowly trickle out while others remain lost. People will eventually blame and sue other people, preventitive solutions will be rushed into effect, and everybody will be absolutely mortified when it happens again somewhere else. All the while, vomit-inducing vultures like Nancy Grace will simply gnaw on the story until no flesh remains on the bone. What else can we do at this point but bow our heads, shed tears, and apply a little more thought and progressive action towards preserving a future for mankind?

Most of us will never know Gayle Dubowski, Catalina Garcia, Julianna Gehant, Ryanne Mace, and Daniel Parmenter, who attempted to make better lives for themselves before having them taken away by a selfish and unbalanced son of a bitch. God rest their souls.

~ Jason Pankoke

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