‘It just doesn’t make sense’

Tyrel Linkhorn

NIU community mourns the fallen

Sarah Masson, an accounting major at Kishwaukee Community College places a bouquet of flowers on a makeshift memorial this afternoon. “I still love it (the university) no matter what.” ABIGAIL S. FISHER | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Editor’s Note: The Daily Kent Stater and TV2 sent a group of student journalists to Northern Illinois University to tell the stories of the students who lived through the tragedy. Visit KentNewsNet.com throughout the weekend for continuing coverage

DEKALB, Ill. – Two women approach five wooden white crosses stuck in the white snow, the outlines of the crosses vividly contrast the clear, pale blue skies.

Several onlookers watch from the sidewalk. The brown concrete, still dotted with patches of milky-clear ice and muddied snow, is a stark contrast to the pure white foot-tracked snow that leads up to the ridge where the crosses are planted.

Elizabeth Torres, a junior psychology and criminology major at Northern Illinois University, and Sarah Masson, an accounting major at nearby Kishwaukee Community College, carry a bouquet of red and white carnations tied with red, white and black ribbon.

“Huskie Colors.”

Steadying each other on the slope, they stand together, looking at the cross in front of them.

In red paint is the name Catalina Garcia, one of the five students slain yesterday as she sat in a late-afternoon geology course.

Sarah, wearing a gray Northern Illinois sweatshirt, stoops and places the bouquet with the others already lying atop the snow at the base of the cross.

The scene is the same at each of the five standing crosses. Flowers and candles sit in silent remembrance of those who lost their lives.

Elizabeth and Sarah didn’t know Catalina, but they know the university well, and they want to remember their fallen classmates.

Arm-in-arm, they return to the concrete sidewalk, where Sarah’s father, Joe Masson, waits.

Joe, who works for the university in computer operations, comments on how it could happen at any campus, anywhere.

“You can’t do anything about it,” he says. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Sarah, who said she grew up on and around the campus of NIU, says it just doesn’t feel right today.

“It feels like it’s a ghost town,” she says.

“Most of the students can go home. You can’t; this is your home.”

Elizabeth, the mid-afternoon sun reflecting off a tear on her right cheek, says the college and community have always felt safe. It’s a reason people come to NIU, she says.

“Even now,” she says, “it’s hard to see DeKalb not as a safe place.”

More people come and go, some taking photos, some leaving flowers.

A sixth cross lies at the far right of the row, unevenly spaced from the rest, facedown in the snow. A gray T-shirt with blue lettering covering it.

Contact news editor Tyrel Linkhorn at [email protected].