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NIU mourns 15 years after campus massacre, with Michigan State also in mind

Mourners mark 15 years since Northern Illinois University massacre
Mourners mark 15 years since Northern Illinois University massacre 02:40

DEKALB, Ill. (CBS) -- As investigators tried to determine a motive Tuesday in a shooting that killed three people and wounded five at Michigan State University, we also remember another campus massacre that shocked the world 15 years ago to the day.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, a gunman opened fire at Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb – killing five people.

This Valentine's Day, flowers, wreathes, and plaques were set up on the campus as reminders of the horrors of 15 years ago.

It was already a milestone anniversary for those who lived through it, so they say seeing the violence unfold at Michigan State on Monday – just a day short of the anniversary - was all too familiar.

There were five bell tolls Tuesday at 3:06 p.m., the exact moment 15 years ago when former student Steven Kazmierczak entered a lecture room at Cole Hall and opened fire - shooting 22 people before taking his own life. Five of his victims died, 17 others were wounded.

Standing among the engraved names of the dead Tuesday were survivors - including Patrick Korrelis.

"It feels like yesterday what happened. It's hard to be here," Korrelis said. "But I come back to see the families again, and see some of the other survivors that went through the same thing."


The shooting happened at a geology lecture class in Cole Hall. Officials said Kazmierczak emerged from behind a screen at the front of the lecture hall and opened fire with a shotgun.

Witnesses said Kazmierczak shot the teacher, a graduate student instructor, and several students before killing himself onstage in front of the class.

Sheila Cosgrove was taking notes in the fifth row when the gunman opened fire.

"He just walked out and just stood there on the stage and I guess he shot the teacher first, but I didn't see him shoot the teacher, I just saw him shooting at the crowd of students," Cosgrove told CBS 2 at the time.

Ducking behind seats, she started to crawl away, finally reaching the rear door. 

"I just heard shots, boom, boom, boom, and then I just kept going, I kept going. I saw blood dripping on the aisle, and I just got up towards when I got to the end of the chairs because I couldn't crawl anymore," Cosgrove told us in 2008. "I was right by the door. I stood up and looked behind me and he was still shooting; he was shooting towards the other side of the aisle and I kind of felt his glare kind of looking at me and I just turned around really fast and kept going."

Allyse Jerome was also in the lecture hall.

"All of a sudden this guy bursts through the stage door and pulls out a gun and starts shooting, and honestly at first everyone thought it was a joke, and then it turned real, and you saw the blood, and you heard the screaming, and it was terrible," Jerome told CBS 2 at the time. "Everybody hit the floor after the first shot, and after about three or four more shots, I got up and ran because everyone was doing the same thing."

The victims who lost their lives that day 15 years ago were Daniel Parmenter, 20, of Westcheter; Catalina Garcia, 20, of Cicero; Ryanne Mace, 19, of Carpentersville; Julianna Gehant, 32, of downstate Meridan; and Gayle Dubowski, 20, of Carol Stream.

Shooting At Northern Illinois University Leaves Six Dead
DE KALB, IL - FEBRUARY 15, 2008: A day after the shooting at Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University, people light candles and add trinkets to a memorial set up for those killed. Tasos Katopdis / Getty Images

"Once you have experienced something like this, you are never the same," said NIU police Chief Darren Mitchell.

Mitchell was not yet chief at the time of the massacre, but he did respond as an officer. On Monday, he fielded calls about another tragedy - his cousin was locked down in her dorm at Michigan State University.

On Tuesday evening, police at Michigan State were called for shots fired at Berkey Hall, an academic building on the MSU campus. Police said officers arrived at the scene within minutes, and "encountered several students who were injured" inside that building. Two of the victims who died were there.

While officers were there, MSU police received another round of calls reporting a second shooting inside the MSU Union building nearby, where authorities then found the third victim, according to Chris Rozman, the university's interim deputy chief of police and public safety. 

The victims who were killed at MSU were identified as Brian Fraser, a sophomore and the president of the Phi Delta Theta Michigan State chapter; Alexandria Verner, a junior; and Arielle Anderson, a sophomore. All were from suburban Detroit.

Law enforcement officials at the university identified the shooter as Anthony Dwayne McRae, a 43-year-old man with no obvious affiliation to the school.

"It hits differently, because it happened at another university. It happened the day before our 15-year anniversary," Mitchell said back at NIU. "It's just another constant reminder that we must be vigilant."

NIU adopted a mantra after their own tragedy – "Forward, Together Forward." They say that sentiment now extends to a new class of mass shooting survivors.

"The most important thing for them to know is that they're not alone. We'll get through it together, obviously - and we're all connected, and you just have to find the resources," said NIU shooting survivor Patrick Ng, "and know that I am one of the resources for them."

NIU says they held a bigger ceremony for the 10-year anniversary in 2018, but they have since scaled back at the request of victim's families.

There were about 100 people on campus Tuesday to memorialize the victims of the NIU massacre. Much of the student body just entering kindergarten when the shooting happened.

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