COLUMBIA — The Memorial Union bells rang out across MU during a moment of silence at a candlelight vigil Sunday night in honor of the victims of Thursday’s shooting at Northern Illinois University.
About 50 MU students and faculty, including Chancellor Brady Deaton, gathered to pay tribute to the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting in Dekalb, Ill., a community about 45 miles outside of Chicago.
In his remarks during the vigil, Deaton called the shooting “unexplainable” and “unpredictable,” while commending those in attendance for their show of support for the students and faculty at NIU.
“This is a tragic circumstance and your presence here is important,” he said.
The Missouri Student Association and the Graduate Professional Council began planning the vigil the morning after the shooting.
“MSA and GPC spoke and felt like this was something important to do,” GPC President Jennifer Holland said.
Some in attendance at the vigil had personal connections to the shooting.
Janai Norman, an MU freshman, said she was at her home in Dekalb the day before the shooting. One of her friends was in the classroom where the shooting occurred but was not injured.
Norman said she was preparing to go to class when a friend told her about the shooting.
“I had to go to class, but I really couldn’t get it off my mind,” Norman said.
The shooting began around 3 p.m. Thursday, when former NIU graduate student Stephen Kazmierczak, 27, walked into a geology classroom with a shotgun and opened fire, killing five students and wounding 16 others before killing himself, according to news reports.
The incident comes after many universities across the country revised their crisis response plans because of the shooting last year at Virginia Tech University in which 32 people were killed by a student. NIU has been praised for its crisis plan that allowed law enforcement officers to be on the scene of the shooting 29 seconds after it began, according to The Associated Press.
The UM system adopted a similar crisis management plan in September 2007 that was modeled after the revised Virginia Tech plan and followed guidelines suggested by Missouri’s Campus Security Task Force. Deaton said that university officials held a meeting the Friday morning after the shooting to re-examine emergency procedures at MU.
“We would hope that if any event were to happen here we would have a quick and effective response,” he said.
Vigil participants were invited to sign a banner expressing sympathy that will be sent to NIU later in the week. The banner will be in the Student Activities Office in Brady Commons for the rest of the week for students and faculty who wish to sign.