The Northern Illinois University Shooting Five Years Later

Five years ago today, 14 February 2008, I was a graduate student at Northern Illinois University when a gunman walked into Cole Hall at the center of campus with a machine gun and opened fire. He killed five students and himself. I was fortunate enough to be several blocks away at the time of the shooting teaching a class in one of the dormitories on the edge of campus instead of in Cole, which I walked through every day when I was on campus, or in the English building, Reavis Hall, where my office was. Many of my officemates were in Reavis at the time and could see the victims’ bodies being ferried from Cole to waiting ambulances afterwards.

In retrospect, considering the recent massacres in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado, the NIU community was “lucky” to only suffer a loss of life in the single digits. But the fact that civilians still have access to the weapons of mass destruction used in these killings is abhorrent. There is no rational argument for keeping these military-grade guns legal. It sickens me to think of all the lives that continue to be lost in the United States because Congress chooses to use the issue of gun violence as a political football instead of taking action to protect its constituents. I am happy that President Obama called for action on this issue in his State of the Union address (you can watch the relevant part of the speech here), and I hope that Congress finally realizes that it is time for action, though I remain skeptical about their willingness to do anything.

To those of you reading this who are against any form of gun control, I ask you to simply think about how you would feel if it were one of your children who had been a victim of these shootings. Doesn’t keeping your children safe warrant an end to the thoughtless political partisanship on this issue?

Published by danielshankcruz

I grew up in New York City and lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Goshen, Indiana; DeKalb, Illinois; and Salt Lake City, Utah before coming to Utica, New York. My mother’s family is Swiss-German Mennonite (i.e., it’s an ethnicity, not necessarily a theological persuasion) and my father’s family is Puerto Rican. I have a Ph.D. in English and currently teach at Utica College. I have also taught at Northern Illinois University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. My teaching and scholarship are motivated by a passion for social justice, which is why my research focuses on the literature of oppressed groups, especially LGBT persons and people of color. While I primarily read and write about fiction, I am also a devoted reader of poetry because, as William Carlos Williams writes, “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet [people] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Thinkers who influence me include Marina Abramovic, Kathy Acker, Di Brandt, Ana Castillo, Samuel R. Delany, Percival Everett, Essex Hemphill, Jane Jacobs, Walt Whitman, and the New York School of poets. I am also fond of queer Mennonite writers such as Stephen Beachy, Jan Guenther Braun, Lynnette Dueck/D’anna, and Casey Plett. In my free time I’m either reading, writing the occasional poem, playing board games (especially Scrabble, backgammon, and chess), watching sports (Let’s Go, Mets!), or cooking (curries, stews, roasts…).

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