Archiving Tragedy

By: Tina Stein
By: Tina Stein

It's a job that takes some thick skin. Archiving one of our state's greatest tragedies.

"We keep these things so people realize history isn't always pleasant and we need to learn from the history," says NIU Archive Director Cindy Ditzler.

She's responsible for gathering and preserving all things NIU, especially those related to the February 14th shooting. Most of it, like hundreds of synthetic flowers came from the various memorials set up around campus.

"As one of the students on campus said, it's like destroying a grave," she says.

These artifacts are kept locked in the library's basement. It holds everything from support banners, to angels, to things that might have meant something to one of the five students.

"There are so many items we want to learn more about. There was a ballet slipper, maybe one of the students was a ballet person," says Ditzler.

You'll also find the ten memorial panels that once stood in MLK Commons, and the six husky dogs erected in front of Cole Hall.

NIU is also storing hundreds of manuscripts. The first email alert, condolences and dozens of front page news articles.

"He says I'm famous for all of the wrong reasons, because he was on the front page of so many," says Ditzler.

NIU also set up a memorial inside the Holmes Student Center where folks could come and reflect on that tragic day and check out various gifts, such as a quilt donated by Virginia Tech.

"There are some really neat items that people created or shared with us at the university and we wanted to put these items on display so people could come and remember I guess the acts that brought our community closer together, things people have done to help them through this difficult time," says Scott Peska, Director of Office of Support and Advocacy.

Visitors can check out dozens of condolence letters from dignitaries and school children. This White Sox Jersey was worn during the team's 2009 home opener. And of course photos that captured the NIU spirit and the fear of what was to come.

If you're interested in reading comments written on the memorial panels from MLK Commons, NIU just put a digital version of them on line. Visitors could zoom in and read exactly what people wrote. Just visit; www.niu/edu/memorial.


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