(CNN) — The building where a gunman killed five people at Northern Illinois University two weeks ago will be demolished, state officials said Wednesday. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office confirmed that the state will provide the funding for the university to demolish Cole Hall, the site of Steven Kazmierczak’s February 14 rampage. Cole Hall will be replaced by a high-tech classroom building to be named Memorial Hall, the office said. Kazmierczak, of Champaign, Illinois, opened fire on a geology class, shooting 21 people before killing himself. He used a shotgun hidden in a guitar case and three handguns hidden under a coat, NIU Police Chief Donald Grady said.
I grew up in an era and a place where my idea of violence was limited to snowball fights. Sure, there was the Vietnam War on the 6 o’clock news every night, but how’s a kid from far northern Minnesota supposed to relate to a war halfway around the world that he knows of only through the magic of Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley? School was never a place where violence was even the remotest of considerations. During deer hunting season, some students kept rifles in their lockers so they could go hunting immediately after school.
My, how things have changed, eh? Now we’re dealing with massacres on school campuses, places that historically have always been about learning and growing. Our children shouldn’t have to fear for their safety in a place dedicated to education…and yet that’s exactly what’s happening today.
I think Northern Illinois is probably doing the right thing in demolishing Cole Hall. There’s no blueprint for dealing with this sort of horrific tragedy, yet I think it goes without saying that no one is going to want to sit in that lecture hall again. The memories of that horrible day aren’t simply going to disappear. To aid the healing process, razing Cole Hall and replacing it with a learning environment that’s also a memorial to those killed on Valentine’s Day is probably the best possible solution. There’s no way to erase the memory of the massacre, of course, and no reasonable would suggest that as a sensible approach to the healing process the NIU community is working it’s way through.
I commend Gov. Blagojevich for stepping up and doing the right thing. Allowing Cole Hall to remain standing would always serves as a reminder of the fear and terror that ruled the NIU campus on Valentine’s Day. Razing Cole Hall and building Memorial Hall will hopefully aid the healing process while at the same time providing a suitable memorial to students who wanted nothing more than to learn.
May we never have to deal with a tragedy of this nature again.