Remembering Northern Illinois University

About 30 years ago I hit a dead end. I realized that if I didn’t go to college I would end up like all of my friends, selling my soul to the factory. That’s sounds a bit funny because over the years the term “factory” has come to be a metaphor for something else, something mindless, something that kills you one cement step at a time, something that strips all the creativity out of an original idea by mass-producing it.

There’s a reason for the metaphor. Somewhere in this vast country of dreams-built-on-ambition there really are cement block mausoleums, and they stand waiting, hungry to swallow sweet skin-and-blood humans whole.

I know they exist. Because I paid my penance. I worked in several before I learned the truth—I needed an education to be set free.

I found my freedom in a local Mid-western college. Northern Illinois University.

The NIU campus occupies a large footprint in the small town of DeKalb, Illinois, especially when you include off-campus housing where a large majority of students live. The school supplies life to the community; it bristles with new ideas; it adds much appreciated spice to this gentle land that alternates between a jungle of corn in the summer and a mountain of snow in the winter.

I can remember walking across campus during cold February winters, clutching a mammoth art portfolio with both hands, sometimes sliding out of control over the ice when a chill wind blew.

On February 14, 2008, another chill wind blew, a horrid stinging wind of death blew across my former campus. And now some of those students are dead. Some of those brilliant, beautiful young people filled with hopes and dreams—enough to catch the world on fire and initiate change, enough to last a lifetime and pass a heritage down to grandchildren—well, they’re dead now.

And their dreams are gone. Blood stains on the snow.

These young people, full of hope, were looking for freedom and a new life. Just like I was 30 years ago. But it’s been stolen from them, as if their lives were wallets, just another commodity that could be taken so easily.

When did serial killing become a hobby?

Why would someone steal the hope and future from another person?

I don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to know the answer to those questions. I’d rather know the solution. I’d rather have the cure. I’d rather have the magic antidote, the vaccine, enough to inoculate every person alive.

But even that wouldn’t turn this clock of death backwards. It wouldn’t heal the heart-wounds already inflicted on the survivors. On the parents. On the friends. On all those who knew and loved the five students who have gone missing, into the midnight blue of eternity.

On all those who hear about this incident and now lay awake at night, afraid it might happen to them.

Like I said, I don’t have the answer. My heart is broken too.

But I will weep with those who are weeping. And I will pray for those left behind.

I will pray today, and tomorrow, and for many days after this.

That all of our young people will be set free from this terror that stalks them on panther paws.

That God, the God of redemption, will minister to each and every one of these broken hearts; that He will give them whatever it takes to get through one more day; that in time they will all be healed.

And that our country, our people, our children will be delivered.


Cathy West said...

Great post. Not sure what is happening in the US or the world for that matter, when this craziness seems to have become the norm.
I'm praying too!

Merrie Destefano said...

Thanks, Cathy! I'm sure your prayers will be appreciated. I honestly believe prayer is the first step, that and a humble heart.

Anytime I hear of the death of a young person, my heart breaks. It doesn't matter how they died, but I have special burden for those who commit suicide or die violently.

I just hate to see our young people taken away from us.

Blessings on your writing and thanks for stopping by,
Merrie Destefano