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Valentines day was, until three years ago, about chocolates, flowers, cards and romance. Now, every February 14th I am reminded of the fragility of life, the actions of hatred, and the value of support. On February 14, 2008 my school, Northern Illinois University, became that school. Another statistic. 5 innocent lives lost in a senseless act of hatred. An alumnus of the school came into Cole Hall with the intent to harm others.  He shot at a crowd of students, injury many and killing 5 before taking his own life. The school shut down for a week after the shooting.  It took days for everyone to get the entire story of what happened.  I will carry the memory of that day, and the days that followed with me forever.

I was so thankful to be off campus at the time of the shooting.  I was thankful I was able to let my family know I was ok before the phone lines locked up.  I hurt for the families that lost loved ones and the friends that didn’t get to say goodbye. I was touched by the strangers from Virginia Tech who reached out to me through Facebook, sending their condolences and support.  They, after all, knew all too well what NIU was going through.  I occupied some of my time by making ribbons for memorials, and the rest of the time watching the news and trying to explain how I was feeling with my family. I still can’t find the words to express how that day affected me. I cried a lot.

Valentines Day truly is a day for love. It is for a love much deeper than chocolates, flowers and cards. It is a love for humanity. From this tragedy I saw a campus set aside all differences and unify as one student body, strangers hugging strangers and people treating other people with the respect and love we should always share.  Love prevails.

This day is the sweet fragrance which comes from a rose crushed under the heel of hatred. Forward, together, forward.

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