An NIU shooting survivor's letter to Florida and other mass shooting survivors

 
By Lauren Carr
Updated 2/15/2018 5:21 PM
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  • Lauren Carr of Carol Stream at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she survived a mass shooting 10 years ago.

    Lauren Carr of Carol Stream at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where she survived a mass shooting 10 years ago.

  • Lauren Carr, who was in Cole Hall during the NIU shooting, wrote a letter to the Florida community. She made this sign after the NIU shooting.

      Lauren Carr, who was in Cole Hall during the NIU shooting, wrote a letter to the Florida community. She made this sign after the NIU shooting. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Editor's note: Lauren Carr of Carol Stream was at a memorial wreath-laying Wednesday at Northern Illinois University in honor of five students killed by a gunman in 2008 when news broke of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Unable to sleep that night, she composed a letter to the grieving community of Parkland, Florida.

First and foremost let me just say, this is a family that I am not happy to welcome you into.

That might sound disheartening, but it's true. I hate that you had to experience the utter chaos another human can produce. I hate that the normalcy in your life has been replaced with images no horror movie could reproduce. I hate that what should be a day surrounded by hearts and love was filled with blood.

But since we are now family, welcome.

As family, I would like to share a few thoughts of hope, honesty, and encouragement with you. I understand what you are going through. See, 10 years ago on Feb. 14, 2008, I was in the Northern Illinois University mass shooting classroom. At approximately 3:05 p.m. a man dressed in black, from the ski cap on his head to his terrorist printed shirt, long trench coat and combat boots, burst into the lecture hall spraying bullets everywhere.

The screams, gunshots, and torment live on in my head. Every day after the shooting happened was surreal.

It's hard to explain, but it's as if after we experience a traumatic event we have to learn to re-live, to re-trust humanity as a whole. The first few months after the massacre the scene kept replaying in my head over and over again. My brain was trying to process this memory and yet my heart was well aware and shattered.

As year by year went by I thought I was never going to "get over" the event. However, I realized that healing IS possible. We do not have to let fear and anxiety become our identity.

They say to not let tragedies like these define who you are, but I say let them shape who you will become. Grow from it, learn from it, let yourself be angry, sad, mad. Let yourself grieve. Allow yourself to ask the hard questions. Give yourself patience. Support one another. Do random acts of kindness. I've always found that when acts of violence occur, the best solution is acts of kindness. Take care of each other. Love each other.

Florida, know that we stand with you. Know that whenever you need ANY support we are only a phone call away. When the media move on, we will not. We are in this with you and by your side every step of the way. Yes, it will be a long road to recovery, but we have resources that we would be more than happy to share with you. We've been through this and helping our family is what is in our Huskie hearts.

Don't give up; light shines brightest in the darkness. From a fellow huskie, to the eagles, we stand with you.

Forward together forward.

Love, Lauren Carr

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