Think twice before razing NIU hall: Horrible things have happened in countless places, from UT-Austin's campus clocktower to Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Those buildings haven't been torn down. Instead the locals have moved on, trying to make the best of the unimaginable.
On Aug. 1, 1966, a disturbed 25-year-old climbed to the observation deck of the clock tower and administration building of the University of Texas at Austin. From there he shot and killed 13 people and wounded 31 others walking to their classes or otherwise going about their business, 30 floors below.
Forty-two years later, it remains a campus landmark, sometimes bathed in orange light following big athletic victories. The observation deck was reopened to the public in 1999.
On April 16, 2007, a student at Virginia Tech took his life and those of 32 others, all but one of them at Norris Hall. The building remains open. The second floor where so many murders took place will become the new Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention.
Point is, horrible things happen in countless places, from Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., to Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Those buildings haven't been torn down. Instead the locals have moved on, trying to make the best of the unimaginable.
It's in that light that we view Gov. Rod Blagojevich's decision to introduce an emergency funding bill for $40 million to demolish Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University, the scene of five murders two weeks ago, and construct a Memorial Hall nearby.
We appreciate the impulse to wipe this tragic event from our memories, but we have some reservations.
First, this won't get the job done, especially for the grieving families. Bricks and mortar can never replace those lost lives. Maybe we shouldn't want to forget what happened that awful day, as a warning to future generations. In Israel, they deal with terrorist acts by getting targeted locations back up and running as quickly as possible, to send the message that they won't be defeated. New York is rebuilding on the site of the World Trade Center towers.
Second, $40 million is no small chunk of change in a state that has none to spare as it flounders in billions of red ink.
Third, it would be one thing if Cole Hall was ancient and in need of repair, but it was built in 1968 and, as we understand it, is very functional. Meanwhile, schools like Western Illinois University haven't had a state-financed building constructed in more than 30 years. Macomb is still waiting on funding for a performing arts center approved in 2002.
Fourth, state Sen. Christine Radogno of Lemont is right to suggest that "a little distance from the tragedy" wouldn't be such a bad thing. Rarely do politicians make good public policy in times of distress. This does have a knee-jerk feel about it. Keep in mind that the governor also wants a $25 billion capital spending plan. While he may be perfectly sincere here, he also wouldn't be the first to capitalize on the emotion of a terrible event to push a favored piece of legislation over the top.
Finally, we're just wary of the message this might communicate to another fragile mind contemplating getting off his meds and catapulting himself onto the nation's front pages in a hail of gunfire. If you can get a building knocked down, too, while a new and more impressive edifice rises in the wake of your terrible deed, well, might that be perverse, added incentive for another twisted thinker to go on a rampage?
Again, what happened at NIU was truly awful. But there's something that feels rushed and not quite right about this. Legislators need to think this proposal through before committing serious taxpayer dollars to it.
Peoria Journal Star