Local parents relieved to hear their students were safe

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Friday, February 15, 2008
— Peggy Clothier couldn’t reach her son Joe at Northern Illinois University after a gunman opened fire Thursday afternoon, killing seven and wounding 15.

“It was heart wrenching to say the least, just sitting here worrying,” the Clinton mother said.

Joe was fine.

He had been at wrestling practice and went into the basement as part of a building lockdown. His cell phone didn’t have a signal.

Local parents whose sons and daughters attend NIU say Thursday’s shootings left them with anxious moments waiting to hear from their children.

Police say former student Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall Thursday afternoon before killing himself.

Some local parents heard from their students before news of the shootings broke.

“I was at work in Monroe and got a phone call,” said Brodhead resident Helen LaBorde, whose daughter Ady is a sophomore at NIU.

“She said, ‘Mom, I’m safe.’

“I’m like, ‘What?’

“She just said, ‘I’m safe, there was a shooting, but I’m safe.”

It floored Helen when she got home and saw footage of the shootings.

“I thought to myself, ‘I have to call (Ady) later to thank her for letting me know before I heard,’” she said.

An hour before the shootings, Joe Clothier had a class in the building where police say Kazmierczak opened fire, his mother said.

Waiting to hear from Joe seemed like an eternity for his mother, who runs a day care and was having a Valentine’s Day party. They connected at about 4 p.m.

“It doesn’t sound like a long time, but every minute you’re imagining the worst,” she said.

Becky Smith, a Parker High School grad who plays basketball for NIU, was in practice at the time, her mother, Melanie, said.

Melanie said she was fortunate because she had an idea where her daughter normally is at that time of day. Authorities locked down the building where Becky was practicing. Her parents were able to reach athletic staff within a half hour to hear the shooter was dead and the team was safe.

“They did an awesome job keeping parents (informed),” Melanie said.

Kevin Skatrud, a freshman football player from Brodhead, was lifting weights when the shooting started, his mother, Lynn, said.

“His girlfriend was outside the classroom and heard the shots,” Lynn said. “It’s been quite a shock.”

Kevin called his mother to say he was safe, even before Lynn had heard the news.

She said the tragedy has been humbling.

“You never think it would affect you,” she said.

Last updated: 4:38 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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