On eve of NIU shooting anniversary, survivor and parents recall

On eve of NIU shooting anniversary, survivor and parents remember

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The memorial garden at NIU. On each of the 5 granite slabs is the name of a student who died. (Photo by Craig Wall) The memorial garden at NIU. On each of the 5 granite slabs is the name of a student who died. (Photo by Craig Wall)
Cole Hall at NIU (Photo by Craig Wall) Cole Hall at NIU (Photo by Craig Wall)
Sam Brunell Peters (Photo by Craig Wall) Sam Brunell Peters (Photo by Craig Wall)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Six years ago Friday a gunman opened fire in a classroom on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

He killed five people and injured 21 others before taking his own life.

Since then there have been numerous college campus shootings, most recently at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana.

FOX 32's Craig Wall will take a look at a different side of the story, the parents, and how they handle the stress of those incidents.

Second only to the terror of those caught in the middle of one of those campus shootings, is the fear felt by the mothers and fathers of those students.

The parents of one of the NIU shooting survivors talked to FOX 32 about how they handled the news, and the fears they still have.

"I didn't see any of the initial shots, I didn't see him come in and I didn't see him shoot off first couple rounds of buckshot. I literally blinked and all of a sudden everyone was gone and it was just him and I," NIU shooting survivor, Samantha Brunell Peters said.

Sam Brunell Peters was a student at NIU when the unthinkable unfolded right in front of her on February 14th, 2008.

Former student Steven Kazmierczak walked onto the stage in a lecture hall where Sam was taking a class and started shooting.

"It was when he was walking up that aisle I was like, oh my god, if I don't leave he could shoot me and so I'm made the right choice and followed my instincts and took off and that probably saved my life," Peters said.

Sam's parents, Phil and Cammie Brunell first learned of what happened from their daughter.

" My cell phone rang, it was a number I didn't recognize and I picked it up and answered it and all I heard was screaming on the end, other side of the phone, didn't realize who it was for a minute, till I could finally recognize it was Sam's voice," Phil Brunell said.

Phil, a retired Kenilworth Police officer, remained calm.

As one of the officers who responded to the Laurie Dann school shooting in Winnetka in 1988, he knew he had to keep calm, for Sam's sake.

"So, he talked to me, he was like what happened, where are you, I'm glad you're safe, please stay with the police officer and let them walk you through and they'll take care of you 1335 and my mom was a mess of course," Peters said.

Cammie learned what happened when her husband called her at work.

"I remember falling to the floor, I just couldn't believe it. People around me at work didn't know what was going on. And when I was finally able to articulate it, they said you need to calm down before you leave. And I kept saying I have to go home, we have to go get Sam," Cammie Brunell said.

For Cammie, her world seemed to be spinning out of control.

"Panic, anxiety, I need to see my daughter, I need to see my daughter, I need to hold my daughter, it was just so unreal," Cammie said. "And then her friend said I will bring her home, and it just, it was best thing ever, it was the longest two hours we had to wait."

After the shooting Sam stayed at NIU, got her Bachelors and Masters degree, and now is on staff, doing crisis communication work.

She said she still suffers from post traumatic stress.

"I am fine walking around there at this point, it doesn't bother me much, it's just whenever I hear sirens or helicopters, whether I'm in my office or walking around campus, that's when my body kind of shuts down," Peters said.

She said hearing about campus shootings, like at Purdue last month, makes her sick.

For her parents it's also very stressful, given they have another daughter and son in college right now.

While they hope there is never another campus shooting that touches their lives, the Brunells know in their back of their minds it could happen. They just never want another phone call like the one six years ago.

"You always think about your kids though, it's something you'll never change, you always hope that they're safe," Phil said.

Friday at NIU there will not be any formal ceremony marking the anniversary as they have done in the past, instead, at 3:06 p.m., the time of the shooting, the university will toll five bells for the five students who died.

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