This article is part of the Voices of School Shooting Survivors project, a series by VICE.com intended to shine a light on victims of school shootings across the country.
On February 14, 2008, a gunman killed five and injured 21 at Northern Illinois University in a rampage that lasted five minutes. Patrick Korellis was there that day and took shotgun pellets to the head and an arm.
On February 14, 2018, I was back at the campus of my alma mater, Northern Illinois University, when the news broke. There was a mass shooting taking place in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I was with friends and fellow alums who had all gathered at NIU for the same reason: to honor the school shooting we'd all been through exactly ten years to the day, February 14, 2008. Each of us stood there, dumbfounded, looking at news updates on our phones. A school shooting on the anniversary of another school shooting.
These students and faculty at Parkland were now a part of the same group I was—a group no one wants to be a part of. Already awash in sadness, the pain came in waves. I was thinking about them and thinking about us.
February 14, 2008 is a day I will never forget, and I knew a whole new school of students would feel the same way about their own date. I was all too familiar with the fear I knew they had stepped into.
Ten years earlier I was sitting in my geology class at NIU when suddenly a gunman with a long trench coat kicked the door open, pulled out a shotgun, and started shooting at us. I got under my desk as I heard my classmates screaming and crying. As he stopped shooting, someone in my classroom yelled, “HE’S RELOADING!” I crawled from under my desk, got up, and ran toward the door.
He fired again, and I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head. I’d been shot. I touched my head, and blood was running down my neck, and all over my hand. I was dizzy, and finally made it outside. A police officer found me and got me an ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital, the doctor rolled up my left sleeve. I had blood, and a big bruise. I was shot in the arm too, and didn’t even know it. I kept seeing more and more stretchers of my classmates arrive. There were 150 people in my classroom, five were killed, and 21 were injured.
The gunman had a shotgun and handguns. I am so lucky he didn’t have a high powered assault weapon, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today.
Ever since Sandy Hook, I’ve been more vocal about the shooting, and meeting with my politicians to see if anything can be done. I’ve met with Senator [Dick] Durbin [of Illinois] four times, after different mass shootings since Sandy Hook, telling him to plead with congress to get something done. Nothing has happened.
The first time we met was at his Chicago office after Sandy Hook. We discussed expanding background checks for all gun sales, and he said he didn’t think they had enough Republican votes. I told him he could share my story in the senate, which he did. I met with him a second time after the shooting at Orlando. I did a press conference with him about banning assault weapons. That didn’t pass either.
The third time we met was after the Vegas shooting. There was talk then about a bump stock ban, which never saw the light of day. Now, Parkland. I did another press conference with Senator Durbin and an alumni of Marjory Stoneman who’s living in Chicago. The senator mentioned that the president wanted to arm teachers, and how ridiculous it was.
In the ten years since surviving the shooting at NIU, I’ve connected with survivors from Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Orlando, Las Vegas, and more. We all have a common bond, and we all need each other. Connecting with other victims has helped tremendously—both for me and for them. We talk about what happened to us, and the bond we all have now.
We all were there to offer our support to these victims. I really hope this is the last mass shooting in this country—I cannot take it anymore. And ten years later, it has gotten harder, not easier. There needs to be a change, and I stand with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas who are speaking out, trying to make a change. I finally have some hope something will get done as I see the students there speaking out, and denouncing the politicians who are supported by the NRA. I finally believe we may see some change for the better.