A somber mood marked the second anniversary of the 2008 shootings at Northern Illinois University that killed five students and wounded 19 others.
"It was definitely a traumatic experience," Caley Lanahan, the NIU junior told the Chicago Tribune."It makes me thankful everyday that I'm here and how truly special life is and not take anything for granted."
The DeKalb campus closed Cole Hall two years ago with plans to renovate the lecture hall into non-classroom space using millions from the state.
After the shooting rampage, NIU adopted the motto "Forward, Together Forward." The university opened a garden with that name honoring the slain students' memories with trees and benches for reflection.
NIU President John Peters and victims' families laid wreaths at the memorial.
"Their spirits are reflected throughout this memorial garden. This very special place is where we honor and where we remember them today and in years to come," Peters said.