Steve Chapman

But a lot of people in the state have instincts that say something very different: You don't squander $40 million to erase a memory that can't be erased. Lots of places have witnessed nightmarish events. But we normally don't punish the building. We mourn, we remember, we use the site to help us understand and overcome what happened, and we press on.

That's what happened at the University of Texas. It's what happened at Virginia Tech, where a mass shooting took place last year. It's what happened at Columbine High School.

Ford's Theater in Washington remains an operating playhouse even though Abraham Lincoln was shot there. The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, where Gov. Huey Long was assassinated in 1935, still serves as the seat of state government.

No one would have seriously suggested levelling those buildings just because something awful happened in them. They are part of history, and history is often dark and savage. To wipe out a place merely because of a grim event is not an act of healing but an act of capitulation.

Returning to Cole Hall after the massacre promises to be painful for students at NIU. But pain is a part of life that college students, like everyone, must learn to endure, preferably with courage and resolve. Restoring the building to the noble use for which it was meant -- higher education -- would help in that process.

Most important, it would allow NIU students to show what they are made of. As President John Kennedy said, some things are worth doing not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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