Charles Gibson Talks to NIU Shooting Survivors

"All I saw was the door on the right side of the stage open up, and the man with the shotgun walked through. And as soon as he fired the first shot, I hit the ground."

Northern Illinois University sophomore Geoff Alberti is recalling the terrifying moments before a shooter sprayed bullets across a classroom in Cole Hall.

"I feel like I stared at him for hours, because I watched his every move," Samantha Brunell said. "I just could not help but keep my eyes on him."

NIU senior Desiree Smith adds, "As soon as the first shot went off, I got down on the ground right away, and I lay there. And then I remember when I saw Sam [Brunell]. I just grabbed her. I was just like, I need to touch another human being right now."


Samantha realizes now that she saw the shots that took the lives of her classmates, but the only thing she can remember is that her body "was just frozen."

"I was afraid I was going to die," Geoff recalls. "I was afraid that I wouldn't see my family again. I was thinking about them. Friends and family."

As Desiree crawled across the floor, she feared becoming a target.

She replays the scenario that was going through her mind. "I need to get out of here, I'm moving. He's going to shoot me now because I'm moving. This floor's really dirty. OK, go, go. There's a giant puddle. Almost out. There's the door frame. Go! Get up! Run. Run. Run."

Student body president Jarvis Purnell spoke at the university's memorial service for the five who were killed.

He knew he had one opportunity to make other students feel the full impact of the tragedy that had befallen their classmates.

"I just kept thinking, you know, I've got one shot. There's one at bat. One swing. And I've got to make students feel it," he said. "I wanted them to feel and understand us as students, us as Huskies, what our goal is and how we felt about the situation. My message was a message of healing and home and rebuilding emotionally."

Denise Schoenbachler is a dean and mother of two NIU students. She points out that the role of faculty has now changed -- they're no longer just teachers.

"This week when they walked back in the class, they had new responsibilities," she said. "They also had to come in in the role of counselor, social worker. And they had a new appreciation for physically protecting these students."

NIU president John Peters said, "Universities are places of understanding. These events are hard to understand. I think we've all been touched by this, and we're all different. I hope we will all be better for this. I believe we will."

ABC's Charles Gibson walked around the campus with John Peters today. It was warm for an Illinois winter. The sun was out and the ambience was tranquil -- incongruous on a campus that just two weeks ago had been the site of a killing spree.

But still, there are the five crosses.

"I've learned, I guess I'm not too old to learn, or be surprised by the strength of people in crisis," said Peters.

An example of strength might be Samantha and Geoff, who began dating soon after they met in the back of the police squad car after the shooting. Devastating as the event was, the two find solace in talking about it together. Only they can truly understand each other.

"I was crying," recalls Samantha. "I was like, 'My name's Sam. Sorry to meet you like this.' So it's like, I told him, I was like, 'I don't want to be alone. Please just stay with me through this process.'

"He knows what I'm going through," she said. "Like I'm scared to, like, hang out with my other friends because I don't want them to get offended if I get angry or sad all of a sudden."

Geoff understands Samantha's pain. "Yes. It's nice to have someone who's in the room who knows exactly what you're going through. It's a lot harder when you're dealing with people who don't really grasp the situation."

Alice Maggin and Jung Hwa Song contributed to this report.