Terror in Canada’s capital. A young man, proudly guarding the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial, was shot and killed. The shooter made it into the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings. Gunfire erupted. The shooter is shot dead. A general sense of panic pervades. Was there another shooter? Is this man the only one? Is everyone safe? It took hours to lift lockdown orders.
Today there are incredible stories from yesterday. Constable Samearn Son, part of the Commons security team, was the first person to try to stop him. He immediately noticed the gun and though unarmed Const. Son lunged at the killer, grabbed the gun and pulled it towards the floor. In the struggle, Const. Son was shot in the foot. Const. Son’s cries had alerted others inside. Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vicker and his team engaged the shooter and Vickers is hailed as a hero. And have you heard about the NHL game last night? It was an incredibly heartwarming moment when at the NHL game between two U.S.-based teams, the Canadian national anthem was sung.
But today…today I read a story that has moved me to tears. It was about the effort to save Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s life, moments after he was shot. One person actually ran towards the Memorial after hearing the shots. This woman, Barbara Winters, began the chest compressions when Cpl. Cirillo stopped breathing. Four others were assisting with breathing, counting/pacing breaths and compressions, elevating his feet, and providing comfort. When Ms. Winters was relieved on the chest compressions, she moved to Cpl. Cirillo’s head. She talked to him. She told him that he is loved, his family loves him, that he’s a good man, his parents are proud of him, and that all the people were working hard for him. “Everybody loves you.” It’s just so wonderful and overwhelming.
Acts of terror are not common in Canada, though this is the second within two days that has seen a Canadian Forces personnel die. I think of Canada as ‘safe’. Canada and Canadians are generally well-liked and respected world-wide. What makes this different for me is this is the first time that terrorism has struck at the heart of our democracy.
Is this our new reality here in Canada? Can we expect more such actions? Should we be fearful? Is our sense of security shattered? I don’t have the answers to those (and more questions). And really, only time will tell.
All I know is yesterday Canada changed. It’s no longer as naive as it was.
Oṃ śānti śānti śānti