The Ottawa Shooting

Captain_Canuck_by_rodolforever

Yesterday I was one of the quarter million people working in downtown Ottawa who were put in lockdown after the shooting. I wasn’t in danger, I saw nothing, and all my news came from internal emails and social media.

I’ve made Ottawa my home for the past twelve years and I’ve always felt safe. Even when I lived in the less savory areas, I still felt safe. Yesterday for the first time in twelve years that feeling of safety was shattered.

The thoughts that passed through my mind were so stereotypical it almost hurt. “But this is Canada?” or “How could this happen here?”

Being in a situation like this made me think of, and appreciate, the writing of John Windhelm. You’ve most likely read one of his books in high school. He was a science fiction author who worked for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. In a lot of his books he deals with disasters and the way he does that is by giving snippets of information from news sources or from word of mouth. Never explaining anything as the narrator. The style makes the reader feel the same way as the characters, unsure and wanting more information. He does is so wonderfully that I felt that I could be in one of his novels yesterday.

Everyone has coping mechanisms for trauma. When I was in early high school, my brother and I played catch and I tried to be fancy and jump for a ball. The ball bounced off my glove and hit me in the face. My K9 tooth pierced the inside of my lip and boy did it bleed.

On the way to the hospital he made jokes. It wasn’t mean but his way of dealing with the situation. I needed five stiches in my lip and still have the scar today.

My brother is someone you want to be around in an emergency, he’s a smartass but he’s calm and always seems to know what to do.

I have three ways of dealing with emergencies, when there are other people around. The first is to help, the second is to joke, and the third is to cook. When I say help, I mean I’ll help you whether you want it or not.

When I’m alone I like to write, and yesterday I couldn’t. All I kept thinking was, “If I could write the perfect sentence, I could make everything better.” There’s no such sentence, not for those who lost someone, and not for those who can’t help but see Ottawa differently.

The theme of this morning seems to bet Ottawa Strong, or Don’t change Canada. It’s a lovely sentiment but it’s just that a sentiment. The truth is that Ottawa has changed, these events have proved that Ottawa isn’t immune to these kinds of attacks.

If I can climb on my soapbox for a little I’d like to address my fellow Canadians. What happened was a tragedy and an affront to what we, as Canadians, hold dear. It is not however a license to judge, persecute, or attack anyone based on their race, religion, or skin colour. Don’t let this tragedy provoke hate.

Thank you,

Éric

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5 thoughts on “The Ottawa Shooting”

  1. Thank you, Éric, for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. I am sure they reflect what a large portion of us – especially Ottawans – think and feel. Today driving into my workplace, I kept having senses of (almost) dread & surrealness clouding my thoughts & mood, much like the feelings I had after the 9/11 attack. My emotions surged & ebbed. I reached out to some of my friends who serve, and thanked them for being who they are and what they do.

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  2. I can’t help but see things a little differently than you do.

    I was not on lockdown. I was at home, sick but safe, a distance away from the action (although the highway near my house was closed at one point as multiple police offers were searching all cars trying to cross the ferry). I was with my husband and our youngest. I thought I was dealing with it all rather well (my husband would disagree, saying I was very tense and terse when he was out grocery shopping) but I lost it when we got the notification that our daughter’s school had gone into safe mode. She’s a good 25 kilometres away from the action, but knowing that I couldn’t get to her made me crazy. My mother-in-law, who was calling to check in, must’ve thought I was a loon!

    When I called my office to check in, they were not yet on lockdown. Again, this office is far enough away from downtown to not be in immediate danger. Given the clientele we serve, however, this came afterwards, and I walked into reminders like the blinds being closed and the garbage not having been picked up.

    There’s a few things that have been mulling in my mind since yesterday, how fate had a way of intervening and keeping me safe. I think you know that I love the Hill and have tried multiple times to make my way back there since I resigned in 2008. That whole lockdown zone has been my playground since I arrived here in 2003, with my 5 years on the Hill, my time at the PMO and my 5 years with DFO. You know that my husband proposed to me in the Senate.

    These were the people that I smiled to and joked with every day during that part of my life, and seeing some of them on the news reports looking so bewildered, like “How did this happen?” Seeing one of the MPs, in a daze, not sure which way to turn, even after being ushered by MPs to get out, gunshots on the floor above her.

    How easily I could have been one of the ones on lockdown had I remained on the Hill. I have a couple of friends that were there, one in the Speaker’s office and one working for the NDP. Likely more, but those are the two that I can think of.

    How easily it could have been my former roommate who was working as a scanner there as late as last year before being recruited to the RCMP and transferred to Saskatchewan. This has given me the opportunity to be back in touch with her as she too was concerned for her former colleagues.

    How I have one of my clients who is in the midst of all this… and without wanting to divulge personal information, I can say I am concerned for him. I’m sure he is not the only one, I am sure many of my clients are on this, but I am thinking of him in particular.

    I had a friend of mine who was liveblogging the events from her office in Blackburn Building, her window in perfect view of the incidents at the War Memorial, rumours of gunmen in the adjacent PMO building. She was finally evacuated and the RCMP told her to “run and keep running.”

    I think of my former colleagues, that I saw on a daily basis as late as this January, who were also on lockdown at Kent and Laurier.

    That was a long lead up to say that I don’t feel any less safe. If anything, I feel safer. It’s terrible that we lost Corporal Cirillo, but it was quite possibly the best case scenario. Think about how many people walk through Parliament on a daily basis. Think about the MPs that were in their Caucus rooms on either side of where Bibeau marched. We lost one shoulder, and the media is reporting injuries that I can count on one hand. Considering what was at stake, we were, and are tremendously lucky.

    No one could predict Bibeau’s actions, but when it mattered most, we had people looking out for our collective safety. Sgt-at-Arms Vickers is the same guy that was standing at the ready, waiting for Speaker Milliken’s go ahead, when Tom Mulcair lost his temper on Gerald Keddy who was heckling him during a member’s statement. I was in the middle of it and while I was spooked, I knew he had my back. You could hear his hand going to his firearm. He was raring to go at a moment’s notice.

    I don’t know if it’s by virtue of where I worked, but there was always the possibility, tucked into the back of my mind, that something like this *could* happen, just by the nature of where we are. This has given us a wake-up call. We have a renewed focus and sense of unity. It might even invigorate politics in a positive way – in fact, I am hoping for it. Many politicians were treating it as a farce, and now that Parliament has been threatened, maybe they will finally treat it with the gravitas, respect it deserves and carry their duties with the dignity that befits their position.

    Yesterday’s events were tragic and senseless, but I’m choosing to look at all of the positives in the situation. We’re living to tell about it. We’re all proud to be Ottawaians and Canadians, and we’re not going to take this lying down.

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    • I think there major difference between us was that I was naive enough to think this wouldn’t happen.

      As far as politics goes, I really how you’re right but I worry that it might go the other way and make things worse. I can see certain politicians spinning this as a reason to adopt American style gun laws. Or to further restrict immigration. Both bad in my mind.

      I also fear a 9/11 style backlash towards certain cultures.

      The months ahead will show what kind of Canada we’re going to live in.

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      • I’d be lying if I said that my mind didn’t go there too – worrying about people trying to restrict freedoms in the name of safety, but I think we have very vocal voices, both in politics and in the media, that will work hard to not let that happen. Even the US has not let that happen, look at how many people still jump over the fence at the White House or how little screening goes into people visiting. While there is a lot to fear, I think yesterday we proved that we don’t lose our heads when the going gets tough, and I sincerely believe that we won’t lose on this either.

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