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.