Like many Canadians I found myself glued to the television yesterday.
A gunman had shot and killed a Canadian soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, our nation’s capital.
Several minutes later a gunman burst into Parliament Hill, firing a spray of bullets through the central lobby. To the left and right were the two caucuses, Prime Minister Harper’s in one, and the Opposition party in the other.
Our House of Commons’ sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, contained and then fatally shot the assailant.
His role is a symbolic one; to keep order during legislative meetings at the House.
Yesterday he protected that house, and all inside it.
Parliament Hill and the surrounding buildings remained on lock-down for the next 8 hours as police worked to both secure the area and determine if there was more than one gunman involved. At the writing of this post, it is still not clear if this gunman acted alone.
Worry stemmed from the fact that this attack came just two days after a deliberate attack on two Canadian soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, near Montreal. Witnesses say a man sat in his car for two hours in the parking lot of the base, before driving into the soldiers, one of whom was in uniform. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, has since died from injuries he sustained in the hit and run. The assailant was subsequently shot dead by police.
Two attacks on Canadian soldiers in two cities over three days.
This is Canada. This doesn’t happen here. Does it?
As I sat watching the live updates yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel a certain innocence lost.
Canada the peaceful.
Canada the polite.
Canada the welcoming, inviting, open.
Canada was under attack.
To put the gravity of this situation in perspective, and because many non-Canadians may not be familiar with the terminology of our political system, the American equivalent of yesterday’s events would have looked like this: A gunman goes to Arlington National Cemetery and shoots and kills the soldier standing guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Then a gunman storms Capitol Hill, firing his rifle at those meeting in the U.S. Congress.
This attack was a direct hit at the heart of the seat of power in Canada.
As dark a day as it was, moments showcasing flashes of pure goodness cut through.
First there were the private citizens who, after witnessing the horrific and cowardly shooting of unarmed, 24 year old, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the Cenotaph, rushed to perform CPR and provide support until EMS arrived. They put themselves at risk, unclear if there was more than one gunman, to help our fallen soldier.
Thank you for your bravery and kindness. I hope it brought comfort to Cirillo in his final moments.
And last night, our beautiful friends and neighbours in Pittsburgh demonstrated a touching show of support when the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise played O Canada at their game against the Philadelphia Flyers. The words to our national anthem scrolled across the jumbo-tron as the entire surface of the ice became awash with red and white.
This is brotherly love, and a reminder that there is good all around us. Thank you, friends.
And finally, a beautiful example of the type of reporting that should be delivered after a heinous event like this one. Rex Murphy does not spend time fear-mongering. He doesn’t invest any precious time discussing the assailant; he doesn’t even utter his name. Instead he focuses on the two who matter most in yesterday’s events, Cirillo and Vickers. Two Canadian heroes.
Rex Murphy makes me very proud to be a Canadian.