“We are all concerned and surprised that in quaint Canada, this kind of thing could happen . . . Everybody expects Canada to be remote from all the troubles of the world, peaceful and quiet and now we have this situation.” – Richard Teltschik, leader of a delegation of German parliamentarians from the Christian Social Union of Bavaria on a visit to Ottawa, who left the Chateau Laurier as the Parliament Hill drama was unfolding.
I go for a thirty minute walk (almost) every day. I walk down a series of interconnected neighbourhood pathways, and one of these pathways loops around a nearby elementary school.
Today, a teacher stopped me to ask if I was a parent of one of the students.
She explained that I “really shouldn’t be” on the school grounds during recess, and she gestured toward another pathway that went around the field that I could use instead.
I told her I’d been walking through there (almost) every day – usually during recess – and that I’d never been stopped before.
I could see she was already forming a response, and that she was about to interrupt me, so I held up my hand, raised my voice a bit, and finished what I was saying.
Look, I appreciate you stopping me. I’m a teacher, I work at ______ (I pointed in the direction of the school).
Oh. . . If I’d known that . . . she stammered.
It’s not a problem. Safety first. I’ve got a daughter at ______ public school just down the road and I’d want someone to do exactly what you’re doing. Thanks.
Oh . . . okay . . . thank you for saying that.
No problem. Have a good one.
I squeezed her shoulder.
I walked toward the other pathway – thinking about our conversation – and I wondered how many people I’d walked by (almost) every day that hadn’t said anything. That hadn’t bothered to. That didn’t think there was a reason to.
I’m 6’5”. I’m about 230. I have a shaved head, and it’s my understanding that I tend to walk around with a relatively displeased look on my face most of the time.
Digressionary Note: I’m usually just thinking about something. I don’t mean to come across this way, but when I walk around smiling for no reason I feel stupid, and people tend to stop me to ask why I’m smiling, and then I have to explain that I’m just trying to look less threatening, and then it’s a long conversation, and I’m usually too busy for it, and I usually don’t want to talk about it, and, so, yeah – angry face it is.
The point is, somebody probably should have stopped me before today.
As I was walking back to school, one of my friends texted me to tell me that there was a shooting in Ottawa at the War Memorial.
A soldier had been shot.
Seconds later, I received another message telling me that shots had been fired inside the Parliament Buildings.
I opened Twitter – already rampant with reportage – and started following along.
When I got back to work, I loaded up the CBC News site, and watched the live stream.
I’m sure many of you did the same thing.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I saw the Globe and Mail footage of the shots being fired in the Centre Block, and I was stunned.
This just doesn’t happen here.
I thought the same thing when the planes smashed into the World Trade Centre.
As lunch ended, the fire alarm went off.
My head really started going: I hope this is only a prank. I hope it’s not a mistake and that we’re supposed to be in lockdown instead. I hope it’s not a fire. What if it’s a fire? I hope Daughter Number Two’s okay. Oh, it’s nap time. She’s not going to be too happy about that. Oh, the poor daycare ladies. They’re not going to be too happy about that. Oh, there they are.
On and on and on.
I should probably mention that it was only a mistake.
A contractor accidentally triggered an alarm doing whatever it was he was doing.
But I didn’t know that at the time, and the sirens were blazing, and some of the kids were panicking – it was a bit of a scene – and I kept thinking about Ottawa.
By the end of the day, I found out that the soldier that was shot and killed in Ottawa is from Hamilton. He was a member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Their home is the John Weir Foote Armoury on James Street North, literally right around the corner from where I used to work.
And I don’t know what else to say.
We’re so lucky to live in a place where this sort of thing just doesn’t happen – at least not very often – and now we’re reading these kinds of stories twice in two days.
I’m glad somebody stopped me on the playground today.
I’m sorry that sort of thing’s necessary.
I think we’re going to see more of it after today.
A whole lot more.
To the parents and friends and family of the soldier – and to everyone deeply affected by the events in Ottawa today – I send my condolences to you.
To the brave men and women working in Ottawa – and everywhere else – to keep Canada safe, I send you my sincere thanks.