Thoughts on a Tragedy

Some of you may have noticed I missed this week’s Fall into Fantasy post yesterday, and I apologise for that, but my schedule and brain have been a bit off since last Wednesday’s tragic events. I’ll be posting Week 10 as a separate post after this, but it didn’t feel right to skip over to book promotion without first acknowledging the loss that Ottawa experienced last week.

I’ve spoken about the series of events to a lot of people–hardly a surprise, I’m sure, but it’s the main subject of conversation in the Tim Hortons’ line, and I don’t say that to be flippant. Actually, I say it with a lot of pride–but haven’t yet been able to write it down. Speaking about it aloud, with others who shared the experience, gives a sense of unity. Writing it down, for me, makes it real. I think I’ve been avoiding it. Sure, my diary is probably a better place to spill my thoughts and feelings on the subject, but some of these thoughts shouldn’t be kept private.

I was stuck in the middle of things on Wednesday in a building that was evacuated early in the day because the powers that be felt we were more at risk inside than on the street with a possible shooter on the loose. I didn’t feel scared inside the office. I was huddled in the middle of the office with the rest of my team, staying away from windows, glued to the calming and rational voice of Peter Mansbridge on CBC (and yes, I say he deserves the journalistic accolades he’s been receiving). Inside, we felt safe.

I know I was never in any immediate danger. I had family even closer to the middle of things on the Hill, and was more worried for her than for me. Even so, that evacuation was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. With the situation not completely known to anyone, security and police were on high alert. Armed guards ushered us from one building to another, and down the cordoned off area of the streets, telling us to stay close to the buildings because they didn’t know if there was someone on the roof. I can tell you – outside had never felt so big or exposed as it did in those few seconds.

But that’s the end of my experience. Not very exciting in retrospect, once all the facts were known, but also not something I will ever forget.

What’s lingered for me is the loss of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. Following so soon after the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, it came as a double blow. This is the part where I get weepy.

I don’t usually get personal on this blog. I figure my personal life and my writing life are separate beasts, but again, after something like this, it’s hard not to share a side of myself usually hidden. As it happens. Cirillo was in the same regiment as my ex-husband, and they were friends. As I discovered during this event: once an army wife, always an army wife. I found it so easy to step into the shoes of Cirillo’s family. I spent 6 months while my ex was deployed overseas dreading the news his family received, bracing yourself every time the phone rang. In a hostile environment, you would expect that sort of phone call. You would not expect it when your son, your friend, your father, is standing as a Ceremonial Guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario.

My hearts and prayers go out to his family and friends, and I hope they know how proud his country is that Cirillo put on that uniform to defend our best values and rights. I also pray that his loss is not in vain, and we don’t lose those values in the face of this tragedy.

I was proud of the way Ottawa handled events. The morning after it happened, I walked to work as usual, and, of course, the subject was on everyone’s lips, but as I mentioned above, the conversations were happening in line at Timmy’s. They were happening as people were running errands and getting their groceries. Business as usual. If this was an attempt to make us afraid, it failed. On Friday, Ottawa enjoyed PoutineFest, and the crowds were out enjoying the live music and each other’s company. Not being afraid.

The tributes I’ve seen for both Cirillo and Vincent have touched my heart more deeply than any fear of that day. The way Pittsburgh played the Canadian national anthem before the game; the way the fans of the Sens, Leafs & Canadiens all stood together as one to sing the anthem across all three stadiums–I don’t know why its the hockey games that get to me so much, but I guess it’s just my Canadian blood. It’s beautiful and I’m proud to be a part of this national community.

The best tribute I’ve seen, though, is an image. I’ve shared it multiple places, but every single time I see it, it’s a punch to the feels. So many meanings and symbols, and I send hugs to Bruce MacKinnon of the Halifax Chronicle Herald for being inspired to draw it. So I end my post with that image – the sum of everything we felt; of everything that our troops represent, past, present and future.

Credit to Bruce MacKinnon

Credit to Bruce MacKinnon

RIP Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. We Remember.

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