On Wednesday

On Wednesday, a gunman ran up to the war memorial in my town and shot the honour guard twice in the back.

When in crisis, I have noticed that Canadians do four things.

  1. Call family members to make sure everyone’s okay.
  2. Tune in to the CBC to see what is going on.
  3. Share food
  4. Does this mean that we’ll make the international news? Does anyone know if other countries are reporting?

The gunman then hijacked a minister’s car and drove it to parliament hill. He ran across the front lawn, shooting his way into the Hall of Honour. He was inside Parliament at the same time as the first 911 calls were coming in from the War Memorial.

I was at work when this happened. Our manager got a phone call from one of our regular clients, who called to tell us that most of the government offices were in lockdown, so we probably wouldn’t get a lot of lunch traffic. When told this, there was a general head-swivel from the back of the bakery to the front of store, where we realized that yes, there were less people in the store than usual. Probably we didn’t need to make all the sandwiches.

I pulled out my phone, which had been going off, and realized it was full of twitter alerts and texts. My friend Kendra, who works in a library, had been the first to notify me. There was a general round of texting family that we were okay, and then we all got back to work. Slowly, while checking the news.

The Hall of Honour leads into the Library of Parliament, with exits off it into the caucus rooms for the party holding a majority in parliament, and the Loyal Opposition. Those rooms were full. The hall is also where tours wait before being shown around the House of Commons. There was a group of homeschoolers waiting there when the gunman entered.

In retrospect, when we saw on the news that there were shots outside of the Library of Parliament, it was already over. But there were conflicting eyewitness accounts, reports of multiple people getting out of the shooter’s car, and reports of multiple deaths were running rife. I went on break in the basement and tried to stay with my phone above the level of the stairs, so I could get cell signal and refresh my news twitter feed.

The shooter had ducked into an alcove in the Hall of Honour, such that anyone trying to get a shot at him would be directly in his line of fire. The Sergeant-at-Arms, honorary head of security and chiefly known for wearing a funny hat into Parliament, stepped into his line of fire and shoot him.

The Sergeant-at-Arms then reloaded and joined the security forces searching for other gunmen and getting reporters and tour groups out of the Hall.

Back at work, more and more buildings were locking down. I was drinking tea in the basement, watching my text alerts expand the area of closed streets and watching my facebook explode with worry and prayers.

According to the BBC, MPs barricaded themselves into the caucus rooms with all the chairs in the  room, and broke off flags to use as impromptu flags. They hid the PM in a closet at one point.

My break ended and I started making cookies. One of my co-workers connected streaming radio on his phone to the basement speakers, so we could keep up on what was presumed to be happening. The police kept expanding the area of closed streets, and eventually we went into voluntary lockdown. Everybody came to hang out in the basement, text the latest information to family and friends, and eat the pizza no one had come in to buy.

Around one thirty the police said it was okay for people outside the closed streets to head home. I got home around two, feeling calm and then suddenly shaking.

The rest of the day was a slew of misinformation and truth coming out, and Canadians checking on each other to make sure nobody was panicking. We frowned at US news which described “terror in the capital,” and made food, and stared at each other in shock when it came out that the Honour Guard had not only been shot, but been shot in the back. And then we went to work on Thursday. I heard a discussion of librarians in parliament digging bullets out of the walls, though perhaps they were just watching the crime scene techs do that.

For all its grotesquery, I don’t think Wednesday will change Canada. Maybe there will be more of a baffle around the front doors of parliament, but in a country where MPs were worried that the shooting would stop Yoga on the Lawn and reporters are heard to say ‘thank you’ to guards telling them where to hide in the midst of a fire fight, I don’t think a single shooting will change how we conduct the business of government. Canadians are always more ready to be concerned about the weather than about politics.

I’m more annoyed than afraid. Annoyed that a homeless, mentally ill convert to Islam could shut down this city for a day, annoyed that a man younger than me was shot without a chance to defend himself on the steps of a War Memorial, annoyed that now my islamic friends and acceptances have to explain that they’re not terrorists, annoyed that I have to worry that mental illness could bring me or people I love down similar paths of complete distain for human life, annoyed that soldiers are told not to wear their uniforms when off duty because it makes them targets, annoyed that when I get a text my first though is that it’s another shooting, annoyed that now I’m thinking about terrorists when I should be thinking about my lack of winter boots. Annoyed annoyed annoyed.

Mostly I wrote this down to stop it circling my head. Now to stop being annoyed, get a poppy for every coat I wear, and track down some boots.

Tell me what you think! Please.