My day started off as it often does: stopping off for a muffin and a bottle of juice on the way to work. It was a little nippy this morning so I entered the first building of the three connected buildings in the complex I work in and walked the rest of the way inside instead of walking outside. I arrived at my office and proceeded to go through all of the emails that arrived yesterday (I was off). After a while, I overheard a couple of words from a coworker’s phone conversation — something like “shot at the War Memorial?” — and then a news alert popped up on my phone.
I read the news article in disbelief. At the same time, there was a buzz going through the office as more people found out about it.
I texted a friend who works in one of the buildings not too far from where things were happening and told them to be careful because there were “reports of shots” near there. At that point they’d only heard that, too, but I think they were already being discouraged from going outside because the smokers were getting “jittery” from the prospects of not being able to take a smoke break. This was maybe 20 minutes after the first shots at the war memorial.
Then I saw a raw video clip that showed the officers running through the halls in the Centre Block, culminating in all the shots that were fired just before the shooter was taken out. I think my jaw dropped when I saw that. It was unthinkable that something like that had just happened inside the Centre Block!
Maybe an hour later we were informed over the PA at work that we were locked down. No one could enter or leave the building.
In the roughly 15 years I’ve been a civil servant I’ve never been in a lock down, and that includes September 11th, 2001.
When I told my friend about this, they asked if we’d been told to “stay away from windows”. Whoa.
I spent most of the rest of the day trying to focus on work while listening to the radio and wondering how this would end for everyone. While I did accomplish some things, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t my most productive day in the office. There were emails and more announcements over the PA advising us to stay in the building over the course of the rest of the day.
Eventually, the lockdown was lifted for my building, so I eventually finished what I was doing and left the building, glad to see that the guards and security people weren’t blocking the way out. I listened to the radio on my way home, but at some point I had to turn it off because it wasn’t really giving new information and frankly I felt “saturated”. The tv was on in the pub before trivia this evening and let’s just say that I was glad when someone changed the channel to something else.
So, where do we go from here?
Well, if we ratchet up the paranoia, increase security everywhere and restrict access to previously accessible places we will be admitting that the terrorists have won. And that is something that we can’t afford to do. We need to fix the things that went wrong (if we can), but generally avoid giving into the urge to become completely paranoid about everything.
I must admit that I was very happy to read earlier this evening that the Speaker of the House of Commons has issued a statement that included, among other things, a confirmation that the House of Commons will sit as originally scheduled tomorrow morning.
Going forward we mourn Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was murdered in cold blood when he was standing on honour guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, keep his family in our thoughts, and be grateful for the brave first responders, police, security guards and people like the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons, Kevin Vickers, who drew his weapon inside the Centre Block and did something horrible but necessary on a sunny Wednesday morning on Parliament Hill. And then we get on with our lives as best we can.
And we do not give the murderer the legacy he was looking for by not mentioning his name in the media, though we do not forget his actions. But we do not let his actions cause us to live in fear or limit our liberties.
We do not let the terrorists win.