The events of October 22, 2014 forever changed my fellow citizens, my city of Ottawa, and my country, Canada.
As a writer, when tragedy strikes, you long to sit down and get all your feelings down on paper (or computer screen in my case). It happens on a regular basis because, unfortunately, a lot of tragic events happen daily all around the world. Problem is, as a Blogger, I walk a fine line when writing about a tragedy. There are many that feel that Bloggers who choose to write about something tragic, something that is making the headlines all over the world, is done to benefit the Blogger by increasing the number of “hits” on the blog.
It is for that very unsavoury reason that I usually choose not to write about tragedies. I don’t want people coming to my blog simply because I’m writing about something tragic or sensational. Yesterday’s terrorist attack on my city, my Ottawa, where so many of my dear family and friends live, changed that way of thinking for me.
Why? Because this terrorist attack happened in “my own backyard”. It happened in a place that is sacred and special to the citizens of Ottawa, to the citizens of Canada, and most importantly, to the brave men and women of our Canadian military.
I have stood at that very spot where Nathan Cirillo was gunned down yesterday, as I’m sure many of you have as well. My friend, Lyne, and I drove right through the exact area of the attack only a mere 12 hours before it happened. I have trekked the same route that the gunman took from the National War Memorial over to the grounds of our beloved Parliament Hill. I have walked the same green grass that the gunman walked on and up to the doors of Centre Block. I have spent time enjoying the amazing Canada Day festivities on this same lawn. So seeing these very places splashed all over the news from coast to coast, country to country, referencing this senseless terrorist attack, has left me, and so many I know, feeling unnerved…and violated.
How dare this man gun down an innocent soldier. How dare this man gun down the father of an innocent child. How dare this man paralyze my city with fear, trapping thousands of fellow citizens, family and friends in their homes and offices for an entire day, not knowing what was really going on outside. How dare this man do this to my beloved country!
I guess after the fear, shock and sadness, comes anger. Maybe that’s a good thing. It’s the anger that will get us through this, make us stronger, make us more prepared for more challenges that we may face in the coming days, weeks and months. It’s also this anger that will allow us to stand strong, move on, and not let what happened change this city and country we love.
As someone who is extremely active in the social media community, yesterday was a very overwhelming day for other reasons as well. This tragedy came at me from every different direction on my computer screen. I tried hard to write some posts that I needed to, however, in all honesty, my mind just wasn’t able to focus on anything but the tragedy unfolding in my city. I worried about friends and family, I worried about what appeared to be an ongoing manhunt for more suspects. I worried about everything that I heard going on around my city.
I was also very concerned about something I saw happening on social media later in the afternoon once Nathan Cirillo’s name became public. I started seeing many different photos of Nathan popping up on my screen via Twitter and Facebook. These photos showed Nathan doing many different things in many different settings. Usually, when someone is in the news, you don’t see so many “unique” photos of that person. That led me to wonder where everyone was getting these photos from. Could it be Facebook, I wondered. Yes it was. All the photos on Nathan’s personal Facebook page were not private. This really bothered me. These were his private photos and now they were being splashed all over the internet, albeit by people who were innocently trying to pay tribute to him. This was wrong. So I have reached out to try to get the page made private, but as of yet, my efforts have not been heard. I hope it’s because his family want it that way, not because they just don’t know. Maybe I shouldn’t be concerned about this. But I am.
For those of us who live in Ottawa, we are NOT naive. We know we are (and forever will be) a huge target for those in the world, and in our own country, who wish to do Canada harm. We know that living in the Nation’s Capital makes us the “bullseye of Canada”. Today, we know that even more than ever before.
While we all grieve a loss of innocence in our city and our country, I cannot imagine the grief for the family and friends of Nathan Cirillo. And while we focus on the events of yesterday, we also don’t forget the tragedy that killed another brave Canadian soldier, Patrice Vincent. His family and friends must be grieving just as hard.
A heartfelt thank you to all the men and women first responders who put their lives at risk yesterday. From everything I’ve read, they did their job, and did it well. We should all be proud of those that help to keep the rest of us safe. I know I am.
There is no one who did this job better than our very brave solider, Nathan Cirillo. Thank you Nathan. May you rest in peace.