Terror In Ottawa: An Attack On My Hometown

I am from Ottawa.  Actually, I am from all over the place.  My dad worked for the Federal Government for 37 years as a diplomat and we moved to various places during his career like New Delhi, Moscow and Washington D.C., but we always returned to Ottawa and call it home.  I now live in Calgary, too far from home for my taste but we are here for now and we love our adopted city.  What happened today, in my hometown, has shocked and disturbed me in too many ways to count.

When I flipped to various news channels and scanned online articles and posts, I kept seeing glimpses of downtown Ottawa, the Parliament Buildings and the War Memorial – places I know very well.  I kept thinking of happier times that I spent in those places.  Summers spent strolling along the Rideau Canal, going to the National Art Gallery, and taking family members on tours of the Peace Tower.  One of my fondest memories of being in Ottawa was when M and I got married and had our photos taken at the Parliament Buildings.  Behold – happy days:

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I wanted my photos done there because it was the summer after our first year living away from home and I was missing Ottawa desperately.  I love the downtown scenery, especially the green tops of the Peace Tower and the East and West Blocks of Parliament.  These majestic buildings are almost an oddity – beautiful and stately – nestled in amongst more modern and sometimes tacky structures that fill the downtown core.  For native Ottawans these buildings are a gathering place for festivals, fireworks for Canada Day and ceremonies for Remembrance Day.

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I remember spending a particularly grim morning there just after the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  There was a ceremony held to show support and solidarity for our brethren to the south after they had suffered so greatly at the hands of terrorists.  I never thought we would have our turn.  No, we didn’t lose thousands of lives today, but we lost one too many.  My heart goes out to the family and friends of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

How did this happen?  How did someone born and raised in our own country grow to hate it so much that he would turn on it and muddy some of the very symbols that represent what we stand for?  To shoot an unarmed honour guard at the memorial that represents freedom, justice and respect for the men and women who have helped to shape Canada into the spectacular place it is today is cowardly, dastardly and contemptible.  As the days stretch out and give us more space between the awful events of today and ourselves, more information will surely come out about the shooter that took a life and scarred the hearts of so many people today.  I won’t name him here.

After the attacks of 9-11, Canada and the US joined forces and turned their attention inwards and put more resources into identifying and mitigating threats from inside our own borders.  We, the general public, will never know how many attacks like this have been thwarted.  In the 13 years since the World Trade Towers fell and the Pentagon was damaged, I never once thought this could happen in our country.  Now I know better.  It can happen.  It has happened and now we enter a new era of awareness.  What I hope we can avoid is succumbing to the fear and terror of today.  As Stephen Harper said in his speech today as he addressed our nation, “we will never be intimidated”.  Heartbroken, yes.  Angry, yes.  But not intimidated.

As a nation, I lift up the stories of Cpl. Cirillo and Sgt. At Arms Kevin Vickers as examples of what our country truly stands for:  Homour, Bravery and Solidarity.  I leave you with one more image that was taken the day I was married, and this is the way I want to remember and represent my beloved Nation’s Capital.  Because although our flag will fly at half mast in honour of the brave man we lost today, I want to remember it flying high, representing our True North Strong and Free.

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All Photos courtesy of Don Weixl Photography.

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