October 22, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier on ceremonial sentry duty at the Canadian National War Memorial.
My flight to Ottawa was for October 23rd.
I had planned my trip to Canada’s capital about a month before this unexpected attack. At first, as the country panicked, my parents almost considered asking me not to fly. When we gathered no new information though and the airports remained open, I packed my bag and left, with an unsettling combination of emotions, ranging from deeply sad to admittedly elated – something horrible had just happened but I was about to see one of my best friends.
I’m not a reporter, nor do I want to be. Other news sources have recounted the details of the event ad nausuam. But I was there. I did feel the sense of trauma in the gathering at the War Memorial two days after the event, and I did see the pallor of shocked faces throughout the city.
Perhaps the most jarring site was the Parliament building itself – while normally open to tourists, the entire area had been gated off. The lawns, known for hosting Lululemon summer yoga sessions, were barred from access, as were many of the surrounding streets.
The city, on that day, had clearly changed.
I must have heard the phrases, “I can’t believe this happened,” and, “But this is Ottawa” 50 times that day.
I oftentimes find that the most significant day isn’t when tragedy actually strikes, but the day or two after – seeing how people cope with loss. Yes, it was tragic. Yes, it was shocking. Most importantly, Ottawa – and Canadians – handled this terrible event with grace and astonishing unity. Mourning flowers surrounded the War Memorial, and citizens gathered for a public ceremony honoring the fallen Corporal.
While I traveled to see a friend, and will post about my Canadian adventures (including our road trip to the bizarre pseudo European city Montreal), it felt wrong to include our giddy, girlish excitement alongside such a horrific scene.
So for now, in memory of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, here’s a collection of images taken October 24, 2014 – two days day after the Ottawa shooting.