Today, my compulsive family head-counting adds up to the right number every time, and my thoughts turn to those families whose numbers fall one short.
I’m sad for Nathan Cirillo‘s son, parents and sisters. I think of the crushing, years-long gauntlet of grief that started this morning and now stretches endlessly before them: setting one less place at the table for family gatherings, the daily realization upon waking every damn morning from here on out that their father/son/brother is dead and will not show up, will not answer his phone, will not post his own photos. Ever again.
I keep seeing that picture in my mind of bystanders giving first aid. The woman sprawled across the steps to bestow the futile kiss of life and the man perched above Cirillo’s chest, frozen in mid-compression. And this picture posted moments before.
I’m also thinking of the family of the dead gunmen Michael Zehaf Bibeau. I can only imagine the horror of his mother. Like Nathan Cirillo’s parents, she has lost a child–the worst possible loss for a person to bear. But her grief is compounded with the knowledge that the baby she birthed, nourished and raised was capable of these horrifying acts. I wonder if she will be allowed (and if she will allow herself) to grieve.
Kevin Vickers is also on my mind. He’s the hero of the day. Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms dashed to his office, grabbed his gun and shot the assailant. I was under the misconception that the sergeant-at-arms role was purely ceremonial. I figured that it involved heading up an internal parade of parliamentarians while wearing a funny hat and carrying a sceptre-like encumbrance called a mace. The mace would be the only weapon needed for bashing some sense into the occasional mouthy miscreant. But no, it’s a critical security appointment, and this man, who looks like a senior citizen, stood up and protected his charges when it mattered most. Move over Clint Eastwood. I suspect though, that Vickers is probably feeling kind of bad that the attacker managed to enter HIS HOUSE in the first place.
I hope the recriminations are minimal, and that our government finds the balance between security and freedom that doesn’t irrevocably change the Ottawa and the Canada I know. As much as I bluster to the contrary, under this gruff exterior beats the heart of an optimist.
You know what would also break my heart? If the small-minded and xenophobic used these tragic events in Ottawa and just south of Montreal as an excuse to attack the law-abiding, and peaceful people among us who practice Islam.