Thursday, October 23, 2014

No Longer Safe

As I write this post, on a late Wednesday afternoon, the warm sun setting the yellow fall leaves outside my window aglow, under a clear, blue sky, I know that the story is still ongoing, still unfolding, with many questions unanswered, and a city and country standing in awe.

With my city core still in a lockdown mode, with people who began this day like any other day, now a part of this story, I see that Ottawa is no longer the city it was. Just last night, after attending an event in the Byward Market, I drove home, passing the War Memorial and Parliament Hill, and I remarked, as I always do, on what a beautiful city we live in. On how lucky I am to live here.

This spot has always been a place to stop, reflect, and give thanks.
Now, this spot marks a senseless tragedy.
I have stood at the very bus stop where the attacker left his car. Never before have I ever thought that an extremist gunman could pull up, shoot a sentry, run across the vast lawn in front of our seat of government, enter the premises, and continue shooting.

While extremist groups have made threats against Canada in the past, I have always convinced myself that those radicals were far away, that the threats weren't real. And so I've never considered that any attack could really come home. Canada, and especially Ottawa, was safe, even though we are the capital and that if anyone was going to commit an attack on our country, they would most likely start here.

Ottawa is no longer safe. Today, it's a different world in which we live.

Throughout the day's events, I couldn't help but worry about all of my friends who work within the affected area. With reports of multiple armed assailants on the loose in the downtown core, I feared for my friends' safety: it's a big city but can be surprisingly small.

Fear has a knack for getting the better of us. And once it has us, it can be hard to shake.

But we shouldn't live in fear, we shouldn't cower under these attacks, nor under the threat of further assaults. We must continue to live our lives, to make Ottawa and Canada one of the best places in which to live.

This attack also makes me angry. I am angered that our peaceful city has been disrupted, that our safe community has been made less safe. But our mayor has said it well: we are angry over what has happened, but we should not let anger rule the day.

I cannot understand what would cause a person who has grown up in this country to want to take away the freedom and peace in which we generally live. Living in an open and democratic society, why would you want to perform any act that could change this society into one that is closed, that could become a police state?

Ottawa has changed today: it is no longer safe. But that doesn't mean that it cannot be safe again. It just means that to ensure we stay safe, we must be vigilant.

My thoughts on this event are fresh, and I realize I haven't had the chance to put my thoughts into perspective, that I haven't heard the full, accurate story (conflicting reports are still being sorted). Right now, we are a changed city. Only time will see how these changes stick.

My thoughts and condolences go out to the families of the victims and to all of the people who have been affected by these events. I am grateful to those first responders and all of those who have kept this city's citizens safe and informed while the situation continued to unfold.

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