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10 weeks ago I woke up to Canada's worst mass shooting

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

My tribute to those we lost

For fellow Nova Scotians, and likely most Canadians, you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you learned Nova Scotia made Canadian history for the worst possible reason.

As I do most mornings the first thing I did on the morning of Sunday April 19th when I woke up was grab my phone and start scrolling through Facebook, willing my brain to wake up to start my day. In a sad irony, that morning the first post I read was from Heidi Stevenson. Early on Sunday, April 19th, before she left for what would be her final shift, she had posted about losing her cell phone while working the previous evening. Like many others, her phone case was also her wallet so she spent the night of April 18th calling to cancel and replace all of her credit cards. But she didn't post to complain about that. She posted to tell her friends and family how to reach her that day since she didn't have her cell phone!

I remember smiling as I always enjoyed reading Heidi's posts. For those who did not know her, you have likely gathered from the words of those who knew her best that her positive energy, even through her Facebook posts, was contagious. The next thing I remember seeing via social media was about an active shooter in Portapique the night before and that he was now near Hidden Hilltop Campground in Glenholme.This was tweeted by the RCMP at 10:04am Sunday, April 19th. I didn't see it until around 10:10am. I had never heard of Portapique or Glenholme but checked google maps to see how close that was to my brother and his family in Brookfield. I texted my brother at 10:13am to warn him of the situation even though I did not imagine he was in immediate danger since Glenholme seemed quite a distance away. I had no idea the gunman had no trouble covering distance. I did not know he was in a replica police car, dressed as an RCMP officer. And I certainly did not know that by the time I sent this text to my brother, he had already killed 19 of my fellow Nova Scotians: Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck, 17-year-old, Emily Tuck, Lisa McCully, Jamie Blair, Greg Blair, Corrie Ellison, Peter Bond, Joy Bond, Dawn Madsen, Frank Gulenchyn, Joanne Thomas, John Zahl, Tom Bagley, Alanna Jenkins, Sean McLeod, Lillian Hyslop, and eerily only minutes before - Heather O'Brien and Kristen Beaton and her unborn child.

At 10:28am my brother texted me back to let me know exactly how close Glenholme was to him. He said it was 25 minutes by car but that apparently that wasn't a problem for the gunman. He then sent me a clip of the tweet the RCMP had released at 10:17am warning the public that the gunman was impersonating an RCMP officer dressed in a uniform and driving a replica RCMP vehicle. Reality was starting to set in that this situation was much more dire than we thought. We would later learn that only 4 minutes after those texts, at 10:32am, the gunman drove by a gas station minutes away from my brother's house. 17 minutes later, at 10:49am, he would shoot and injure Constable Chad Morrison, and then go on to kill Constable Heidi Stevenson, Joey Webber and Gina Goulet. He would be shot dead by law enforcement at 11:26am. At 11:40am my brother shared the tweet telling me the suspect was in custody. I felt safe again and decided to take my dog for a walk. I had no idea that now three more fellow Nova Scotians, including, Heidi Stevenson, were dead. Nova Scotia is such a close knit province that many people either lost a friend or knew someone who lost someone that day.

There have been many articles and timelines written about that day, and some day I may post a timeline as well. But for now I want to focus on celebrating the Nova Scotians we lost that day. I answered the Chronicle Herald's call for Love Letters for Nova Scotia and mine was published in the Nova Scotian on May 4, 2020. In that letter I promised that even though I learned their names because of the way they left this world, I would remember them for how they lived.

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