October 22, 2014:
My Wednesday routine started with my arrival at my Parliament Hill office at 6:30 a.m. and then off to the midweek Parliamentary Hill Prayer Breakfast at 7:15, followed by an 8:15 B.C. Caucus meeting, then off to National Caucus at 9:30.
After we finished the usual robust singing of “O Canada,” our caucus settled to be briefed by our House Leader. Soon after the House Leader, the Prime Minister began his review of domestic and international events. Just into his presentation there was a large bang, then another. The sounds were just coming from the other side of the wall and I was within six feet of the back of the room. Not until the second and third bang did we all stand up.
MPs’ first response was to get the Prime Minister out, and then our next reaction was to head for an exit, but not knowing what was in the hall on the other side of the door I stopped and thought, no, what I needed to do was find a way out of here. I looked at a window about seven feet up. It had a ledge. I contemplated breaking the window and exiting. I heard people saying “get in the caucus room; we are going to lock the doors.”
Unsure of my fate, I decided I would face the unknown with my colleagues rather than abandon them and be an only survivor.
In the room MPs, who were previously with the police or Canadian Forces, were organizing the room. They shouted, “Stay away from the doors – barricade the doors!” Some of my colleagues took the small flag poles from the podium to use as weapons. The members with the poles bravely guarded the doors. The rapid fire sounded like an automatic weapon, (later we found out what we heard were guns being fired by the police officers). Then everything was silent. We were overcome with the thought that the assailant(s) had automatic weapons and had killed those that were protecting us. We expected the doors to be tested by a barrage of bullets. I prayed for the Prime Minister, my wife and my family. I actually was surprised as to how calm the room was. I was ready to die and frankly, I thought that was going to be the outcome.
The silence seemed to last forever, but soon after the shots ended there was a bang against the hall door. We all gave a sigh of relief when we heard a voice say, “It’s the RCMP.”
The Prime Minister was ushered out but caucus and staff were left in the room during a lockdown for nine hours. I have to confess that being in one room for that length of time with my colleagues gave us plenty of time to talk. I believe this time together was good therapy for us.
My reflections after this event might seem strange, but I recapped my minutes of anxiety and fear and then my thoughts turned to my father who served with the Canadian Scottish Regiment in the liberation of Holland during WWII. He endured this anxiety and fear for months, for the cause of freedom.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Corporal Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent. I was ready to fight as were my brave colleagues in the room, but my appreciation for those that have protected us in the past and today is cherished even to a greater extent by this MP after the event of October 22, 2014.
“Lest We Forget.”