First hand tellings of the Ottawa shootings

Canadians everywhere were shaken on Wednesday when the Ottawa downtown became a scene of chaos as a result of a gunman’s murderous trek to Parliament’s Centre Block. The shooter was shot and killed by the House of Commons’ sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, but not before he shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, one of two reservists standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the War Memorial.

In the midst of this crisis, during the lockdown that lasted most of the day, Kari Thiessen, a Navigator involved with the ministry in Ottawa, was at work in one of the federal buildings on Sussex Drive when one of her colleagues told her there was a shooter at Parliament. “All of us tried to go on the CNN or Ottawa Citizen websites and nothing would open. It was insane. On the radios we heard what was happening.”

During the lockdown, Kari says being in the office “was kind of a nice place to be in to experience it all, in terms of everyone was there, you were with a bunch of people, you weren’t alone. It was comforting being with other people.”

Another Navigator, Holly Stanczak, was working in the Confederation Building just west of the Parliament precinct. When everything started happening, she says she and her colleagues didn’t know what was happening until a friend alerted them of the shooting via text message. As they were watching the news, Holly says “it was a little disconcerting, having something like this happen so close to home. It was crazy to find out and hard to keep focused on work.”

“The atmosphere certainly wasn’t calm,” Holly says, “everyone was on edge, but the security guys did a good job. We all felt safer with them there.”

Despite the events of Wednesday morning, the old adage that the show must go on rang true for the Carleton Navigators and their CRAE session, scheduled for that night.

CRAE (Curiosity, Respect and Engagement) nights are a Carleton Navigator initiative where they aim to create a space for students from different faiths and backgrounds on campus to come together and discuss life’s tough questions in a safe and respectful environment. This particular evening the topic was “Morality” – you can hear the opening session from the Carleton Navigators podcast.

Sam Allison, the VP for special events for the Carleton Navigator student group, says they knew there would be people who wouldn’t be able to make it that night because of the attack, but that they went ahead with it anyway. Allison says “we knew this is an event that we find really important and we feel it’s important to have a meeting like this because it doesn’t happen very often. Even with the discussion where we decided to talk about morality, this is a great topic to talk about after something like this that struck the city of Ottawa.”

In making the decision to continue with CRAE, they decided to stick with the topic they already had in mind, but didn’t force people to stay directly on the topic. “Conversation can’t be forced,” Sam says, “and I think everyone understood that although there was three questions set for the night, there was no pressure to talk about them. If people felt they wanted to talk about [the shooting], they could. There was no pressure to stick to what was initially planned.”

We continue to pray for the families of the victims and for the safety of our Navigator family in Ottawa.

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