10-22-2014: A Day We Will All Remember

26670 NCdt IV Katherine Silins

Ask anyone over the age of 20 what they were doing on September 11th, 2001, and they will undoubtedly have an answer. When the Twin Towers fell, I was a third grade student in Ottawa. At 8 years old, I was still wrapped in the oblivion to the dangers of terrorism that comes with a blessed and safe childhood in the nation’s capital. I distinctly remember trying to explain to my mother how upset I was that I’d misspelled “gooseberry” on my spelling quiz that morning when she left work to pick me up from school due to a planned evacuation of all Ottawa schools, and feeling slighted when she headed straight to a phone to call a co-worker.

Unfortunately, after the events of last week, this generation of children will have another date seared into their memories, a day when an ordinary Wednesday morning became extraordinary. After my 10 am class on October 22nd, I checked my phone to find an unexpected, if sweet, message from my parents: “Thinking about you and hoping everything is okay with you at RMC.” I commented on it to my classmates but didn’t think much of it until another cadet passed us in the hallway and asked us if we’d heard about the shooting in Ottawa.

The next hour disappeared in a flurry of texting, and updating the CBC live feed of the events in Ottawa. Both of my parents, public servants at work in Gatineau, were on lockdown in their buildings. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with frantic posts from high school friends now at Ottawa U confused as to why they were being locked down and asking about the location of the shooter. Reports were frantic and disjointed – a shooting in the Rideau Centre – 2, 3, 4, possibly 5 gunmen – all Canadian Forces bases being closed to the public. As reporters Tweeted images and videos of the unfolding events, it was horrifying to see images of my hometown overlaid with things I had only seen in movies – police tape surrounding the Cenotaph, where I sang with the Ottawa Children’s Choir on Remembrance Day – the Rideau Centre where I was planning on going shopping the following weekend eerily empty at lunchtime – and, perhaps most heartbreakingly, an ambulance screaming into the Civic Hospital, a stop along my high school bus route.

The rest of the school day spilled past with a surreal quality. At 1645, the entire Cadet Wing was formed up on the parade square under the direction of the DCdts. LCol Popov explained that despite the horrific events in Ottawa, we would continue on with our duty – training to become officers in the Canadian Armed Forces with a heightened state of personal and collective vigilance. In the days that followed, additional security measures came trickling down from the Office of the Commandant.

Returning to my hometown for a weekend visit, it was clear that the city had been forever altered. Police were everywhere, the mood was tense and metal detectors had seemingly sprung up overnight. However, passing through downtown, I was awed by the number of wreathes and visitors paying their respects to Cpl Nathan Cirrillo at the Cenotaph. Canadians banded together to show that despite this senseless act of violence, we will not be beaten down, only brought closer together. I returned to the College with a newfound sense of purpose, ready to complete my last year and become a part of those who protect our great nation.