Do you remember where you were on October 22nd, when an armed man killed a ceremonial guard and attempted an assault on Parliament? I was in a classroom with no reception on my phone, scared shitless because people I cared about were downtown, and there was no clear report on what exactly was going on.
It wasn’t until that evening that the details came out, in newscasts such as this:
What has followed since then has been fascinating to behold. The politicians and RCMP have done their fair share of fear mongering (RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson wants everyone to make sure none of their friends or families are extremists). The word “terrorist” has been bandied about in the media.
And yet people in Ottawa don’t seem to be buying it. I have not had a single conversation or read a single blog or Facebook post or Tweet about how we all need to fear terrorists and keep a close eye on anyone who looks foreign. It helps that Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother has given a clearer picture of who her son was. And I’m glad, because frankly I don’t want to feel nervous about committing a WWB—“Walking While Brown”—whenever I go downtown, and because these “us vs. them” Islamophobic narratives are childish and offensive.
As the feds gear up to increase security on Remembrance Day, real-world conversation about the event has already dried up. A cynic might say it’s because the Jian Ghomeshi scandal has distracted us with its edgy perversity. An optimist, the kind seen throwing around #OttawaStrong hashtags, might say it’s because we’re strong and bounce back fast.
I don’t think it’s either of those. I remember worrying, and hoping that the people I care about would be all right. I realize that that is all that matters: that the people we love are safe. Lone gunmen, racist reporters, and alarmist politicians be damned. The safety of my family and friends are all I need, and I know a lot of us feel the same way. Of course, there are two families that don’t have that luxury: Nathan Cirillo’s, and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s. My heart breaks for them.
Zac Emery is an Ottawa-based writer, amateur photographer, and karaoke enthusiast. When he’s not pursuing his interests as a writer or doing course work for Algonquin’s Professional Writing program, he can usually be found pretending to be a rock star in front of a mirror or collecting comic books.