Good to be back.
That’s how Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl describes being back at work after being in lockdown for hours after the tragic shooting in Ottawa Wednesday.
“I think it sends a good message to Canada that we won’t be intimidated,” he said, echoing the Prime Minister’s earlier speech that morning.
Everyone was back in their places, ready for the 10 a.m. opening of Parliament in the House of Commons Thursday morning, with the parade led by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers and Speaker Andrew Scheer.
“We were all released from CentreBlock at about 8 p.m. last night,” Strahl told The Progress.
Before that he, along with hundreds of MPs and senators were hunkered down after the brutal and violent attack, with gunfire ringing out in the halls.
They were “gathered closely” behind barricades in two rooms right across from each other in the Centre Block.
“When the gunshots were happening right outside, we were inside a windowless room,” the local MP said.
They had no idea what was going on outside. They did not know that Hamilton reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24 had been shot and fatally wounded by a masked man as he stood on guard at the National War Memorial.
Strahl said their minds were racing. There were more than 30 gunshots heard by witnesses. How many gunmen were out there? They didn’t know.
It turns out the masked assailant, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was taken down in the Hall of Honour in a hail of security bullets in Centre Block, near where they were holding their weekly caucus meetings.
“We didn’t know the majority of the gunfire was actually coming from security forces,” Strahl said. “So it was very tense.”
At the same time everyone was acting reasonably, no one was panicking, says the MP.
“It was fear of the unknown. But as things became clearer, the reports of multiple shooters turned out to be false rumours.”
Ottawa police officials stated there was no evidence of anything beyond the lone gunman, who reportedly wore a scarf over his face.
After the parade into the House of Commons led by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, speaker Andrew Scheer led the daily prayer before a moment of silence was held for Cpl. Cirillo. Party leaders then made statements and embraced.
The MPs all rose to give Vickers a standing ovation, applause for the man who felled the armed attacker.
As Strahl recounted the tragic events for The Progress, his voice cracked with emotion when it came to describing the ovation given to Vickers, who heroically stopped the gunman.
“Seeing the statesmen stand in the House for Mr. Vickers. It was a pretty touching tribute to him, and to see all parliamentarians united in doing it, was pretty special,” he said, his voice breaking.
“Mr. Vickers wears the robes and sword and carries the mace, but he’s also a 29-year veteran member of the RCMP. He takes his job of taking care of us very seriously.”
It was a moving moment, as the leaders made their statements.
“They all resolved to say that we stand united and we won’t be intimidated. We’re back at work today to continue to do the nation’s business.”
Below: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and all Members of Parliament applaud Kevin Vickers, Sergeant-at-Arms.
~ Jason Ransom photo