Some Random Thoughts on the heels of Friday's Tragic Shootings
Like so many people throughout Fredericton, the province and beyond, I was so shocked and saddened at the events that unfolded Friday. Since then, what happened has never been far from my thoughts. For what it’s worth, some random observations.
The tragedy of the shootings didn’t really hit home for me until the stories started to come out about who these victims really were. Gleaner staffer Don MacPherson’s excellent essay on his friend Constable Robb Costello, where I learned about his high school days, his bubbling personality and his work with the child exploitation unit when seconded to the RCMP, and about what a dedicated family man he was.
Then I learned about how Constable Sara Mae Burns absolutely loved her job as a police officer because it was about helping people, and how away from work she was dedicated to helping in many community causes from mental health to youth, and including Liberty Lane, a home for women in crisis, and how she was the wife of Steven, who was in the news recently because he was one of the two people who walked from Edmundston to Fredericton to raise money for the facility. And how like Robb, she was totally committed to family.
In life, all most of us can hope to aspire to is to make a positive difference. And it occurred to me that these two officers have done that in spades.
I haven’t learned as much yet about the civilian victims, Donnie Robichaud and his girlfriend Bobbie-Lee Wright.
All of this hit me especially hard on Saturday evening. I was settling in with my wife Janet for our regular non-hockey season Saturday night ritual of enjoying a glass of wine while listening to Saturday Night Blues on CBC radio. It’s such an easy relaxing time for us, a time to lay back and totally unwind, listen and talk, and reflect on how life is going. Then the contrast hit me that while we’re doing this, four families woke up this morning with loved ones gone forever. They are in mourning and planning funerals, and I thought of how for them life will never be the same. And then my thoughts turned to what on earth prompted the shooter to do something so very evil. From what we understand so far, he didn’t even know these people whose lives he so instantly took.
Watching the coverage on Friday, what struck me was how responsible the media was. It compared very well to the coverage I have seen of so many mass shootings in the States. No reporting of any of the speculation of what was running on social media, displaying a discipline of not running with anything until or if, it was confirmed.
I watched the exchange between reporters and RCMP Sgt. J.P. MacDougall. What struck me was the mutual respect that was evident in that exchange, both sides fully understanding the other had a job to do.
And I watched the initial on-the-scene coverage by Harry Forestall of CBC, where he showed what can be done with nothing more than a cell phone and good reporting skills. Later of course he was working with a real camera and cameraman, but for a while there, it was just him and a smartphone.
What struck me about social media through this incident was the massive amount of genuine emotion that people were pouring out, such as the heartfelt entry from the Daily Gleaner’s Bill Hunt about his visit to the makeshift shrine to the fallen officers outside the police station. I heard of the same kind of visceral reaction from people who saw the line up of police and other emergency responders along the driveway of the Chalmers hospital, as the bodies of the fallen passed by.
I also noticed a common denominator in the social media posts. Almost all focused on the profound sadness people felt, and the shock that such evil had been visited upon our city. Hardly any talk about revenge, so it stood out when I noticed someone on Facebook had posted a meme calling for the return of the death penalty for this shooter. It drew support from a few people. Then there was a post challenging this suggestion, asking what if it comes out that the shooter was mentally ill, a schizophrenic perhaps, should he be put to death then? I expect because he saw where this might be going, or perhaps because he had second thoughts about his posting the death penalty suggestion, to his credit he deleted it. And that was it. I could very well have missed others, from what I saw, the social media focus was on the sorrow felt from what had happened. It was a solid reflection on our city, like the impromptu vigils and the growing collection of flowers and posters of support outside the police station entrance.
I don’t want to go to a cliché to end this, but my writing skills fail me, so I will, by simply adding my condolences to the outpouring of support to the families affected, including Robb and Sara’s fellow police officers, with my gratitude to them for doing what they do day after day. May you all heal as best as you can, as quickly as you can.
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