My daughter’s innocence was shattered that night
Whenever people ask me what the most extraordinary days of my life or my most precious memories are, I always state enthusiastically and without hesitation — the birth of my three children. Being the youngest daughter in a family of 12, I always knew I wanted to have children and having four older sisters, I wanted a few daughters. God blessed me with all girls. Throughout their lives thus far there have been many wonderful moments and special occasions which have softened the few bumps that occurred along the way, but nothing equals what I experienced recently.
A few weeks ago I had one of the most fear-provoking phone calls a mother could receive from her child. My 19-year-old daughter called crying her heart out, sobbing as she tried to ask me if I knew where her sister was. I stayed as calm as possible and asked if she was OK while visions of every possible catastrophe whirled through my head.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour she told me there had been a shooting outside her workplace and a couple of people had been shot. The police came into her workplace and told all the employees they had to vacate the premises right away for security reasons. She was now standing in the parking lot of a nearby gas station in the cold trying to call someone to come pick her up as she was not allowed access to her car because the area was cordoned off by the police.
I told her to stay put while I phoned someone who could pick her up as soon as possible. Arrangements were made for her to be brought to her apartment in St. John’s and she waited in a car with a co-worker and her family until a dear friend picked her up. Those minutes waiting to hear that she was no longer in the vicinity of the shootings seemed like an eternity as all the possibilities of what could have happened to her filtered through every fibre of my brain, and being a very visual learner, the images were both shocking and terrifying.
Like many mothers, I was not blessed with the gene that allows me to focus only on what actually happened in any situation; I tend to worry about what could have happened. In this situation, I was so relieved my daughter was OK that I cried tears of happiness, yet I could not stop thinking about what might have happened had she worked next to the clinic where the shootings took place or was in the clinic. Witnessing such a tragedy is a tragedy in itself.
My daughter had a hard time sleeping that night and was comforted by family and friends. She had a lot to process. She was in shock over the fact that a shooting had taken place in the plaza where she works, sad about the unnecessary, brutal loss of life, angry at the gunman and surprised to discover the shooting was a direct act of violence against a woman. Her innocence was shattered, her view of life forever altered.
This murder-suicide impacted the families of the deceased, their friends and everyone who knew them. It impacted those glued to their TV screens waiting for word on whether the suspect was in police custody, as well as the residents of the community who were told to lock their doors and stay inside. This tragedy impacted my daughter because, for the first time in her life, she experienced the kind of fear that only a gun-wielding individual can initiate.
People are bombarded with violent images on their TV and computer screens, on the radio, in movies and video games and in newspapers and magazines. It is common knowledge that violence sells. Violence is not a foreign concept in our rural and urban communities as it has always been a part of our humanity. The tragedy in CBS has brought that violence into my home and pierced the very heart and soul of my being.
New found wealth has brought with it a double-edged sword. Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are making more money connected to the oil and gas sector than any time in our province’s history but connected to that wealth is increased acts of violence, robberies, break-ins, hold-ups and murders. Much of it is related to drug and alcohol abuse, but not all. Many criminal acts are just that, criminal.
Our society is changing everyday and so are many of our pre-conceived views on how people should act towards others. Are we to just say that violence is now a part of everyday living here? Or should we start acting more proactively by standing up and saying “enough is enough?”
We need more neighbourhood watch programs, anti-violence educational programs for our youth and for those already convicted of violent crimes, rehabilitation programs for those addicted to drugs and alcohol and gambling, an increased police force and presence in our communities, and harsher sentences for first-time offenders of crimes. We need a government willing to spend our tax dollars in ways that will address all the problems listed above NOW and not when some survey or study is completed. We cannot wait until gangs take over our streets or shootings become an everyday occurrence. We just can’t!
As parents we need to be more aware of where our children are, what they are doing and whom they are doing whatever with. That may not ensure they are leading lives by some moral compass but it does let them know we are present and engaged in their lives. Our love and guidance and vigilance have to begin at home. We need to look out for our neighbor, speak up when we see people being victimized and start showing more respect to our seniors and ourselves.
I am definitely not an expert on how people should live their lives on a daily basis so I think that Gandhi said it best, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We can make our towns and cities safer places to live and raise our families and we can do it one good person at a time, one good act at a time, one day at a time, until we restore that feeling of contentment and security most of us have felt our whole lives living in this beautiful province.
Our tourism ads encourage those ‘comefrom-aways’ to “Come and explore all this province has to offer,” so firstly, let’s make sure that above all, it is a safe place for all of us who choose to call this place home.