Today is the ten year anniversary of the Dawson Shooting. This may sound cliche, but I really can’t believe it has been a decade.
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it. I was in a dep, I won’t say which one to avoid linking them in any way to a tragedy.
I had the day off and was working on building a website. I was hungry and went in for a snack. They had the TV on.
I wouldn’t resume my project until the following evening. I turned on the TV when I got home and was glued to the coverage from that point on.
This wasn’t the first school shooting Montreal had survived. It also didn’t have the scope of mass tragedy that came with Polytechnique Massacre.
I was too young to fully comprehend Polytechnique when it happened, only that something terrible had occurred. But Dawson. I was a Dawson graduate.
I didn’t hang around the cafeteria when I was a student. I hung around Conrod’s and smoked cigarettes just outside the de Maisonneuve entrance.
The same spot where, on September 13, 2006, eight years and a few months after I graduated, Kimveer Gill would begin his shooting spree. A spree that would end with Gill dead by his own gun after being shot in the arm by police, 16 people injured, many more traumatized and 18 year old student Anastasia de Sousa tragically murdered.
It was very real for me. If this was a decade earlier, I would have been there. It was significantly more real for people who were there and lived through it directly. This includes some people I know now even thought I didn’t know them at the time.
This was something that happened not just in our city, but in our community. I’m sure quite a few people reading this either know someone who was there or were there themselves.
As with any school shooting there are broader issues that should be and were discussed at the time and still are being discussed, sadly, ten years later. People not getting the mental health services they need, while getting the semi-automatic weapons they absolutely shouldn’t have.
But this wasn’t just about the broader issues. This was, to me anyways, something that happened here. At a school I had attended and still walk past. I now live a few blocks from Dawson. I didn’t at the time of the shooting.
I remember getting stopped by Alexis Nihon security a few months after the shooting and asked what I was doing. Alexis Nihon Plaza is across the street from Dawson and is from where Gill planned his attack. I explained that I was simply passing through to catch a bus and that was that.
When I was stopped, I happened to be wearing a black shirt and black jeans, similar to what Gill was wearing under his black trenchcoat when he carried out the shooting. It occurred to me a while later that my unfortunate and unintentional wardrobe choice that day was the reason for my being stopped. I’m not a fan of profiling, but this time I got it. People were still on edge.
A major event had occurred across the street from where this security guard worked. Maybe he was on duty that day and still regretting not having done something to stop what had happened.
A few weeks ago, there was a news story about how there was finally a crosswalk leading from Alexis Nihon to Dawson’s de Maisonneuve entrance. At the time, I hardly gave it a second thought. But now, realizing that today is the anniversary, that small bit of urban planning news carries a huge symbolic weight: life, Dawson and the surrounding community continuing.
There was a ceremony today. The focus was on Dawson’s resilience as well as better gun laws. Events like this are important so people don’t forget. Somehow, I don’t think I or anyone I know ever will.