By Ally Harris
Nov. 5, 2014
Danielle MacDonald was preparing for a normal day of work at Parliament Hill as she waited for the elevator on the morning of Oct. 22.
Suddenly, her boss, Liberal MP Wayne Easter, came out of the elevator.
“We’re on lockdown, we should go turn on CBC,” he said.
They turned around and headed back into their office.
Once inside, security guards locked the doors and checked the room to make sure everyone inside was an employee. Then they turned on the TV. They saw footage of reporters frantically trying to find out what had just happened in downtown Ottawa.
All they knew was someone had been shot and the gunman was on Parliament Hill.
MacDonald and her boss were unsure of how long they would be trapped inside their office. They continued to watch TV, contact co-workers to ensure they were safe, and get as much information as they could.
The end of the regular working day came and went.
“I have a mid-term tonight. When are we going to be able to get out?” MacDonald thought, wondering whether she would make it to the exam or not.
As it was getting dark outside, the lockdown in downtown Ottawa began to be lifted, street by street.
Parliament Hill was the last to be released. At around 8:30 p.m., after a lockdown lasting roughly 10 hours, MacDonald and Easter were free to leave.
Wellington Street, which runs past Parliament Hill, was still closed and there were no cars around. Reporters lined the street, but the public remained at home.
MacDonald and her coworkers, who were released at the same time, felt emotionally exhausted and thankful to discover some restaurants and bars were still open.
Getting home was number one on people’s minds, but they decided to go for wings and debrief on the day’s events.
The next morning, MacDonald and a friend decided to get up early to place flowers at the War Memorial where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo had been shot. Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau were all there.
Then, it was back to business as she headed to the Hill at 7:30 a.m.
Still, security has been a big topic since the attack, with many wondering how a man with a gun was able to get inside the Parliament Buildings.
Easter said the public now has a greater awareness of the security issues at Parliament.
“There is an increasing emphasis on security around buildings. Three weeks ago you would not have seen someone on the Hill holding a semi-automatic rifle in their hands.”
The government needs to find the right balance between being secure and being open, he said.
“As a nation, we’ve typically had an open parliament where people could walk around. Yes, you have to go through security and x-ray machines, but it’s a relatively open parliament compared to many, so we still want to retain that sense of openness.”
This can be difficult to do while still ensuring the public feels safe, he said.
“You also have to balance that with security to make sure people feel confident in (the government’s) work, (that) they are indeed safe.”
At the Hill the next morning, security was much more diligent than normal, but MacDonald felt proud as she made sure her ID badge was visible and close to her face.
Easter is on the committee for public safety and national security, so they prepared for media interviews and questions in the House that day.
That weekend, MacDonald’s family came to visit from P.E.I., a trip that had already been planned. Among their activities was a trip to the Canadian Tire Centre to catch the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils play on Oct. 25.
The game was the first home game for the Senators since the attack, and simultaneous ceremonies were held in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.
In Ottawa, each member of the crowd was given a glow stick – representing a candle – and waved Canadian flags during the 10-minute ceremony.
Veterans and Armed Forces members were in the ceremony, and the players from the two teams formed a circle at centre ice.
As O Canada blasted through the arena, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. MacDonald could barely make it through the anthem.
MacDonald described the ceremony as “beautiful.”
“It was such an emotional few moments. I think it was a very healthy thing to do, that expression of pride.
“It was a very unique way to commemorate what had happened just a few days before.”
Residents of Moncton, N.B., had to go through a similar situation in June when a gunman shot five RCMP officers, leaving the city on lockdown for over 24 hours.
Moncton mayor George LeBlanc said community support is a big part of helping a city recover from an event like this.
“People in the community reached out to the RCMP and did everything they could do to support them, make them feel appreciated and loved. The community wrapped (its) collective arms around the RCMP. There was a great deal of emotional support and comforting.”
People were slightly apprehensive during the lockdown, but that fear went away when the lockdown was lifted, he said.
“Once the person was caught, that is when things began to change.
“The entire mood changed to supporting the families who had lost people and supporting the RCMP and their families.”
There was also a sense of pride in the community, he said.
“We’re not going to be defined by the actions of a criminal, we are going to be defined by the actions of the community generally. The true nature of the community shone very brightly.”
Now, two weeks since the Ottawa shooting, MacDonald says the city has mostly returned to normal.
“As a city as a whole I think we just band together. We celebrated, we mourned.
“Everyone committed to business as usual. We’re not hiding from this, we’re not going to be intimidated.”
There is no fear in the city, she said.
“I think we’re stronger for it. I don’t think there was fear but (people are) definitely more aware.
“I think if anything, it’s more of a sense of pride.”