OTTAWA – Conservatives were prepared to protect themselves – and Prime Minister Stephen Harper – with homemade spears as a shooter stalked the halls of Parliament on Wednesday.
“People took the flag poles with the maple leafs on the end – they’d make pretty good spears – and said ok, if the son of a b***h is coming through the doors we’re going to make him pay,” Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn recalled Thursday.
“When you hear several automatic weapons going off outside your door, you wonder who’s coming through the door.”
Harper was addressing his caucus in a private room Wednesday as suspect Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot his way into the Parliament buildings, just steps from the Conservatives’ room.
Watch: Ottawa back to business as officials, residents honour late Cpl. Cirillo
Hawn said a guard was shot at the front doors of Parliament and the suspect made his way into the building, towards the Library of Parliament. Const. Samearn Son suffered a gunshot wound to the leg and is expected to fully recover.
As shots rang through the halls, MPs and Senators started barricading the door with chairs, Hawn said.
“Initially people basically hit the floor, and then a few of us got up and started putting stuff against the door because we didn’t know obviously who was outside,” Hawn said.
Conservative MP Randy Hoback recalled several MPs grabbing spears and positioning themselves by the doors.
“We posted a few guys by the door in case somebody was going to try to come in, and do their best to defend us,” Hoback said.
“I remember (Ontario MP) Daryl Kramp saying, ‘If anybody comes in, get the bastards.’”
When he first heard a boom sound, Hoback believed it was construction from the nearby West Block buildings.
“Then the next shots were very distinctive. I come from the farm so I know what a gun sounds like,” the Saskatchewan MP said.
“There was security at the (prime minister) and they were doing what they had to do. It was like something out of a Hollywood movie, everything happening so quickly.”
Hoback initially believed Harper left, but later learned he remained in the caucus room for several minutes.
“I thought he was out of the room, I thought he was gone. I thought they had basically whisked him away in that first minute or two. So I was very surprised when they came back and got him,” said Hoback.
“I understand they had secured him in a secure location within the room, and kept him there.”
When asked where the prime minister was hiding, Hoback said, “I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s a closet.”
The suspect entered Parliament a few minutes before 10 a.m., after shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial around 9:52 am.
Harper’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald, tweeted at 10:20 am that Harper was safe out and of the building.
Conservative senator Don Meredith said the incident was terrifying.
“If somehow this gentleman had turned left into our caucus, the story would have been completely different today,” he said.
“It was absolutely terrifying for everyone.”
Hawn said it was Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms, who announced to Conservative caucus that he had shot and killed the attacker.
“He was emotional. I mean, even if it’s a righteous shoot, when you have to shoot somebody, you know it’s going to be an emotional experience,” he said.
“Gives Sergeant-at-Arms a whole new meaning.” Hoback said Vickers was given a standing ovation.
Hawn, a 30-year veteran of the Canadian air force, said he knows what it’s like to lose friends in the name of service.
But what happened Wednesday was different.
“Not what you ever want to see, or expect to see, or hope to ever see in your Parliament. But this is – this the real world,” he said.
Hawn said he expects security on Parliament Hill will be heightened – although he hopes it doesn’t affect the balance of Parliament being an open and accessible place for all Canadians.
“We will carry on doing what we do, because you can’t stop that,” he said.
“If you do then they’ve won, and we’re just not going to let that happen.”