Friends, public pay tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa: ‘It’s hard to believe he’s gone’

Watch: Lili Albrecht, a woman who claims to have met fallen Cpl. Nathan Cirillo online and known him since June, visited the National War Memorial in Ottawa Friday morning – the very spot where he died.

OTTAWA – When Lili Albrecht saw images of the solider laying on the steps of the Ottawa War Memorial, she knew right away.

It was Cpl. Nathan Cirillo – the man she claims to have been dating for several months.

“When I saw the pictures on TV, I just instantly recognized him, laying down on the floor,” Albrecht said.

“I just tried to make sense of it, and I just couldn’t believe it could be him.”

Albrecht, 27, choked back tears Friday as she stood in front of the National War Memorial in Ottawa and described her budding relationship with the 24-year-old father of a young boy who was shot and killed on Wednesday.

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She was among dozens of people who visited the site to lay flowers and see the spot where Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cirillo from behind, before making his way into Centre Block on Parliament Hill with a rifle.

Zehaf-Bibeau was then shot and killed by security.

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Amy Hartman, from Ottawa, said she was compelled to pay her respects to Cirillo.

“I’m kind of blown away that all this happened. I don’t even know what to say. I’m speechless,” she said, through tears.

“It’s so heartbreaking that this could happen.”

Maria Lollino, in town from Toronto for a hockey tournament, said she’s shocked such a thing could have happened in Canada.

“We’ve got sons, and (Cirillo) was doing such an honourable job. It’s not right,” said the mother of three boys aged 15,18 and 21.

“He should still be here.”

Watch: Montreal Alouettes players, including Mike Edem and Geoff Tisdale, visited the National War Memorial in Ottawa Friday morning to pay homage to fallen Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

Members of the Montreal Alouettes CFL football team, in town to play against the Ottawa Redblacks Friday, also stopped by to pay tribute.

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“We’re talking about life and death here,” player Mike Edem, who is from Brampton, Ont., said. “We’re playing a game.”

Albrecht said she met Cirillo in June on an online dating site, and had only met the Hamilton, Ont. soldier a few times in person.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together because he has to come back to Hamilton,” said Albrecht, who is originally from France but has lived in Ottawa for the past nine years.

“But the few times I met him, we just talked, laughed, sometimes watching TV or watching a movie, or just take a walk somewhere.”

Watch: Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Peter MacKay, comments on Wednesday’s terror attack at Parliament Hill by saying the Canadian heroes, both fallen and surviving, ran into the fire while others ran out.

She last saw him on Saturday, as Cirillo prepared to take his post guarding the war memorial.

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“When I saw him on Saturday he showed me his new uniform, and he’s like, ‘Hey look that’s what I”m going to wear.’ He was proud to wear that uniform and to stand here for his country,” she said.

“He really has a big heart, he was ready to help his friends, his family. Always smiling, always goofing around. He was the best father that a son could have, and a big animal lover too.”

Albrecht says the pain has been “indescribable.”

“I never thought I could have lost him that quickly. We had big plans, and everything was just blown away in seconds,” she said.

“It’s hard to believe he’s gone and I’m never going to see him again.”


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