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Dawson College remembers 10th anniversary of deadly shooting

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WATCH ABOVE: Dawson College takes a moment to remember Anastasia De Sousa and commemorates the 10th anniversary of the deadly shooting. Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports – Sep 13, 2016

The community at Dawson College is taking a moment to remember 18-year-old Anastasia De Sousa Tuesday as it commemorates the 10th anniversary of the deadly shooting.

A remembrance ceremony started just after 11 a.m. in the Peace Garden, which was built as a living memorial to De Sousa on the fifth anniversary of her death.

READ MORE: Peace garden marks fifth anniversary of Dawson College shooting

The peace garden serves as a testament to the courage and perseverance of everyone touched by the tragedy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Tuesday to commemorate the anniversary.

“Ten years ago, senseless acts of violence were committed at Dawson College in Montreal, when a shooter opened fire on innocent students, killing one young woman and injuring 16 other people,” Trudeau said.

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“In the aftermath of these tragic events, a whole community was left grieving and in a state of shock.”

“On this sad anniversary, we remember and honour the memory of the victims of this tragedy. Our thoughts are with the victims, their loved ones, and all those whose lives were forever changed that day.”

A week of activities will follow the anniversary, leading up to the UN International Day of Peace on Sept. 21 at city hall with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

WATCH BELOW: Montreal honours 10 years since Dawson shooting
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Montreal honours 10 years since Dawson College shooting – Sep 13, 2016

Deadly day

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006, Kimveer Gill starting shooting outside the de Maisonneuve Boulevard entrance to the school, injuring six people.

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He then stormed the campus and chaos quickly took over the main atrium by the cafeteria on the main floor.

Gill took aim at De Sousa, who was sitting in the cafeteria with friends, hitting her and another three students.

The shooter turned and asked James Santos, a student he had taken hostage, if Anastasia was still alive.

WATCH: On the 10th anniversary of the Dawson shooting, James Santos recounts how he tried to help his friend, Anastasia De Sousa, before being taken hostage by the gunman. Global’s Mike Armstrong reports.
Click to play video 'James Santos remembers Anastasia De Sousa at Dawson shooting anniversary' James Santos remembers Anastasia De Sousa at Dawson shooting anniversary
James Santos remembers Anastasia De Sousa at Dawson shooting anniversary – Sep 13, 2016

Santos told him he didn’t know and begged Gill to let her leave the school to be treated.

Gill then asked another male student if Anastasia was dead and was told he didn’t know.

He then riddled her body with bullets.

“Now she’s dead,” he said, according to a coroner’s report into the tragedy.

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Gill wounded about 20 others before turning the gun on himself.

WATCH BELOW: Dawson students collect messages of peace

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Dawson College students collect messages of peace – Apr 19, 2016

Still suffering

Anastasia’s mom, Louise Hevey De Sousa, said in an interview she was initially told her daughter was shot in the arm and was being treated in hospital.

De Sousa said she felt like a “zombie” during the hours she waited before hearing the news.

“I had knots in my stomach,” she told The Canadian Press.

“There was something wrong.”

When De Sousa and her husband found out around 9 p.m. that night their daughter was dead, “our entire lives fell apart.”

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“I didn’t believe it,” she said. “I was sure they had made a mistake.”

De Sousa said the family never stops thinking about Anastasia.

“I often ask myself where she would be now,” she said.

“Would she be married? Would I be a grandmother? I’ll never know. Burying your daughter at 18, it doesn’t make sense.”

A student breaks down as she talks on a cellphone during a shooting incident at Dawson College in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Ian Barrett
Students run from Dawson College after reports of a gunman in the building in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept.13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz
Students evacuate the school during a shooting incident at Dawson College in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson
Students take cover behind a car at Dawson College after reports of a gunman in the building in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept.13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz
Evacuated students comfort each other during a shooting incident at Dawson College in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Ian Barrett
Police direct a man running to take cover during a shooting incident at Dawson College in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson
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A woman is evacuated during a shooting incident at Dawson College in Montreal, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2006. CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson
Chris Neill pauses for a short prayer after putting a rose against the fence at Dawson College in Montreal Thursday Sept. 14, 2006. Neill's friend Liz Distalo was shot Wednesday by a gunman who went on a rampage in the college. CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson
A student is overcome with emotion at a makeshift memorial in front of Dawson College in Montreal Friday, Sept. 15, 2006. CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz
Three yellow roses sit on a fence outside Dawson College in Montreal Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006. CP PHOTO/Tom Hanson

Changed lives

Anastasia’s murderer was not a student at the college.

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Gill had been out of a job for a year and was living in his family’s home in Laval, just north of Montreal.

He was armed with several weapons, including a Beretta CX4 Storm, a semi-automatic he used to shoot 72 rounds in and around the college.

The gun was so big that witnesses said they thought he was an actor in a movie when they saw him walking with it outside the school.

Gill used another weapon, a Glock pistol, to shoot himself dead roughly 20 minutes after starting his rampage.

Another mother also had to bury a child after the shooting.

Parvinder Sandhu, Gill’s mother, said she is still suffering from what her son did.

“I won’t say anything,” she said in an interview.

“No, it’s too painful and I’m still suffering. Life has changed forever and I’m not able to say anything. It’s extremely painful.”

Sandhu said her son “wasn’t treated fairly.”

“He was such a nice person, very gentle, kind, everything you can think about,” she said.

“But when all this happened, it’s like, ‘Oh my God’. It’s hard to understand. It’s not him. He was totally opposite.”

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The coroner’s report said that written among Gill’s notes were passages describing how he would have murdered his parents if they had tried to get in the way of his plans.

WATCH BELOW: Remembering the Dawson shooting
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Dawson 10 years later – Sep 13, 2016

Gun control

Meaghan Hennegan was one of the six students shot outside the front doors to the school, which were a few metres from the cafeteria where Gill fired most of his rounds.

Now 28, she recently completed a degree to become a pharmacy technician and found a job in her field.

She had to undergo years of physiotherapy and says she still has pain in her arm.

She said the fact the Beretta that Gill used to shoot her is even more accessible in Canada than it was 10 years ago is insulting.

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During the time of the shooting, the semi-automatic was classified as “restricted,” forcing its owner to have a special permit for possessing the weapon and another for transporting it.

As was the case in 2006, the weapon can be used only at shooting ranges.

Now, a modified version of that gun is available and is classified as “non-restricted,” which requires only a regular permit to purchase.

“That makes me so angry,” Hennegan said. “It’s a slap in the face.”

The Dawson shooting was the third fatal school shooting in Montreal, after the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989 and the shooting spree at Concordia University in 1992.

rachel.lau@globalnews.ca

–with files from The Canadian Press.