A surgical mask wrapped around both ears. A pair of protective glasses shielding her blue eyes. Her hair tied tightly away from her face.
Kristen Beaton joined a call for Nova Scotia’s front-line workers to share selfies of their new reality during the deadly coronavirus pandemic. She urged her Facebook friends to stay home.
One day after she posted her photo, Beaton was killed.
She was one of 22 people from all walks of life who became victims of a deadly rampage in rural Nova Scotia on April 18. The massacre is considered the worst mass shooting in Canadian history. It stretched 90 kilometres and left several small communities wrapped in heartbreak and disbelief.
Beaton was a continuing care assistant, a young wife and a mother. She “dedicated her life to caring for Nova Scotia’s most vulnerable,” her employer, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), said.
Little is publicly known about how the young woman died, except that she was killed on the job.
What her husband, Nick Beaton, wants now is to spread a message in her memory about “proper PPE.”
“She cried every day before and every day after work, scared to bring this COVID home to her son who she loved more than I could even imagine anyone could love,” he said on Facebook.
“We need to be her voice now.”
The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada has resulted in desperate calls from health-care workers across the country about a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Hospitals have been forced to ration masks, while others have had no other choice but to resanitize items for reuse.
It’s a topic that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been bearing since the pandemic tightened its grip on the country, but it came under new scrutiny after Beaton’s death.
When asked about Nick’s concerns, Trudeau offered his sympathies and nodded to investments his government has made in manufacturing PPE domestically.
“First of all, to Nick and to all the families going through a heart-wrenching loss right now, looking for answers, looking for reasons, looking for support, we are there for you,” he told reporters in Ottawa days after the tragedy. “Like so many people across the country who are worried about what the next days will bring, our front-line workers have been worried about the availability of PPE.”
Trudeau acknowledged that some provinces have been forced to ration PPE as they near dramatic shortages. He said the government has been supporting provinces’ requests for more supplies the best it can.
He said millions of pieces of PPE have entered Canada in recent days and that more is expected while Canadian factories “tool up” to manufacture at home.
“At the same time, we have been fighting in a very competitive international environment where everyone is looking for PPE, which is why we’ve made significant investments in domestic capacity to make the kinds of equipment that is going to help keep front-line health workers safe across the country.”
Beaton would have been mother of two
Nick’s grief is palpable on his social media.
His Facebook is peppered with better times — family photos and special milestones with their young son, Daxton.
On Tuesday, he shared a photo of a blue sweatshirt with the words “world’s most amazing mom” printed on the front. The sight of it hanging in their closet made him collapse, he said.
“I told you this very often in our almost three years with our boy,” he wrote. “You loved him more than I have ever seen one person love anything… and I mean that with my entire heart. Dax knows it and will never be let forget that.”
Adding to his immense loss is “Baby Beaton,” as Nick describes it. Kristen Beaton was pregnant when she died, according to his posts. Daxton would have been a big brother.
“I know you would’ve been just as amazing of a mom to our second baby you were carrying,” he wrote.
“My body has no words for a time like this.”
Beaton’s workplace, VON, described her as a “caring and compassionate” member of its team. She had worked for the organization for six years.
“All of our front-line care providers are heroes. Yesterday, two of those heroes, Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton, were taken from their families, and from VON,” wrote Jo-Anne Poirier, president and chief executive of the agency. “We mourn their loss, and we mourn for their families.”
On Kristen’s social media profiles, her pride in her job — and her family — is similarly clear.
The investigation into the mass killings is still being untangled by RCMP. There are 16 specific locations between Portapique, Wentworth, Debert, Shubenacadie, Milford and Enfield, N.S., where officers are meticulously combing through evidence to try and learn more about what unfolded.
Five buildings were also burned, some reduced to rubble. Police say bodies have been recovered from those crime scenes.
While some of the victims were known and targeted by the gunman, police believe many others were not.
The people in those communities — and across the province — have banded together to show support for those impacted.
Nick has felt the support as well.
A GoFundMe campaign for the Beaton family has so far raised more than $60,000.
Friends, family and neighbours have also stepped up, Nick said, offering food, child care and comforting messages.
In his latest Facebook post, he took a stoic tone.
“We are not the community that got shot up, we are the community that stands together, helps their loved ones and neighbours,” he wrote.