Tammy Oliver-McCurdie and her family have been personally shattered by what is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in Canadian history.
Her sister, brother-in-law, and 17-year-old niece were killed in the horrific 12-hour shooting spree in Portapique, Nova Scotia on Saturday.
“It’s hard to grieve because right now I’m in a frustration state,” Oliver-McCurdie said.
Oliver-McCurdie, her parents, and other extended family live in Alberta. Her sister, Jolene Oliver, moved to Nova Scotia from Alberta in 2014 with her husband Aaron Tuck, and their daughter, Emily Tuck.
Aaron was originally from Nova Scotia and they moved there to help his ailing mother.
“They built a life out there,” Oliver-McCurdie said. “That little town they were living in the last two years was, we felt, as a family, that was the place where they had been at their best as a family.
“They all just felt happiest there and to have it all taken away when they were just feeling happy in their life and figuring it out and having something of their own…”
Making things even more difficult is the COVID-19 pandemic, along with related travel restrictions and self-isolation rules.
Oliver-McCurdie said they were asked to identify remains over email, through photos.
“For us to fly out there, we’d have to quarantine for 14 days. So, we can’t just fly out and identify bodies.
“My mom would really like to go out there and hold her hand one last time, so we’re really trying to figure out how to make that happen,” she said.
“We’ll make that happen, I just don’t know how it’s going to happen right now.”
As they try to facilitate potential travel and memorial plans, Oliver McCurdie said the family just wants to keep Jolene, Aaron and Emily together.
“We’re trying to keep them all together — all the remains together… They’ve always stayed together as a family unit and we’re trying to keep that.”
The pandemic is only compounding the tragedy for the entire family.
Aaron’s father passed away after they moved to the east coast and his mother died only months ago. Tammy and Jolene’s father has Multiple Scerlosis, putting him at a higher risk should he contract the novel coronavirus.
Coordinating after one death would’ve been hard enough, Oliver-McCurdie said, “let alone three.
“I’m trying be the rock for my parents.
“We have all this COVID stuff that we have to facilitate stuff through. It’s frustrating.”
A GoFundMe page was set up to help pay for the funeral costs and travel expenses. The family hopes to have some kind of memorial in both Nova Scotia and Alberta.
Oliver-McCurdie said any remaining funds will be used to start a bursary fund in honour of Emily. It will support young women and girls entering trades programs.
Oliver-McCurdie described her niece as a young woman with musical ability, a fantastic personality but who was “rough around the edges.”
Emily became interested in trades through a program in her community.
“She wanted to be an apprentice welder,” Oliver-McCurdie said.
“We want to make it a bursary so it’s accessible… For us, that’s important, because it gave her direction.”