Colchester Mayor Christine Blair said it’s hard to believe it’s already a year since the tragic shooting happened.
It’s a time that’s being marked in Truro, N.S., where Blair’s office is based, by ‘Nova Scotia Strong’ banners and heart-shaped signs seen on buildings, or on the sides of the roads, as a way of showing support.
“We are close-knit, and that’s just the way we are in rural Nova Scotia,” said Blair, outside the town’s municipal building on a cold April morning.
She said everybody felt the tragedy of what happened on April 18, 2020, when 22 people were killed by a gunman who was dressed as an RCMP officer.
“I don’t think there was anyone in the whole province, and indeed in our country, that didn’t feel for the individuals, feel sympathy, empathy, and wanted to give them the support that they could, and that’s continuing. That has not ended yet,” Blair said.
And as a leader, offering her support was what she did, and continues to do.
Blair received a call from emergency services on April 19, 2020, the morning after the shooting took place, and thought there must have been a mistake.
“I think that we were all faced with something that just didn’t seem to be realistic in our part of the world. There are no words to express what goes through your mind in a situation like that,” she said.
But rather than thinking too much about it, Blair set out to respond and had an emergency meeting of council to see what could be done to assist the families.
“You do what needs to be done, and you respond… you just function,” she said.
Blair’s personal story is one of three told this week by Global News to show how people living in the community are healing almost a year after the shooting.
In an effort to support the victims’ families, Blair said the community has provided financial support for funeral costs, facilitated access to mental health support, undertaken the demolition of dangerous and unsightly premises destroyed by the fires, and provided security services to protect those returning to their homes after the investigation was completed.
Amidst that support, however, many people from the community had questions about what happened that Blair didn’t have the answers for.
“I think that some of those questions will be answered by the inquiry. But from the perspective of Colchester County, we assisted as best we could possibly do.”
Blair has two sons and grandchildren living outside the province who were watching the events unfold, but during that time her mind was with the families directly impacted by the tragedy.
“When you cannot touch base with your families because you were in lockdown, because of a pandemic, that made it even more tragic. You couldn’t have the funerals and the people that could come and comfort you and be there for you. You didn’t have that. You couldn’t give anybody a hug,” said Blair.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more difficult to have closure, but the community still dealt with it together, be it through posting signage outside or having virtual vigils.
“Every time you pass by a small memorial, it hits you again that this has actually happened in our peaceful, quiet, everyday lives of Colchester County residents. And it’s still difficult to grasp,” said Blair.
“But if it’s difficult for us to grasp as representatives of the people who are in our county, then it is much more so for the individuals that have been directly impacted… they’ll live with this for the rest of their lives. And we are there in whatever way we can be to support them and will always remember.”
Blair acknowledges that the families of the victims have received no resolution up to this point, but is thankful that there will be an inquiry.
In the meantime, she said the community wants to remember those people who have been lost.
This is why on April 18, Blair said there will be a Nova Scotia Remembers Memorial Race to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting.
Races will be held in and around Truro and Colchester and will end in Victoria Park, or it can be done virtually from people’s own course.
According to Blair, proceedings will support the Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy Society’s Memorial Building Fund that will establish a permanent memorial in memory of the victims.
She said that the families of the victims will be consulted on what kind of permanent memorial they’d like to be done.
“It takes a long time to heal for any loss because there’s a finality in that, but we have to continue to support as much as we possibly can,” Blair said.