I. THE NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL
Running to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s side
Two soldiers stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the National War Memorial, as they have every day for the last eight years. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Cpl. Branden Stevenson, young reservists with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Hamilton, were there on the morning of Oct. 22, holding rifles containing no ammunition.
Barbara Winters, Lawyer, Justice Department: I was on my way to a meeting and I was walking past the cenotaph. It was a beautiful, beautiful fall morning. It had finally stopped raining.
Margaret Lehre, nurse, Bruyère Continuing Care: I was walking between my work buildings.
Martin Magnan, communications adviser, Department of National Defence: I was to meet a friend to talk about business at the Rideau Centre Starbucks at 10 o'clock. I was thinking, "Wow, it's really nice out." You're just walking like any regular day.
Winters: I looked at the soldiers at the cenotaph and I thought, "What a nice picture." I just happened to have my digital camera with me and I stopped and I took a few pictures, and then I carried on. I was walking down Sparks Street.
Ginette Munson, wife of Liberal Sen. Jim Munson: I had just dropped my husband on Parliament Hill and I was driving, heading east on Wellington, and I came to a red light. I looked up and in my lane ahead of me–probably six or seven car lengths at most–was a little beige-brown car stopped right there at the entrance to the War Memorial. The first thought I had was that there is somebody in trouble. How is it the flashing lights weren't on? The driver got out of his car, shut the door and then opened the back door on the driver's side and took out an object wrapped up in what appeared to maybe be a rolled-up sleeping bag with another blanket over it. Something was hanging like a blanket. I thought someone was bringing blankets to demonstrators. Then he dashed out from the car toward the monument.
Winters: I had just passed the Canada Post building when I heard pop, pop, pop.
Magnan: Three shots: two rapid ones and then one a little slower. It was to my left and I turned. From where I was standing, it was directly in my line of sight. I was already moving toward the memorial from the last shot. I was just running. In my head was "Go, go, go. Go, go, go."
Lehre: I looked and there was the [gunman] in full shooting position. It seemed theatrical. There was this great long gun.
Magnan: After the shots, he was yelling something, but I have no idea what he was saying.
Lehre: There was another bystander. I turned and I said, "Is this a mock? Is this a drill?" Then I looked toward where the fallen soldier was, with his comrade leaning over him. His comrade yelled, "Call 911." And I thought, this is still really sounding like a drill. I looked to see if someone was filming. It became clear it wasn't a drill. That's when I ran forward, without thought, just to see what I could do.
Magnan: I saw the shooter. I saw the guy on the ground. But it didn't register: that's the shooter, that's the guy on the ground. It was just, "Get there. Get there. Get there as fast as you can." When I looked up, the shooter was gone. He had stopped yelling. He was gone.
Winters: I started running toward the cenotaph. I was looking for the soldiers because I had heard the news the day before–the two soldiers in Quebec who had been hit and how one of them had died. I immediately guessed the soldiers I had just seen had been the targets. I knew if I saw them standing, it was something else. But I didn't see them standing. So I just ran there.
Lehre: When I got there, I asked the soldier who supervises the two soldiers at the tomb what I could do to help. He told me very specifically. He was in control. He said, "Put your hands here. Put pressure. He's been shot twice."
Magnan: I got there and the corporal had already put his hands on the wound on the right-hand side. I said, "What do I do?" He said, "Put pressure on this wound." As I went down to do that, the nurse, she put her hands on the wound. They said, "Elevate his legs." The idea was to keep the blood in the torso. He's a big, strong guy. I had to really get underneath his legs and lift him up. I tried just holding him with my arms, but he has strong legs so I had to rest his legs on my thighs. I was in a crouching position. I got underneath and lifted his legs up on an angle. His hand was right there, so I held his hand. I gave him a little squeeze. He gave a slight squeeze back.
Winters: The soldier had fallen by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The nurse who was there had her hand on one wound and the corporal who had been with them had his hand on another wound. The person at his feet was holding him. I loosened his tie. The fellow at his head was talking to him, so there was not much to do. So I started praying. I just recited the Lord's Prayer. I am not even religious. That's what came to mind.
Lehre: I thought she was a relative of this soldier. She was talking and she was consoling the soldier in such a compassionate way; I thought he must be a loved one.
Winters: I told him that he was a good man and that he was a brave man. I told him that his family loved him and his military family–I meant his brothers-in-arms–loved him and that his military brothers were right there with him, and that they were working to help him, and all these strangers, "We're just here trying to help you." I kept telling him his parents would be so proud of him and that he was a good man and to remember that he was standing guard, that he was at the War Memorial and he couldn't have [been doing] a more distinguished thing when this happened. Mostly, I kept telling him he was loved that he was a good man and a brave man. I just kept repeating that.
Lehre: I looked up to the soldier's head and saw that he wasn't breathing. I asked [Barbara] if she could check for the pulse.
Winters: We couldn't find a pulse. The fellow at his head immediately started doing CPR. He started the mouth-to-mouth and I started the chest compressions. The five of us were talking to each other, telling each other, "That's good," or someone might say, "Check this." Nobody was grandstanding. Nobody was taking charge. Everybody was focused on that soldier. Nobody was yelling.
Magnan: We were encouraging each other on the tasks we were doing, trying to keep each other calm. There was a lot of cold cement everywhere. At the time, I just felt so small.
Winters: He wasn't moving, but I had the sense he could hear. I hope he heard people helping him and praising him.
Magnan: At that point, I looked around and thought, "Is there anybody else shooting?" I had no idea.
Winters: People on the team were asking for help. We were all asking, "Where is the ambulance?" I did the chest compressions for a while and then I was relieved. I went to the other side of his head and tried to talk to him and comfort him. He wasn't talking. His eyes were open.
Lerhre: We were getting anxious and we could hear so many sirens.
Magnan: Looking down the steps from the cenotaph, there was a whole gaggle of people with cellphones up [taking pictures]. It was just an odd thing to see.
Lehre: All you can think of is: this soldier would be recognized [by his family]. You can clearly see his spats of his uniform and they would know who he is. The next time I looked up, that's when there were media with big cameras. I couldn't figure out how the media was there. I couldn't figure out how there was no ambulance yet.
Magnan: I asked a guy there and a police officer to maybe clear the area. So they said, "Stand back," and they moved right away.
Lerhre: There was a ring of observers taking photos. I yelled to another soldier, I think, who was standing there, "Tell those people to step back and tell them to stop taking photos."
Magnan: Two ambulances showed up at the same time. One guy from the ambulance started to check his vitals. He was telling one guy to cut open his sleeve of the shirt. He was engaged. They put the stretcher beneath his legs, which was right at my feet. Some guy came from the other side and grabbed his legs. I sat off to the side. They put him on the gurney and they were gone.
I sat back and I'm sitting on the first step of the tomb. I looked up at the monument. I didn't know what to do. My hands were shaking. I thought, "Now what?"
II. AT THE DOORS OF PARLIAMENT
The rush to the Hill
Margaret Lehre: I saw him run away but I didn't even think about it. I just assumed they had got him.
Ginette Munson: The car was so odd, stopped right there. It was happening so fast. My red light turned to green. I looked to the monument. There was the guy running, coming back, and he was carrying something. I saw a flash of light, a silver reflection–I did not think "gun" then. It's only after I thought, maybe a piece of pipe. Instantly I thought violence.
Ric McIver, Alberta provincial minister of employment, was in Ottawa for meetings when he heard the shots: I said to my chief of staff, "That's gunshots." He said, "Well, it's the War Memorial, they've got a 21-gun salute or something." I said, "No, no, there's somebody in a uniform running around at a very fast pace. This is not a military exercise."
Munson: At that point, I am beside his car and I'm driving and I know it's urgent and I get out of there. I had a feeling of doom because what went on happened in the space of maybe–I don't know how long the red light to green would take–probably 20 to 25 seconds. There are two or three steps on the north side of the monument. He was running down those steps. This person had such energy in his actions as he moved and ran.
Scott Walsh of UDI Cable Services was installing fibre-optic cable on the Hill: I was working in a manhole inside the gate. We heard gunshots and we saw a bunch of people running. A woman with her stroller and a child was screaming and running. We saw a man with a scarf over his face; long black hair. He ran up to the side of this building and hijacked a car at gunpoint–didn't hurt the gentleman in the car. Took off toward the back–toward the construction. That's the last time I saw him. People were screaming and there were officers right on his tail.
Heather Lamarre, a mother on a field trip with her family and several other families: Not all of our group had arrived so I said, "You guys go ahead in. I'll wait on the steps for the rest of the group." I was waiting outside on the top of the steps, against the wall underneath the Peace Tower.
NDP press secretary Greta Levy: We were walking down the main steps of Centre Block to the main exit because our offices are across the street. I noted the time–it was 9:50–because I was late for a meeting. We came out the main doors, these big brass doors that everyone recognizes from images of Parliament–and took a few steps outside. I saw two journalists I know way up ahead of us get down on the ground. My colleague and I stopped and didn't react. Then a guard–someone in uniform–was yelling, "Get down! Get down!"
Heather Lamarre: I looked around to see who he [the guard] was talking to–and I was looking straight at the gunman. When I saw him and what he was carrying, I hit the ground.
Levy: The three of us ended up huddled next to a pillar to the side of the stairs. A short while after that, it felt like a few seconds, I lifted my head straight up and saw one person. It was only when my eyes lowered to the gun in his hands that I really knew something [serious was happening]. I reacted fast and dropped my head.
Inside, by the tourist security area
Matt Lamarre: We ushered the kids through the X-ray machines–my three kids, and [Valarie Campbell's] two kids, and another visiting as well. There was a whole range of ages. They went through the security scanner, and were cleared, and picked up their stuff real quick out of the bucket and made their way around the corner. They all went through and out of our sight.
Valarie Campbell: Then I came in. I was scanned and went through.
Matt: I gave the security guy my jacket, my Nikon camera, and my belt. I was putting on my belt when I heard the first gunshot and an alarm go off.
Outside the main doors
Levy: The ﬁrst round of shots lasted a very long time. We just stayed huddled to the ground. I typed into my BlackBerry into a group chat with my colleagues: "Shooting."
Heather Lamarre: I lost it. I was yelling: "My kids! My kids are inside!"
Inside the doors
Valarie Campbell: My stuff hadn't come through the belt yet. We heard loud noises. Very echoey.
Matt Lamarre: I'm putting on my belt and I instantly thought, "What did my kids do?" It was just one of those things. I couldn't see my kids. I thought it was my son who had pressed some button or something, and I thought, "Phenomenal, here we go, we're never going to be allowed on Parliament Hill again."
Abby Campbell, 16 years old: It sounded like construction. Quickly, everybody started shouting.
Matt: That's when I saw the RCMP running to and from wherever we were, back and forth, back and forth. And I realized something really, really big was happening. I grabbed all of my stuff out of the bucket, had it all in my arms, and I bolted out into the hallway, looking for any of the children that were with us.
Abby: There was running, and before I knew it, I was following people out the front door, down the Hill, and toward the gates that circle Parliament Hill. My mom was still going through security, and I just followed those who were in authority.
Matt: I looked to my right, where I thought my son had gone. There was just cops everywhere. I looked to my left and my two daughters were standing there, very, very scared. My daughter is 10. My other daughter is six.
Valarie: My daughter, her friend and Matt's son and my son were kind of pushed out a different door right under the main stairway.
Abby: I didn't really register where my mother was.
Valarie: At this point, Matt and I were still. "Our kids, our kids, our kids." He was able, somehow, to grab his two daughters.
Matt: I grabbed them, and we just kept on going to the left. We're now in sort of a foyer, and that's when the cops basically told us, in no uncertain terms, stop, get down. Their guns were drawn. I had my kids and my bundle of stuff still in my arms, and my only thought was, 'Get my kids safe.' I don't want the cops to think that I'm a threat of any sort, but here I am holding a big, leather black jacket and holding two kids. I just said, "Officer, where do we go? I've got another child here."
One guy yelled out the command, "Batons out!" His baton came out, and all of a sudden I heard 20 batons clicking out. And they went like a unit up the stairs.
Levy: My colleague put his hand on [Heather Lamarre's] back. I kept saying: "There's tons of security here. The cops are here. They're after him. Your kids will be fine." Then the second round of shots happened. A police officer came running up the middle of the stairs and asked, "Which way did he go? We answered. "In there. In Centre Block." He has his gun drawn and he started running in. As he was running in, he said [to us], "Go, go, go! Go now! Run down!"
Matt Lamarre: Two cops just sort of grabbed us–myself, my two daughters, and Valerie Campbell–and just told us, "Come with us right now." We ran with them down a series of corridors. They told us to get up against a wall, very quickly, mostly just to get out of the way of anybody who's running to and fro. We sort of stood there for five minutes, gathering ourselves up, putting on my jacket, getting my kids calm. That's when I realized I didn't have my phone on me. My wife had my phone.
III. INSIDE THE CAUCUS ROOMS
The sound of gunshots echoed in the hall
Wednesday mornings are a typically busy time on Parliament Hill. On this day, Conservative and NDP MPs had just begun their weekly caucus meetings in the large committee rooms on either side of the Hall of Honour. After meeting in regional groups, Liberal MPs were on their way to their own caucus meeting.
The Conservatives, the Reading Room
MP Steven Fletcher: We heard the first sort of kaboom and that could have been anything. You've heard stories of windows falling down and Parliament falling to bits.
Sen. Marjory LeBreton: I thought somebody had knocked over a stack of chairs.
MP Steven Blaney: We thought it was construction, so the Prime Minister went on with his speech.
Fletcher: In the next half a second, there was boom-boom-boom-boom-boom, bang-bang-bang-bang.
MP Tom Lukiwski: It took a couple of seconds before anyone really understood [the sounds] were in fact gunshots.
MP Terence Young: I was always told gunshots don't really sound like they do in the movies, they make a popping sound. That is not true. These shots sounded exactly like the movies–except louder, thundering in the hallway.
MP David Wilks, former RCMP officer: I knew it was shooting right away. I'm very familiar with that sound of the 9-mil, just because that's what I used to practise with and carry for 20 years.
Blaney: The Prime Minister stopped his speech and looked at us. We realized we were being attacked on the Hill.
MP Rob Clarke, former RCMP officer: Everything slowed right down. Your police instincts kick in.
LeBreton: Through the years, working in the Prime Minister's Office and travelling with prime ministers, the RCMP always tell us, "If you hear gunfire, get down. Don't be running, trying to get out the doors because if someone bursts in, you are just a target, right?" So that's what I did. I just got down on the floor.
Blaney: We didn't realize the shots were from security agents. We felt the noise coming toward us and we felt the danger was getting close.
Young: We assumed there were several terrorists in the hall with automatic weapons.
Blaney: At some point in time we just thought that was it–we were about to experience the last moment of our lives.
MP Bob Zimmer: The vision of four people walking in with AK-47s went through my mind.
MP Brad Trost: People began to move to the exits. Within seconds we began to realize we had to shut the doors and barricade stuff. The ex-police in our caucus started to shout instructions.
LeBreton: Those ex-cops and ex-military, boy, they just took control real fast–Shelly Glover and David Wilks and Ryan Leef and Rick Norlock and Laurie Hawn, and Scott Armstrong, who was an ex-principal of a school. They just started barking orders.
MP Ted Falk: One of my first thoughts was, "Where is the Prime Minister, we need to protect that guy." He was immediately surrounded and shielded.
Wilks: I made the decision we needed to block that door, at all costs. I think my reasoning behind it was that although it would never stop a person from coming in, it would definitely slow them down.
MP Peter Goldring: Those chairs are not easy to pile. They're two chairs tied with a little pedestal in between and then they're all wired together. So you're dragging the wires and you're dragging other chairs. And then what? The only tools that were available were the flagpoles–a flag for every province, three for the territories and one for the country. That's 14 spears. They've got that pointy part on the end that's supposed to be a decoration, but it's really very sharp. So we stood at the various doors and people used them as spears.
Zimmer: I went to guard one door. If somebody was to come in, we were going to jump them.
Fletcher: The caucus was ready to rumble.
Lukiwski: I was very happy to be in a caucus that had many former law-enforcement agents and military people, who established a protocol very quickly.
Fletcher: Melissa was with me, my caregiver. I told her, "The first opportunity, to run, to get out, take it." Melissa said, "No." I told her, "You've got to go." She said, "I will not." So we had a bit of an argument.
LeBreton: None of us had our BlackBerrys as we don't take them into caucus. So we were just sitting in there waiting to get some information when [Sergeant-at-Arms] Kevin Vickers and then the Prime Minister's personal security came through the door.
Zimmer: The realization of what had happened definitely set in, especially after being briefed by Kevin Vickers.
Trost: When Vickers came to speak to us and said he had shot the guy, you could tell he had emotion. He was holding it together, but you could tell this was a big thing in his life. He was doing his job, and he was going to continue to do his job, but man, you could tell the emotion was packed in him.
The NDP, the Railway Room
MP Libby Davies: We start at 9:15, so we'd already had our leader's report and people were lining up to the microphones to talk. Of course, we heard the initial shots.
MP Craig Scott: A good 90 MPs were there. It was closed-door, so a lot of the senior staffers hadn't yet arrived.
MP Nathan Cullen: It sounded like banging, like trash lids being banged very loudly outside.
MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre: There are a lot of renovations right now on the Hill. In my head, I was [thinking], maybe someone dropped a table.
Davies: I don't know why, but I just instinctively thought, "Oh my God, it's gunshots."
MP David Christopherson: There was the first hail of bullets, what sounded like a gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Davies: Somebody yelled, "Get down, get down," and we all hit the floor. I just remember feeling very calm about it.
Christopherson: There was a calm. At that moment you're thinking the good guys have overpowered the bad guys, everything's under control and we should be getting the "all clear," but instead the shooting starts again. At that moment we knew there was an equal possibility the bad guys had overpowered the good guys and they only wanted a one-way ticket in here. Some of us were sharing thoughts afterwards: this could end up as a Columbine–that he comes through that door, takes out the guard and methodically slaughters everybody.
Davies: I do remember thinking, "Wow, what's going to come through that door, this could be really serious." It felt like the building was being stormed.
Christopherson: Then I guess everyone did their own version of a silent prayer.
Scott: The moment I heard the shots, I thought, "S--t, we've got to somehow block these doors." By that point, everybody but me and a couple of senators was under the tables, which was a perfectly sensible thing to do.
Doré Lefebvre: We got under chairs and tables and we waited for, I don't know if it was a minute or two minutes–it was like time was suspended.
MP Anne Minh-Thu Quach was also in caucus while her baby was on the sixth floor of Centre Block with her husband: I went under the table and I was wondering, "Where was my baby and husband?" I could not send any emails or call them because my husband did not have his cellphone. We were under the table and I was taking care of one MP who was shaking. Another was crying.
Scott: I grabbed one of those tables–unfortunately the people under it had to sacrifice that in order to shove it up against the door. Nathan Cullen did the same on the other side. The security guard used a big trolley that I think had AV equipment in it to block the third door. We stood on either side with our feet up against the legs of the table so that we'd be prepared to reinforce the table if somebody tried to push through.
Doré Lefebvre: My first thought, when I was under the table, was: "There is something wrong on Parliament Hill." My daughter Madeleine is 18 months old in daycare near here. I contacted my husband [NDP staffer George Soule] by text message because I didn't want to make any noise, asking him, "Please make sure our daughter is fine." It would take a few hours to be reunited.
Christopherson: There was a heroic guard who came in and said something to the effect of "guns and shots" and ordered us to hit the deck. He closed the door and he stood there.
Davies: The main front door that comes off the Hall of Honour doesn't lock. He stood in front of the main door. The bullet came through the door and lodged in the sound proofing. So I mean, he really put himself in front of us, in harm's way.
Christopherson: He was going down first and he knew it. He knew all he could do was slow them down. And there he stood, like a monument. We were hearing slivers of reports about snipers, etc. After a few moments, the other guards came in indicating they wanted to take us out of there and to a secure place.
NDP MP Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe [who had been in the lobby feeding her two-month-old baby, Evan]: I was alone with my baby and one colleague in the lobby. She came back, yelling, "Lysane, go hide in the phone booth." [In the lobby, there is a booth one metre by one metre.] I ran to the booth and sat down on the ground. The first thing I thought was, "Please, the baby needs to keep quiet. I don't want the baby to start to yell and reveal our position." I continued to breastfeed the baby while hiding to make sure he would stay quiet and calm. I tried to control myself so I wouldn't make him panic. It was so unreal. I was there a few minutes–a difficult four minutes or so.
Christopherson: We were out within 10 minutes or so from the beginning of the shooting and we were already on our way through a tunnel, scooping up families and tourists as we went.
Some Liberal MPs were caught between meetings.
MP Joyce Murray was heading toward the Hall of Honour: I looked down the stairs where a woman was racing up them, yelling. Within a minute or two, there were security members in the hallways telling us to get behind doors and lock them and not look out the window.
MP Adam Vaughan was descending the stairs from the fifth floor of Centre Block: Security was scrambling in every direction. I was pinned against a wall by a guard for safety and then escorted to a room for lockdown.
MP Chrystia Freeland was on the first floor of Centre Block: A security guard hustled me and one other person to a room with no windows and instructed us to stay and hide, which I was very pleased to do. I saw a few people scrambling–some civilians, some staffers and MPs. I just focused on trying to stay safe and trying to get out of the way of security.
About 20 Liberal senators were meeting in the Aboriginal Room in the basement of the Senate.
Sen. Jim Munson: A security guard ran in screaming, "There's a gunman in the building. Get out, get out." We started to move. It just seemed like seconds later, the sound of gunfire, which I thought was from the outside. It was so loud. There was a pause and then came the second round.
Sen. James Cowan: We were put in a small electrical room. Then we were ushered out and down the back corridor and through the tunnel to the East Block. We went to the Summit Room where there were already a number of people, primarily NDP MPs, some House of Commons staffers, a lot of Senate staff.
Camaraderie amidst fear and uncertainty
While Conservatives hunkered down in their barricaded caucus room, NDP MPs were forced to leave their room in Centre Block. Many then ended up in one of two rooms in East Block. Liberals took shelter wherever they could.
NDP MP Libby Davies: Someone said, "Close the blinds! Close the blinds!" But there was one window without blinds, so we actually had a peek at the SWAT teams.
Liberal MP Ted Hsu: When I got out of the Ontario Liberal caucus meeting on the fifth floor of Centre Block, people were milling around the hallway. The Liberal Atlantic caucus had just let out. People were looking out windows and noticing RCMP officers running toward the building. Somebody yelled, "Stay away from the windows!"
Davies: There was a lot of noise in the hallways, especially at first. It was very hard to hear—I think it was police giving clearances. We would hear shouting and a lot of noise and then somebody—I don't know if it came from outside or inside—would say, "Get down! Get down!" For several hours we were under the tables or crouching in corners.
Hsu: I thought, "Well, okay, so what do I do? I guess I'll just head downstairs"—not knowing what was happening—or where. I had only gone down around a half flight of steps when a voice shouted from below, "Get into an office and lock the door!" I walked back up and turned into the first office—Cyrus Reporter's office [Justin Trudeau's chief of staff]. Joyce Murray was in the hall, so I grabbed her, we closed and locked the door. I heard [MP] Arnold Chan outside, so I unlocked the door and yelled, "Arnold, Arnold! Come in here!" It was myself, Joyce Murray and Arnold Chan in that office for the first five hours.
Liberal MP Sean Casey had been in a meeting of the Liberal Atlantic caucus in a boardroom on the fifth floor adjacent to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's office: We watched TV. We tried to reassure loved ones and others contacting us via email or telephone. When you're in the company of Dominic LeBlanc and Scott Brison, they provided the comic relief in what could have been otherwise a really stressed-out time.
Steven Fletcher: I called my dad [in Winnipeg], and actually now it's kind of funny, but it wasn't at the time. I said, "Dad, I'm okay." This was just after 10 a.m. "I'm okay and everything." He said, "Well, okay, Steven." I said, "Have you seen the news?" And he goes, "I was listening to the news, CBC Radio, and I heard about the shooting." Then he starts to nag me about getting my van repaired. And I said, like, "Dad, like, can we talk about this some other time?" And he said, "No." I said, "Look, dad, I'm okay, everyone's okay, we'll talk about this tomorrow." Turns out he had only heard about the [War Memorial] shooting.
MP David Wilks: From my years as a police officer, I had an understanding with my wife, to whom I've been married for 33 years. I've said, the only call you have to worry about is the call that they call you to tell you I've passed away. Otherwise, I'm okay.
Davies: What was eerie was how quiet everybody was. Every time we were told to get under the tables, we would stay under there—you've got somebody's legs next to your face or whatever. People were really quiet, then eventually people whisper, somebody would go, "Shhh!" and everybody would go quiet again. We were trying to hear what was going on outside. We're all very talkative people—especially New Democrats. So that was kind of eerie—we know each other so well and yet we were so silent.
Nathan Cullen: [When the news came of Cpl. Cirillo's death, Mulcair announced it to the room.] It just sank in, compounding the seriousness of what had happened. We knew the shooter had been killed. But the fact that somebody innocent had been killed, it definitely weighted the room down.
Ted Hsu: About three security finally entered the office. I assume they were police officers —they had helmets and automatic weapons and body armour and so on. A couple of very nice guys came in and made sure we were okay and escorted us to the cafeteria on the fifth floor where a lot of other people had also been led. They gathered everybody to that one place. We waited there for another five hours.
Valarie Campbell, Matt Lamarre and his kids spent the lockup in a small room behind the East Block centre-door guard station.
Matt Lamarre: They basically shoved any visitors they had in that room. There were a couple of businessmen waiting to meet some senators. There was me and my daughters, our friend Valarie, and two couples from Saskatchewan. At first, we were ducking down, kneeling to the ground. It was about 20 minutes later that I stood up and said [that] I don't think we're in any danger here. I looked out our door and, I mean, there were nine armed guards—the helmets and the machine guns, fully armed and ready to go. There was a computer and a TV and a couch and a chair and a desk and a closet and a mini-fridge. We opened up the mini-fridge and there was a lunch there. It had to be one of the guards' lunch. We jokingly said, if we're in here long enough we'll have to eat this thing.
Valarie Campbell: There were 11 of us in that room for quite a few hours.
Matt Lamarre: By about 12:30, we were itching at it, and we said, "Let's split this thing up, we'll leave whoever owns this lunch a note." We basically divided it up, an orange and a couple of cucumber sticks and yogourt.
Valarie Campbell: A guard brought in a few chocolate milks, Jell-O and a pudding, which we shared.
Matt Lamarre: The girls wanted to leave. They wanted to go home. I just kept telling them: "One, we can't leave right now. Two, we are the most protected people in all of Canada right now. Take a look out our door. We have nine very trained and very alert police officers looking out for just us right now."
A number of NDP MPs ended up in a room with Liberal senators.
Liberal Sen. Jim Munson: Just to lighten the mood, as there were so many NDP MPs and there were a lot of Liberal senators and the NDP want to abolish us, I said, "Here's an opportunity to get together to think this thing out. Can't we all work together?" There was some laughter.
>Const. Shawn Virgin, an Ottawa police officer, ended up in East Block: Everyone was very calm. People were sharing cellphones and chargers. At one point someone got a TV in there. We brought up food. I was letting them use the bathroom and get water. Everyone seemed to pull together.
Sean Casey: Being in a room with 16 people for six hours without a bathroom was a challenge that had to be confronted and conquered. And it was. [We had] a recycle bin—a blue thing where you put recycled paper.
Minh-Thu Quach reunited with her husband and baby around 4 p.m.: The baby wasn't breastfed for 7½ hours. That was my main concern after knowing everyone was safe. I was able to feed my baby, finally.
Munson: I saw a couple of cleaning women. They'd been locked up somewhere in the building—not where I was for 10 or 11 hours. One was in tears. People were trying to console her. Some of the staff just wanted to go home and have a good cry.
Marc Garneau: When they finally escorted us off the Hill, the overwhelming sentiment within me was one of anger. I felt we should be showing Canadians we are not intimidated and we want to be back in that House of Commons. Of course, it was unrealistic because there was a full-blown investigation going on. I was so glad the following morning we went back to it.
Peter Goldring: When we were getting on the bus to leave the Hill, they had, I would say, 75 to 100 heavily armed security in a line.
Brad Trost: Every few feet there was RCMP or Ottawa police.
Ted Falk: We went to the Pearson Building, where Mrs. Harper had ordered a whole bunch of pizza. We were bused there with city buses under heavy security. She greeted all of us.
Bob Zimmer: Pizza never tasted so good.
Falk: The Prime Minister arrived and gave a speech and tried to keep us abreast. There was a lot of praise for House security, the Ottawa police, the RCMP and the military. He thanked us for our patience, told us he was very proud of how we'd behaved.
Sean Casey: I walked out the front door of DFAIT [Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development] and asked the police officer, "Which way to downtown?" He pointed left. I walked until I saw a cab and went straight to the Royal Oak where I sat at the bar, had a bite to eat, a couple of beers and exchanged emails with my good wife.
Libby Davies: [MP] Chris Charlton and I live two doors down from each other with [MP] Jean Crowder. The three of us, with Kim, my partner, went into our place. Kim had made us a very nice vegetarian chili. We turned off the TV and they all drank wine and I had a soda water and we just chatted. I was trying to still catch up on Twitter and Facebook. I'd received all sorts of text messages and I felt like I needed to let people know we're okay.
Blanchette-Lamothe and baby Evan: It was 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. when I went home. I took a taxi and my husband just held me.
Peter Goldring: Some stayed for a reception. I was tired and went back to my building to give my family a call. I hadn't talked to my brother for a while. You do these things. He had heard about the shooting. So you tell them that everything's okay. I'll get together with them as soon as I can.
Munson: I went home and had a nice long glass of red wine and so did my wife. I didn't sleep very much that night. I had three or four hours sleep. You're living the image and thinking about the soldier's family. It takes about two or three days to sink in. I had that feeling on Sunday, a lump in your throat. It's a delayed reaction to what we all witnessed and heard. I am still trying to come to terms with a known soldier dying on the memorial of the unknown soldier. It will never be the same.
Eyewitness accounts of the Ottawa shootings
Click or tap the red markers for the harrowing accounts
This oral history is based on Maclean's interviews from Oct. 22 and the days that followed, scrum transcripts and one note to a constituency. More from these transcripts and audio excerpts from the interviews can be found here: https://macleans.ca/news/canada/ottawa-oral-history/
Sue Allan, Genna Buck, John Geddes, Aaron Hutchins, Anne Kingston, Michael Petrou, Cormac MacSweeney, Julie Smyth, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Paul Wells, Aaron Wherry and David Zelikovitz.
Sue Allan and Dianna Symonds (story), Andrew Tolson (photo), Adrian Lee (audio), Michael Barclay, Jacob Sheen and Larissa Liepins (copy) Nick Taylor-Vaisey (map) and David Zelikovitz (video).
Guillaume Hache, Megan Underwood, @ncitaly/Instagram, Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen, Chris Wattie/Reuters, Heather Lamarre, Reuters, Heather Lamarre, and Steve Russell
CK Leach, Dean Carter