Flags in Williams Lake were lowered to half-mast Wednesday in honour of those killed and injured in a terrorist attack Wednesday on Parliament Hill.
Prince George-North MP Dick Harris was in Ottawa when he first learned about Wednesday’s fatal shooting of honour guard Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and following the attack, but was off site when he received a phone call from his wife in B.C. that morning.
“Ironically I was in bed with the flu yesterday [Wednesday] morning and wasn’t planning on going into parliament until about noon,” Harris told the Weekend Advisor while en route home from Vancouver to Prince George Thursday morning. “She asked if I’d heard the news.”
Immediately Harris turned on the TV.
His first thoughts were about the safety of his colleagues and the people who work on the hill and in the Centre Block, he said.
“That was first and foremost because I knew them all so well after 25 years of being there.”
Within moments he was able to communicate with some of his colleagues by texting and quickly learned they were in lockdown in the Conservative caucus room with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“They told me they were all OK in there and barricaded in. They had heard gunshots outside and then it all went quiet.”
When Harris turned the TV back on he saw a report that the gun man, Michael Zehaf Bibeau, had been shot dead by the sergeant-in-arms, but Harris was still worried there might be more shooters.
“The first thing you think is that it’s a terrorist attack, given the dress of the shooter and what he did.”
According to reports, the attacker was dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well.
Harris commended the RCMP, Ottawa police, special operations and security people for an “excellent” job locking everything down and going through the buildings ensuring there was no immediate threat within the perimeter.
“It took about seven or eight hours in total and in the end I was relieved to hear there was no more immediate danger. Now they will have to determine whether he was a lone wolf rogue type person who was unstable or was it part of a larger plan.”
Harris did not know Cirillo personally, however, he knew a security guard who received a shot to the leg when the gunman entered the building.
“He’d been a security guard for about 10 years or so,” he said. “You get to know them after awhile. Fortunately the wound was not life threatening, although still serious.”
In a speech to the nation, Prime Minister Harper said the attack, which was the second in one week, was a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks seen elsewhere around the world.