Apart from denouncing Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the convert to radical Islam who shot the unarmed Cpl. Cirillo, you had to take comfort that the assassin’s cause suffered a richly deserved humiliation.
Zehaf-Bibeau couldn’t have chosen a worse victim if the domestic jihadists had a hundred lined up.
Cpl. Cirillo, a 24-year-old reservist from the Hamilton-based Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was revealed as a beautiful guy, big smile, wonderfully ordinary, handsome, decent, a loving single father of his five-year-old son, Marcus, deeply loved by his anguished mother, Kathy. He was a Canadian not identifiable by the ribbons of stereotype, status, career, presumed income, or neighbourhood – as a native and ineradicable Hamiltonian that half a century of West Coast living hasn’t worn smooth, I might have pigeon-holed him by his address.
If you were searching for a representative Canadian, you could have randomly plucked Nathan Cirillo off the shelf and got exactly the right one.
Zehaf-Bibeau had a further stroke of bad luck. It just wasn’t his day, eh?
Having shot a stranger, head bowed, whose rifle was unloaded at the solemn memorial honouring those who have kept the beast at bay and protected what is best about us and our country, he hastened into the pretty lightly protected Centre Block of Parliament.
Here, after gunfire broke out between him and security guards, Zehaf-Bibeau encountered further misfortune, in the shape of Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the Commons, who carries the ceremonial mace at the opening of the House.
This duty may seem an amusingly archaic costume show. But in fact Vickers is a 29-year RCMP veteran experienced in top-level security. He repaired to his office, unlocked his handgun and, from the floor, shot the homemade terrorist, reportedly in the head. (Books soon will be feverishly flying off to panting publishers that will expand or correct current information.)
Zehaf-Bibeau – a sad, shabby case, reportedly a crack cocaine user with an undistinguished criminal record – arguably took one for the ill-defined terrorist team. But he didn’t know he was the thickness of a couple of doors from causing further serious injury and death to parliamentarians in conclave. And that tense day certainly came at a high cost to Ottawa businesses and police and other government services.
But he totally failed to distribute terrorism’s most important product – terror.
Canadians, an indolent people in proclaiming patriotism, snapped to attention, ranks closed, and bellowed O Canada from coast to coast. Typically, and unforgettably for the undersigned, with parade-ground precision, host Christopher Gage smartly marshalled the mainly old folks at a Tea & Trumpets matinee of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Gordon Gerrard conducting, in a more than perfunctory rendition of the anthem.
When Nathan Cirillo woke up on the morning of October 22, he could never have imagined that by nightfall he would leave us a better people, and that he would forever be identified with our Remembrance Day. •
Trevor Lautens, who will be embarrassed by tears November 11 when the flyover of Second World War planes recalls days when Commonwealth pilots were trained at Mount Hope, Ontario, near his boyhood home, writes every second Tuesday in Business in Vancouver.