3 years ago tomorrow will mark the anniversary of the death of Anastasia De Sousa, a first year student at Dawson college who had started school just a few days earlier.
I had my little cousin living with me at the time, he was from the country and wanted to come to the city to attend college, so he chose Dawson because it's the city's largest English college and is in the heart of the city. So, like Anastasia, he was also a first year student.
I remember it like it was yesterday...
I was sitting at the office when the rumors started, something was happening at at Dawson. People checked the news websites, listened to the radio but all you would hear was "Police officers entered Dawson college..." And this, in a city the size of Montreal is nothing to worry about, it happens often enough.
Then, a woman that I worked with came into my office and said: "... They're reporting that there's been gunfire at Dawson..."
I picked up my bag, I tried calling someone I knew who worked near Dawson to confirm, but I got no answer.
I picked up my things and ran down the street to the metro station. To get to Dawson from my office I had to go 4 metro stations on the orange line and then change to the green line and go 1 station. But when I got inside the metro station I heard an announcement saying that the green line was closed to a police intervention.
So I ran, in my suit, my dress shoes, my tie worrying sick. I ran up Beaver Hall hill, all the way to Maisonneuve and ran the 18 or so major blocks to Dawson college.
Along the way the street was full of people running away from the very Place I was going, tears running down their faces or in various states of shock. I kept asking people what had happened. I got a few different versions. But the consensus was this: A guy came into the school with handguns and an automatic weapon and opened fire and was now in the middle of a showdown with Montreal Police.
So I ran as fast as I could making my way through the crowd, searching and searching for my little cousin's face. Hoping that he hadn't been shot on his first week in the city.
Finally I found him, and a group of his friends, among the thousands that were now in the streets of downtown. I took him and his friends to a nearby coffee shop and had them call all of their parents to tell them they were safe.
That night my cousin and I were sitting in my kitchen drinking a beer and he cried. Many nights after that he cried, he couldn't sleep, he couldn't talk about it. Being trapped in a school with bullets flying, with a child dying, being trapped and not knowing why this is happening or if you're going to make it out.
In the end he did escape; but in the end for him and many Dawson students they will never escape the memory of that day and even if they weren't physically injured by the gunman, a little part of their souls will be scarred forever.