With broken hearts

10489746_10152146145521962_7805419520453661075_nIt can’t happen here–until it did. This morning, we turned on our televisions to see an unbelievable tragedy, a chain of events that left a soldier dead and a nation in shock.
We have been attacked at the very heart of our country, our national being. The shooter could not have issued a louder message, even if it’s not quite clear or public yet what the purpose of the attack was and who is behind it.
Like many Canadians, I was fixed to the news, unable to really believe what was happening. It seemed surreal, as Peter Mansbridge anchored the coverage, his familiar baritone catching from time to time as he disseminated the information as it came in, keeping watchers informed.
In times of darkness, I turn to comfort food; but this is beyond dark; it’s incomprehensible. This is my country, my safe country. We go to other countries to offer assistance when these things happen, they do not happen here.
I can’t make sense of this, so I turn to what I can make sense of, and that’s my kitchen. Pulling ingredients out of the fridge, I think about my friends in Ottawa and I’m relieved they are safe.
Chopping onions, celery, garlic–the orderliness of the dicing and slicing, the repetitive motion of the knife, brings me some comfort. I make chili, and stirring in the spices I think of murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the reservist whose picture is being circulated. Now we have a face to the earlier footage of a soldier, undergoing CPR and being whisked away by ambulance, the broad smile of the photo, gone.
When Canadians enlist, they know the danger. Regular and reserve forces understand they may end up making the ultimate sacrifice in service to country. But not like this. They know the risks as they head off to Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan. There should be no risk guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there should only be the feeling of privilege, and honour, of guarding this representation of our freedom.
I’m angry, so angry that this young life has been snuffed out for what? Chopping zucchini and eggplant for ratatouille, perfect cubes of vegetables on the cutting board, my knuckles are white on the knife handle.
I find half a red onion, some leftover tomatoes, and open a can of chickpeas for channa masala. The gunman is dead, and I’m glad. I try not to be like this, I try and humanize him but I can’t. Am I a terrible person for thinking this way? Right now, I don’t care, but I don’t like this feeling. I hardly realize that I’ve sliced a bag of mushrooms, and sauté them with balsamic vinegar, letting it reduce to a glaze. I use some of that liquid in a marinade for flank steak, and waste no more thoughts on him.
Unsettled, I turn to baking. Wishing I had yeast to make bread, but don’t so instead I turn to an old standby, a Jean Pare Company’s Coming book. Muffins & More is where we dug up recipes for the continental breakfast at the first hotel I worked in, and I turn the spattered and stained pages, looking for comfort. As I break eggs and measure flour, I think of 58 year old Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers. He’s being hailed as a hero for at the very least, keeping MP’s safe today and at the very most, saving their lives. There are several reports indicating it was he who shot the gunman and in doing so, undoubtedly prevented more carnage. In the days to come I know we’ll get more information, and the scope of his heroics today.
Lined up on the counter are a lemon-raspberry loaf, a peanut butter loaf, and a cinnamon streusel coffee cake. This is the only order I will find today.
I look for comfort in the blessings of the day–my little family is tucked in safe and sound. This day has had a profound impact on all Canadians, whether we realize it or not. Things will never be the same. Will I ever feel as safe and secure as I did before 10:00 this morning?
In the coming days, the country will be tested. Horror, relief, patriotism, will give way to blame laying and speculation. But I can’t dwell anymore. The pantry and fridge are empty, and the kitchen is closed.

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