The news of a lone gunman on Ottawa, Canada’s Parliament Hill on October 22, 2014, frightened many Ontarians, particularly those whose loved ones were working near the War Memorial, one of Canada’s most treasured monuments. That a Canadian soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, had been killed while guarding the National War Memorial was even more devastating. Today, on the one-year anniversary of what has been deemed by many to be a terror attack, Cirillo is once again mourned.
Cirillo was a mere 24 years of age while he stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on October 22, 2014, and was shot in the back by a gunman who later made his way inside the Canadian Parliamentary buildings. While the gunman was later shot and killed by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, who is now the Canadian ambassador to Ireland, Cirillo died of his injuries, leaving behind his beloved son, Marcus, and his dogs.
Vickers said in May 2015, while he accepted an honorary degree from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, his mother said a prayer for both the mothers of Cirillo and the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, according to CBC News. Yesterday, Cirillo’s mother joined her son’s former regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, in Hamilton for a memorial ceremony honoring her son’s life, Yahoo News reported.
Cirillo’s sister Nicole said during the hilltop ceremony in Hamilton, which CBC News reported, that her brother’s death has resulted in the family struggling to find their new sense of normal.
“When Nathan passed away, our family’s snowglobe was shaken and turned upside down, and now everything is falling in a new place. It is unrecognizable. There is sorrow and pain. All we want to do is go back to the world that we once knew,” she said, according to Yahoo News.
Young Marcus Cirillo was also in attendance for the memorial ceremony, though he was a typical youngster and playing prior to it. The younger Cirillo’s image was plastered across several Canadian magazines following his father’s funeral.
Many struggled to understand how such a tragedy could occur on Canadian soil instead of in a war zone. One of Cirillo’s longtime friends, Karic Francella, had an image of his friend in dress uniform tattooed on his arm. He had known Cirillo for 13 years when his friend was killed.
“I feel devastated,” said Francella, 22, according to the Toronto Star. “I could understand it if he’d been killed in Afghanistan. But standing there, guarding the war memorial? It’s the last thing anybody would expect.”
Indeed, given Canada has widely been regarded as a fairly quiet country with a fairly low incidence of shooting crimes occurring compared to other countries, such a blatant act of violence is shocking. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said of Cirillo’s son at the funeral for the fallen soldier last year, according to the Toronto Star, “May his son, young Marcus Daniel Cirillo, someday find comfort in the fact that our entire country looks up to his dad with pride, with gratitude, with deep abiding respect.”
Six people are also thinking of Nathan Cirillo in the wake of the anniversary of his passing. Former nurse Margaret Lerhe, Martin Magnan, Cpl. Kyle Button, Col. Conrad Mialkowski, Cpl. Anthony Wiseman, and former naval reservist Barbara Winters all arrived at the National War Memorial within minutes of each other, and after quickly realizing what had occurred, feverishly worked to try and save Cirillo’s life, according to CBC News.
“It’s always going to be something in my life. This place is always going to mean something on this day, and I’m sure… for the rest of my life, the 22nd of October will definitely be a day I’ll never forget,” Button said.
Nathan Cirillo’s family continues to take steps towards learning to live without their brother and son. Nicole Cirillo said it is important to continue to honor her brother’s life, even though the family continues to pick up the pieces, a year after he was tragically cut down at 24.
“He loved adventure and risk, but most of all, Nathan loved,” she said. “He loved his family and friends. And anyone that knew him knows how much love was behind that perfect smile.”
[Image via Huffington Post / Facebook]