Note: this post does not contain any new information about the shootings at Dawson College today. If you’re looking for news or eye-witness reports, you should look elsewhere. Like here, for example.
As I was eating my lunch, I heard a lot of sirens outside on Boul. de Maisonneuve (I work at de Maisonneuve and McGill-College, almost two kilometres from Dawson). Sirens are not unusual at that busy address, but this seemed different. For five solid minutes it was one siren after another. I finished eating and decided to go out and see what was going on.
I went down to the street and a police car immediately zoomed past heading west on de Maisonneuve, so that’s the direction I walked. A couple of minutes later an ambulance went by, then another, then a fire truck. I could see they were going farther than rue Guy, but because of the bend in the street I couldn’t see just how far.
A few minutes later I was getting close to rue Guy, and by then I noticed there were a lot of people walking the other way – coming towards me – and almost every one of them was talking on their mobile phone. I caught bits of talk; “Oh my God!” “What?” and the most chilling, “At least you’re alive.”
A couple of blocks later, near rue St. Marc, I saw three cars stopped on de Maisonneuve. One was just stalled in the middle of the road, another had been rear-ended, and a third had a crumpled front and had been pushed half way onto the sidewalk with its rear flank bent against a parking meter. Broken headlight lenses were all over the street. But there were no people there, and no police. An abandonned traffic accident. Everyone was walking east, away from the scene, a few of them running, almost all talking on the phone.
I got closer. At Lambert-Closse (a block from Atwater), de Maisonneuve was blocked by cop cars and police tape. I was able to get half-way to Atwater, and could see that the corner was full of police and ambulances. Every few minutes there would be a flurry of activity and cops would run here or there. Mostly it was just people streaming away from the scene, some in tears, as well as a few lingerers looking beyond the police tape.
By then I had overheard exactly what had happened. It was about 1:15 p.m., some 30 minutes after the shooting had started. (Some reports say the shooting lasted for 20-30 minutes, and at least one witness claimed there was shooting right up until 3:00 p.m.)
It was a strange place to be. A cluster of gawkers around a bunch of emergency vehicles is not unusual – it happens whenever a big fire breaks out. But this was different. There were notebooks, textbooks, and other student paraphenalia scattered about. It was only later, when I realized how much ground the shooter had covered, that I realized the stuff had been dropped by people fleeing the scene during the first few minutes of chaos. Basically that means I was standing a matter of feet from where the shooting had started. What shook me, however, was when I noticed I could still smell cordite (gunpower). That’s when it really sunk in that this was more than just some nut taking a few pot-shots.
After a few minutes I turned and walked back to work. It was a long, strange walk, filled with overheard snippets of conversations. “It was like… bang! Bang!” “I’m so glad you’re OK!” “I can’t get through to my Mom…” Some people still had no idea what was going on. Others wore glassy-eyed, almost frantic expressions. Most simply looked stern and clench-jawed.