Dawson College Shootings

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.

The scene near Dawson College today around 1:30 PM

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.

8 thoughts on “Dawson College Shootings

  1. My heart goes out to everyone at Dawson. I am a former John Abbott teacher, was for 20 years. I ‘know’ those students even if I don’t actually know them. I have friends who still teach at Dawson, who love Dawson. I know what they teach and study and I know what the college atmosphere is like at the start of term. I know what they talk about in the cafeteria and I know how the first year students feel finally being liberated from high school. My older daughter is a graduate of Dawson, the Reflections Programme. I feel like it happened down the street and yet it is a continent away… and I feel terrible.

  2. Your previous blog re: Condee’s visit with Petey was a brief chance for “folly” with respect to commenting on world events. I was all set to respond with another typical smarmy remark. Never had the chance… all too quickly, “fluff” news was on the back-burner and the “real” news issues of tragedy, hatred and senseless acting out reassumed their place front and center. Why,why,why?

  3. Now they’re suggesting we monitor the blogosphere. In order to arrest people, or help them? And who will differentiate between blogs that represent a person’s true state of mind and those that are merely creative extrapolations on a single aspect of their personality? When they discovered that the BTK killer Denis Rader was a well-loved, respected and “hard working” church attendant, did anyone propose that we monitor church attendance?

    If you want to avoid future shootings of this kind, pay teachers a higher salary, reduce their class sizes and train them to recognize early warning signs of mental illness and social maladjustment. Don’t hire police but instead hire counselors trained as security personnel to patrol schools, counsel kids and keep them safe from bullying or harassment. And lastly, quadruple funding for public mental health care programs while educating the public about the impact of mental illness. This isn’t a “crime” problem, it’s a societal problem and it can be solved by simple societal changes.

    Oh and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if society could stop promoting violence (through war, oppressive foreign policy and a legal system based purely on punitive crime prevention) while demanding that its children pretend that it in fact does not promote such violence. They’ve long ago proven that repeating a contradictory set of instructions will eventually drive almost anyone insane.

  4. […] A hat tip goes to J. Kelly Nestruck and Darren Barefoot for some of the links. Several Flickr users have posted photos related to the Dawson College attacks, including Robert Lio and a user named Blork, who also has a blog post here. A user named esTes/Belz has created and uploaded a memorial banner for people to use on their webpages about the event. […]

  5. First off my condolecences to the family of anastasia be strong and pray for her! and to the students of dawson, fear not your family and friends are with you! it is a sensless act that is not easy to comprehend but the important thing here now is to start the process of healing! as a parent and an old college student (Vanier) my heart goes out to all of you.

  6. Rachel, I completely agree!! Lack of understanding, proper funding, and where the funding should be used. I used to work in a school and its all about getting the numbers higher, more attendance, more funding….focusing on the kids that aren’t attending yet….well lets help the kids that are already enrolled, give funding for counseling and mental health care programs for the kids already in school. Kids need someone they can talk to, easily approachable and always have TIME. Teachers don’t have time anymore with these massive class sizes and new material. They can’t do everything!

  7. Hi there,

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