By Erin Stewart.
I don’t watch the news; on October 22, 2014, I didn’t have to.
War. Suspects. Shooting. Soldiers. Police. Government. First responders.
These words filled my timelines. My Facebook. My Twitter. My Instagram. My inbox.
It was one of those days we’ll always remember. And I love a first responder; in fact, I love many. So for me, it was also one of the days I always fear.
The night before, I read an article that pissed me off. It was about policing; it was anti- police. I put it up on Facebook and the cop-bashing started immediately, so I deleted it.
The next morning, October 22nd, Canada was faced with a critical incident that tested our first responders, government security and Nation’s values – our government was faced with a shooting that took place on Parliament Hill and the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The life of an unarmed soldier who was symbolically standing at the National War Memorial was taken when a gunman fired two shots into his back and injured others. This all took place after another soldier was run down in Quebec earlier that week.
In the midst of this crisis, our heroes show up, equipped and ready. The media winds shifted; that day and in the following days, our first responders were painted as heroes, not villains. But they’re always heroes to me.
The thing about loving a first responder is this: We worry. We worry all the time.
The scene in the John Travolta movie Ladder 49– when the wife yells at the husband that she had “that dream about the red car showing up” on a night he doesn’t come home from work? It’s not a dream for me. It is a recurring nightmare.
Parents. Spouses. Lovers. Siblings. Children.
Of first responders. Of soldiers.
This is our reality.
We bite our nails to the bloody skin while we watch the funerals of fallen heroes on TV.
Our family is vast. So vast that we’re pushed to tears at the mention of a fallen hero, empathetic for their families but still praying and hoping we never get that call. Never get that visit. Never get that notification.
That is our life.
And… there’s the endless criticism. Criticism of our heroes: they make too much money, they get too much time off, they get to do whatever they want without accountability, they’re lazy.
Doughnut dopes. Bandaid brigade. Hose jockeys. Bucket boys.
The endless criticism of people only free to criticize because of the blood of our heroes.
We bite more than our nails. We bite our tongues, begrudgingly acknowledging that: yes, every profession has a few bad eggs. We nod and smile, often allowing people to believe they know what they are talking about.
During the G20 Summit in Toronto, Ontario in 2010, I sat huddled in a corner on the living room floor for hours as I watched coverage of the live riots… I watched police in riot gear stepping into conflicts, being beaten, their cruisers set on fire, having objects and rocks thrown at them… knowing my heroes were there, in their riot gear, trying to keep the peace. Every officer there was a son or father, a sister or child of somebody watching worried at home. As I watched the coverage, I knew there was no way of knowing whether my loved one was injured or safe until they got home from work the next morning… alive.
Until a gunman has gone to the workplace of your loved one for the sole purpose of killing them…
Until you’ve waited for a call from your loved one stationed abroad, fighting for your freedom, praying they are safe, you don’t know.
Until every single Christmas and birthday and holiday and simple family dinner is completely ransacked by other people’s problems… by other people’s crises… by emergencies… by shiftwork and nights and afternoons and days… and pagers, texts, and phone calls… you just don’t know what it is like.
But I would never change it. Just like my heroes’ jobs shape them, they also shape me. I am proud of the people who are brave enough to risk their life for their country. For other people. For freedom.
I am honoured to know them.
Heroes are humans. So are their families.
Heroes demonstrate what selflessness looks like. I wouldn’t want them to change. I wouldn’t trade these experiences because it means that the lives they save wouldn’t be saved.
If no one fought for our freedom, we wouldn’t be free.
For those directly or indirectly impacted by acts of terror in Ottawa… I’m sorry you ever had to know this.
The other targets. Parliament security and staff. Our MPs. The first responders. The civilians. The tourists… my heart is with you.
For the loved ones of the fallen soldiers… I have no words that can take away any of your pain or tell you things you don’t already know. I send as much love as I have to give to you in this time of grief and sorrow.
This is the price of loving a hero.
Erin is a jack-of-all trades with seemingly endless opportunities to take on “odd jobs” including photography, writing, hair-styling, pet-sitting and tutoring. She is a soccer fanatic and bulletproof coffee addict who could never live far from the water. Erin loves many first responders as several members of her family and extended family make daily sacrifices to protect the public and keep the peace. She is the Co-Founder of Ugly Ducklings Inc and can be found tweeting copious amounts of nature and food pictures on twitter @erinjcruz.