Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Wrong Place, Right Time

"All four of us were on the square. We were taking pictures. I moved a bit closer than them to take pictures, a bit closer to the guards and particularly the commemorative plaque on the Memorial."
"I realized that this wasn't a movie, that it was really an attack."
"I took two pictures of him killing Nathan Cirillo. I saw him with my own eyes shoot at Nathan Cirillo and his colleague next to him."
"He looked me straight in the eyes. And he raised his rifle and yelled: 'This is for Iraq'. And then he ran off, he ran behind. He ran off and headed for the Parliament."
Jean Paul, French tourist in Ottawa, October 22, 2014 
IMG_7408 _1
9:53:38 A.M. —  The last known picture taken of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo before he was shot while 
standing guard at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22, 2014 was captured seconds before the 
shooting began by a French tourist waiting nearby for a tour bus. Cirillo, left, stands next to friend 
and fellow soldier Cpl. Branden Stevenson.
A man, his wife, sister-in-law and her husband were visiting Ottawa from France. It was a lengthy visit and they did their fair share of looking about. Finding themselves stopping in the nation's capital on a fateful day. While taking photographs of the local scene, and in particular standing before the National War Memorial where two ceremonial guards were posted, they stood nearby, awaiting a city tour bus for which they had bought tickets.

The 63-year-old Jean Paul is a man not easily rattled. During his lifetime it is possible that the single most dramatic and dreadful occurrence to which he was witness was on the cusp of occurring as he took a close-quarter photograph of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, one of two guards on duty at the Cenotaph. A moment or two passed between the taking of that photograph and the stealth approach from behind of a man whose face was partially concealed.
9:53:50 A.M. — Just 12 seconds later, the tourist snaps a photo of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau pointing his rifle at Cirillo, who has moved from his post to seek cover, as has Cpl. Stevenson. Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cirillo three times.
9:53:50 A.M. — Just 12 seconds later, the tourist snaps a photo of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau pointing his rifle at Cirillo, who has moved from his post to seek cover, as has Cpl. Stevenson. Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cirillo three 
times. Ottawa Citizen
The drama and the dread lay in the fact that the man who wore a keffiyah-type scarf over the lower portion of his face held a rifle as he approached the cenotaph, beyond sight of the two guards. And Jean Paul turned his camera toward the interloper to take a succession of photographs, compelling and haunting in the trajectory of swift events that brought a city to its knees, in sorrow and in protective lock-down.

An estimated dozen seconds following the photograph taken of Cpl. Cirillo and his companion, the barrel of the assassin's rifle was aimed at the soldier, and fired at close range, at his back. Both of the Canadian soldiers standing at ceremonial guard carried rifles, and both by convention were unloaded. Two seconds passed and the man with the rifle realizes his picture is being taken. As he runs off, others run to the aid of the fallen soldier. Jean Paul takes those photographs, too.

And the assassin sprints toward Parliament Hill, commandeers a car to drive the short distance to the Hill, enters, shooting even as he is being shot at himself by now-alerted security personnel; RCMP on the outside of Parliament, Parliamentary security guards on the interior. The terrorist -- for such he is -- ran through the corridors past the entrance hall, toward where on either side were large chambers where parliamentarians were assembled for meetings, including the Prime Minister of Canada.

He was shot to death before he had the opportunity to go beyond wounding anyone else. In the fear and uncertainty that arose resulting from this assault on a free and democratic country by a man who had converted to fanatical Salafist Islam, the halls of government were shut down, and all activity was frozen in the city core while police converged on the scene, not knowing how many terrorists might be involved, and whether the threats were ongoing.

The nation mourned the death of a young reservist, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, and was traumatized by the sinister choices made by another Canadian, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. One a young man faithful to his belief in his country and its values, the other choosing to attack his country in the belief that his religion was under siege and it was his duty as a devout Muslim to wreak vengeance on those who he believed defamed Islam and fought its jihadists.

And, for the first time, the public was being made aware that the mysterious photograph that had turned up on the Internet represented the photographic product of an accidental tourist whose exposure to a violent event in the life of a nation left him shaken, his memory scored deeply with the trauma. He has the series of photographs he had taken to remind him, should he ever feel the need to be reminded.

And then, months later, jihadists in France committed to several other attacks in France, one at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the other at a kosher supermarket, delivering their message of violent jihadist contempt for humanity. "All that brought back very difficult moments for us. And for the Canadian people. Because it's terrorism It's terrorism, pure and simple", commented Jean Paul.

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