When the calls started to come in about a shooting at a mill in Nanaimo Wednesday morning, it seemed impossible to believe.
A gunman opening fire on four men going about their daily work routine is something that happens in New York or Detroit. Not in our sleepy little town of Nanaimo.
As the story unfolded, residents moved about in shock, unable to process what they were hearing from friends, neighbours and the media. That’s because it’s never happened before – not in our little piece of paradise in the Pacific Ocean, anyway.
As the shock subsided, we moved on to other emotions, such as sadness and outrage, and sought to find answers and lay blame. What we shouldn’t do is be fearful. We aren’t invulnerable to violence, but we must be strong, not scared, when these crimes happen, and also when they don’t.
Nanaimo is nothing if not resilient. This is a city that overcame one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history and continued over the next 125 years to build a tight-knit community.
Nanaimo is not about a lone gunman who chose to hurt others through violence.
It is about charity, with dozens of non-profits societies dedicated to helping children and families grow and prosper. It is about community, raising money through events like the Silly Boat Regatta and the dragon boat festival to benefit charities for children and healthcare. It is about enjoying life, with annual celebrations to mark contributions of farming and mining to the history and the fabric of society.
All this is brought together by thousands of dedicated volunteers who love to help as much as they love this city.
As the satellite trucks and helicopters retreat, the healing continues as the community supports the families and friends of the killed and injured.
Nanaimo is about all of the good things that we, as a community, value in life.