Congratulations, Ottawa, for the Quiet Respect


“So very sad.  My heart breaks for the family, friends, and colleagues touched by today’s tragedy.” 22 October 2014

This status came up on my Facebook feed reminding me of what happened two years ago in Ottawa.  The moment I heard that a ceremonial guard had been shot, my heart raced, hoping it wasn’t a young friend of mine who was on duty that morning.

What a difference eight minutes makes.  It wasn’t her.

Of course, social media was buzzing with live updates through Twitter and chatter on Facebook, some of us looking for family confirmation that she was safe.

I learned that all the messages of love she received were heart-warming at first, but eventually, it was overwhelming and she stepped away from social media.  Many people experienced the shock that day and all of them had to process the information and move forward.  Having the whole scene revisited by the social media junkies kept the adrenalin pumping.

This keeping images and conversations going on for so long is not natural.  Humans need time to come down from a terrifying incident.  It doesn’t mean that we sweep it under the carpet, just that we learn to find that fine line between satisfying the need to know and fueling the sensationalism.  We need to know when to step back, as my friend so wisely did.

When the memory message popped up, I thought about sharing it.  I wanted to respect the day and those who were affected.  I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, but my gut was telling me not to share.

I watched my feed throughout the day.  The family members changed their profile pictures without adding words.  I liked each one as my way of letting them know I was thinking of them.  Other people had also changed their profiles, with no words attached.  No replies.  No discussion.  Just acknowledgement.

I felt proud of my Facebook friends for not sensationalizing the day and for their quiet respect.

Sometimes, the silence says it all.

6 thoughts on “Congratulations, Ottawa, for the Quiet Respect

  1. I really respect the way you handled your Facebook activities in regards to this sad anniversary. I agree that words would risk sensationalizing it and dragging up painful memories, but at the same time acknowledgement is surely meaningful to those who were affected.

    • Thank you Cecily. I am hoping that with time, a social media etiquette of sorts will develop around this kind of event.

  2. Thank you for this. I was in downtown Ottawa that day and if was difficult for everyone. I personally was able to get past it by attending the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph a few weeks later. I still think of Nathan Cirillo when I pass it and I suspect I will on Remembrance Day, wherever I am. But that is just for me, not to perpetuate or sensationalize what happened. Thank you.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Patrick. I can’t help but think of him and his colleagues every time I go by, too. When I read your response, I felt the authenticity of your words.

  3. Pamela, I remember that day too though I am hours away from Ottawa. You make a really great point here – that when something traumatic happens, as humans, we need time away to process what has happened. Soaking ourselves in images and messages of the trauma are actually damaging and, as you said, overwhelming. This piece of wisdom you shared is so clear and true, that I’m surprised it’s not more obvious to many (myself included)!

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