The shots rang out.
Murray Rankin hid under a desk at the Centre Block building at Parliament Hill in Ottawa Wednesday, as an NDP caucus meeting quickly turned into a whirling state of terror.
“Just before 10 a.m., we heard what we thought were construction sounds,” said Rankin, Victoria MP. “We’ve never heard those noises before. Then at one point I heard a dozen, maybe 10 gunshots going off.”
At that point, security took charge, barricaded the doors and told NDP caucus members to take cover and not to leave.
“We put chairs in front of the doors, and we were told to go to the floor and get under the desk.”
A soldier who was guarding the National War memorial died after being shot down by a gunman on Wednesday morning. Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, brother of Victoria resident John Vickers, is credited with shooting and killing one gunman on Parliament Hill.
Rankin’s thoughts immediately went to his staff in an adjacent building, wondering if they were safe.
But getting through was difficult, as phone lines were jammed. Worry was building as people desperately searched for answers.
After several attempts, Rankin finally got through to his assistant and confirmed she was safe, although also on lockdown in the East Block building of Parliament Hill.
Rankin and his colleagues remained huddled together under the desk awaiting instruction. A colleague next to him was visibly shaking with fear. No one knew what would happen next.
About 15 minutes later, a security guard told them all to line up in single file and leave by the side door.
Despite the visible anxiety of his colleagues, Rankin said nobody panicked.
“I’m proud to say we all evacuated the building in an orderly way.”
One security guard led them out of the building, then they were taken to another building near Parliament Hill and put under lockdown.
“There are hundreds of military and police personnel in the area,” said Rankin. “Outside the building are people with machine guns. It’s not something that’s ever been experienced in Ottawa before.”
The shock is insurmountable.
“You hear of these things and you think of them happening on other countries. You don’t think of them happening in Canada.”
Despite the fear and uncertainty, Rankin will not let those feelings control him.
“We’re not going to let terrorists, or whoever these people are, change the way that democracy works in Canada. We have to stand firm against this. We have to not let these incidents change the way we do the people’s business.”
The B.C. legislature increased its security on Wednesday, and was not open to the public. Only those on official business, or who are with a prearranged school tour or event were permitted inside.
“We are watching events in Ottawa, and we’re just being vigilant,” said Craig James, clerk of the B.C. Legislature. We’ve been advised by the national authorities to be vigilant.”