Mayerthorpe's 10th anniversary memorial builds bridges to the past
Town comes together again to honour four Mounties murdered by gunman a decade ago
They were six years old that day.
And though their town had lost its innocence, they were simply too young to grasp the reasons why.
They did not fully comprehend the terrible facts: that four police officers had been murdered.
They did not understand, when they lined up to sing their song of love, that the whole country was watching, that the whole country was grieving.
“We were so innocent,” says Mikayla Bosch, who was among the Grade 1 students on stage that day when the town of Mayerthorpe held a memorial service for four fallen RCMP officers.
“And that’s what made the performance. If we would have known how important it was, or we would have known what actually happened, it wouldn’t have sent the message that it did.”
Tomorrow evening, that message will repeated. As it has been on every March 3 for the past 10 years.
This time, the first-graders who sang that day, now grown into teenagers, will understand the importance of their message.
This time, they will joined by the newest class of Grade 1 students at Elmer Elson School.
Fallyn Adams and Maddy Hansen will be there to sing that same song, all over again.
It’s called Love Can Build a Bridge.
Asked to explain song’s meaning, the two little girls put their heads together and whisper.
“Kindness,” is the word they come up with. It’s a very good choice.
“It’s about loving and caring, and of being generous,” Fallyn says. “If somebody had a son, or a husband or a brother who was one of them, they could have a minute to feel that there’s not just hate in the world.”
An answer that shows, perhaps, that six-year-olds might understand more than they’re letting on.
'Bringing your heart back together'
The song, says Maddy, is about “bringing your heart back together.”
The town of Mayerthorpe, (population about 1,500), no bigger today than it was a decade ago, has been doing just that, bringing its heart back together, ever since March 3, 2005.
Everyone who was old enough, back then, remembers where they were when the they heard the news that four Mounties - constables Brock Myrol, 29, Leo Johnston, 32, Peter Schiemann, 25, and Anthony Gordon, 28, had been gunned down by an angry man with too many guns and too many unjustified grudges against authority.
In the days after, as the town and the nation struggled to come to terms with the senseless violence, it fell, at least in part, to small children to remind everyone that innocence is never truly lost, that it can and does abide.
When the town began to plan a memorial service, two Grade 1 teachers wanted their students to play some small part.
“That day, there was a loss of innocence,” says teacher Susan Mattson. “We live in a small town where people don’t lock their doors. But I think it also showed us how we are all connected.”
Leanna Hagman had a $6 book from Winners she’d bought to help her students learn about compassion. The book, by country singer Naomi Judd, was called Love Can Build a Bridge. It came complete with a cassette tape of the song.
Hagman and Mattson set to work teaching the song to their Grade 1 classes. The kids learned to sing the lyrics, and to sign them with their hands.
“It was such an emotional moment,” Mattson says of their performance at the first memorial. “We felt like it was our little way that we could help people. Just trying to send a message of hope and peace to a town that was so badly hurt.”
Tomorrow night, the original singers will be joined by this year’s Grade 1 class.
Ten years has passed since that first memorial
“On my way to school I pass the fallen four park every day,” says Cameron Rizzoli, 17, who will sing the song again tomorrow night. “It’s a part of your life. When someone asks you, ‘Oh, where are you from?’ And you say Mayerthorpe, that’s the thing that makes them remember what the town is.”
“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” says Danielle Knapp, 16, looking back to that day a decade ago.