Condolences pour in over death of Nathan Cirillo

The James Street North amoury, home base of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, became an unofficial memorial for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo Wednesday as residents reacted to news of his death at the national war memorial in Ottawa.
Chloe Hogan, of Hamilton, places flowers in memory of soldier Nathan Cirillo outside the gates of the John Weir Foote Armoury, the home of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada in Hamilton. (Aaron Lynett/Canadian Press)

Marg Harris wiped away tears as she laid a bouquet at the doors of the James North armoury.

She didn’t know Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the Hamilton reservist who was shot and killed by a gunman. But it’s emotional nonetheless.

“You’re seeing them do CPR (on TV), and you’re hoping he pulls through,” said Harris, a Mountain resident who has volunteered with the local group Canadian Heroes.

“We don’t toot our own horn, so to speak, as well as perhaps some other countries,” she said. “So it’s sort of nice to come down and say we’re sorry this happened, and we’re thinking about everybody.”

Paul Rogers from Jean's Flower Shop delivers 18 bouquets to the John W. Foote VC Armoury on Wednesday. Hamiltonians dropped off flowers after learning of the death of Corp. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot while guarding the national war memorial in Ottawa. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Harris was one of dozens of residents who dropped off flowers at the armoury, which quickly became a memorial, a place for people to direct their sorrow, grief and support. Cirillo was gunned down around on Wednesday as he guarded the national memorial on Parliament Hill.

In addition to residents, official condolences came in from around the world on Wednesday. They came from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Hamilton police chief Glenn De Caire, the RCMP and Mayor Bob Bratina, among others.

It’s sadness, a loss of innocence. We have gunshots in the Centre Block and a dead Canadian soldier. It’s hard to put words to it but it’s very sad.- Mayor Bob Bratina

The sadness, Bratina said, is similar to 9/11 in Hamilton.

Like the Sept. 11 attacks, “this sort of feeling is engulfing the city,” he said.

“It’s sadness, a loss of innocence,” he said. “We have gunshots in the Centre Block and a dead Canadian soldier.

“It’s hard to put words to it but it’s very sad.”

Hamiltonians piled flowers around the entrance of the armory, smaller bouquets flanking a larger red and white cross saying “Lest we forget.” Media flocked around the display, photographing anyone who laid a bouquet.

Paul Rogers delivered 18 bouquets donated by Jean’s Flower Shop. He’s thinking about the incident “like we all are,” he said.

De Caire called Cirillo “a part-time soldier, and a full-time Canadian.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of the Argyll and Sutherland reservist who was killed today, serving his country,” he said in a statement.

Citizens should 'always remain alert'

Police are working with "partners to secure federal facilities and areas of concern," he said.

“Citizens should always remain alert and vigilant when it comes to their personal safety and report suspicious incidents and behavior to police."

The Argyll and Sutherland regiment acknowledged the outpouring on Facebook, and said it wouldn't be answering questions.

"The Argylls appreciate the concern for the Canadian Armed Forces members in Ottawa, however, we are not able to answer any questions or comment on the developing situation," it wrote.

Hamilton's armoury is locked down, with some non uniformed officers being let in individually on James Street N. in Hamilton, Ont. (Jeff Green/CBC)

"How very sad and tragic," wrote an American woman. "My condolences from Michigan. I have been to the City of Ottawa and to the Memorial and it is a beautiful place. I am so sorry."

Marston heard 20 gunshots

Wayne Marston, MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, says he was in a caucus meeting when he heard gunshots in the hall. He heard eight shots, then a three-second pause, then about half a dozen more. All told, he heard about 20 shots, he said.

The moment he heard the shots, which were amplified by the hollow sound of the halls at Parliament Hill, and he and everyone else hit the floor. Having a military background, Marston knew immediately what the sound was.

Security escorted them out, and he passed the monument, where he saw the soldier's foot and knew he was a member of Hamilton's Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. Someone was doing chest compressions on the soldier.

"I continued on and my heart kind of sank," he said.

"No matter who it is, you’re going to feel sadness, but it touches you a little bit more when it’s someone from your community."

British PM 'appalled'

MPP Paul Miller tweeted his condolences. MPPs at Queen’s Park have met with security staff to discuss security measures, he said.

“Certainly we’re going to have to take a hard look at our security measures both provincially and federally,” he said. 

Cameron said he was "appalled" by the incident and that he offered his full support to Canada.

By 4:30 p.m., someone created a Facebook page in Cirillo's memory.

"From my family to yours, I am devastated for your loss," someone wrote. "I don't even know what else to say but he didn't deserve this."


Statement from Mayor Bob Bratina:

Today a member of Hamilton’s own Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was killed while performing the duties of a sentry at the National War Memorial. 

His name has not been released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

The death of this young citizen-soldier and the act of terror that took his life in Ottawa today give us all cause to reflect on dangers that young men and women can face at any time when they don the uniforms of the military and protective services to serve their fellow Canadians at home and abroad.

At this time I join all Hamiltonians in offering our sincere condolences and prayers to the members of his family and his Regiment at the loss of their son and comrade.

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