On the 25th anniversary of the arrest of notorious New Brunswick serial killer Allan Legere, people in the communities he terrorized say they haven't forgotten what happened but don't dwell on it either.
"It's something we'll never forget," said 31-year Miramichi Police veteran Sgt. Bob Bruce, who was actively involved in the 1989 manhunt for Legere.
"It’s part of our history, not something we're proud of but we survived and moved on from it. I didn't really realize it was that long ago. Some of it feels like yesterday."
The Legere ordeal began in May 1989, when the convicted killer escaped from prison guards escorting him to a medical appointment in Moncton, about 120 kilometres south of the Miramichi region.
Legere had been serving a life sentence at the time for a previous murder and once on the loose he spent nearly seven months sneaking into and out of communities along the Miramichi River brutally murdering four more people in three separate attacks.
"They were certainly dark days," says Miramichi Police Chief Paul Fiander,
"People were paranoid and rightfully so."
Tensions escalated quickly when Chatham storeowner Annie Flam, 75 was killed in her home 25 days after the escape.
Sisters Donna and Linda Daughney, 45 and 41, were murdered in their Newcastle home five months later and Catholic priest Father James Smith, 69, was killed in his Chatham Head rectory five weeks after that.
The gentle nature of the victims contrasted sharply with the viciousness of Legere's attacks.
He spent hours "torturing" the four before their deaths, according to an account of the crimes by New Brunswick Court of Appeal Justice Lewis Ayles.
Legere was finally captured nine days after Father Smith's murder on Route 118 following a 201-day manhunt.
He had hijacked a series of vehicles trying to make his way back into the Miramichi area on Nov. 24, 25 years ago.
Bruce says there was a definite and positive change among residents along the Miramichi following Legere's arrest that he still sees 25 years later.
"You can't drive down the street here, you almost wear your arm out as a police officer waving because everybody waves to you. It is a great community — there's a sense of community. People look out for each other,” Bruce says.
'I used to be so scared'
At a recent home game of Miramichi's senior hockey team the Phantoms, adults in the rink acknowledge still carrying vivid memories of 1989, but to a person say the region emerged as a tighter, more unified community.
"It doesn't seem like 25 years have gone by," said Phantoms fan Lise Black, who as a young bride had only just moved to the area.
'It's hard to forget but we move on the best we can and everyone bonded together and the community stayed strong.' - Bryce Silliker
"I used to be so scared. I remember my husband would leave for work and I would lock the doors all day and never go out."
"It was a bad scene really,” said Phantom's captain Bryce Silliker, 35, who was only 10 years old at the time.
"It's hard to forget but we move on the best we can and everyone bonded together and the community stayed strong."
Phantom's head coach David Morrison, 39, was only slightly older than Silliker, but agrees bonds among neighbours up and down the river grew stronger in the wake of the tragedy.
"I was 14 at the time. I remember not being able to leave the house and having an aluminum baseball bat under my bed,” Morrison says.
“I remember terror in the whole city. You know, we try and forget it and try and put it in our past but it’s something that's always there.”
Still, he says locals refuse to let the events of 1989 define the area.
"I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. The people are supportive,” he says.
“It's a small community and everyone knows each other. It's where I'm from and where I want to be."
Legere, who is now 66, was convicted on four counts of first degree murder in November 1991 and subsequently declared a dangerous offender, a designation that allows for permanent incarceration.
He was sent to serve his sentence at the special handling unit at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines Institution near Montreal, a super maximum security facility that houses some of Canada's most dangerous offenders.