Moncton shooting 1 year later: A widow's view of grief, forgiveness
'I still know he would want me to be proud of what he did,' says wife of Const. Fabrice Gevaudan
Angela Gevaudan hates being asked how her family is doing.
But it's all she appears to hate.
That's surprising, considering it's been one year since her husband, Fabrice, and two of his colleagues, constables Dave Ross and Douglas Larche, were gunned down while responding to a police call in Moncton, N.B.
Two more Mounties, constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen, were wounded by Justin Bourque during his murderous rampage.
That 30-hour period tore apart families and a community and focused the world's attention on the New Brunswick city.
Gevaudan said it has been a year of change, a year of learning and a year of forgiveness.
She attended the Tema Conter Memorial Trust post-traumatic stress disorder conference in Halifax last week, not to speak, but just to give support to the several hundred first responders who were telling their stories and looking for help.
She said the first part of her year was about tearing down walls.
'You get back on the horse'
"In the beginning I didn't have the same attitude at all. I didn't even want to go see a therapist," said Gevaudan.
"At the time, I kind of figured that's what we do, you get back on the horse and you keep moving forward. It was also kind of a mechanism of protection, like I won't let anyone know this has affected me, because I saw that as a weakness — I really did, in the beginning."
Gevaudan said that attitude didn't leave her for quite some time.
She was the dutiful wife of a fallen Mountie taking part in memorials in Ottawa and Regina for Fabrice, Dave and Doug.
And she had one more duty to take care of this year: visiting Fabrice's family in France. She had never met his mother.
The visit went well, but problems started on the way home.
Gevaudan started to get sweaty and dizzy. There was a tingling in her arm and she became worried she was having a heart attack or stroke, with her daughter Emma next to her.
She was at Pearson airport in Toronto when she collapsed in a chair and said she couldn't board the plane.
'It was just so hard'
Paramedics arrived to check her, and that's when it all came down on her, when she fell off the horse.
"When they asked me what the purpose of my trip was, I just lost it. I couldn't say it, because I brought some of his ashes to his mother … and it was just so hard," said Gevaudan.
"That was my body's way of saying, you have to take a time out now, because I am forcing you to."
The next turning point for Gevaudan came during the last week in October at Bourque's sentencing hearing.
Gevaudan said the wives of the three fallen Mounties had a separate area to view the proceedings.
Something changed around noon on the first day of the hearing, she said. By the afternoon, Gevaudan wanted to see if she could handle sitting in the same courtroom as the man who murdered her husband — her "twin flame" as the two referred to each other.
She sat in a black dress, with Bourque directly in front of her, looking down almost the whole time. She listened to the chilling and graphic radio recordings of the night that Bourque killed her husband, Ross and Larche as well as wounding two others.
Making sense of the tragedy
Gevaudan said she grabbed her pen and opened her journal and started to write.
That writing became her statement she read to reporters on the steps of the Moncton courthouse when the hearing ended.
"I really believe the feelings of anger and hatred and all of the fear-based emotions are what drive people to do these sort of things — maybe not at that level, but I think the route is the same for all of these sorts of acts. I think it is OK to have [those feelings] and it's important to let them go, because then we are no better than people who do these things."
Not the day for blame
Gevaudan does not believe in hate, revenge or any of the things many would feel in her circumstances.
"I don't think it's helpful. I don't excuse the behaviour at all, I just don't give it any space. If you had asked me prior to this how would I ever react if something ever happened to Fabrice, it's not what I would have answered, not at all actually, quite the opposite," said Gevaudan.
"We had discussions like this before because we worked in the same world, we saw the same things and understood it was a possibility, so I think if you would have asked me before … I would have probably focused on revenge."
Gevaudan has been outspoken about the need to train and give the Mounties the proper weapons to deal with what they might face.
Just last month, Department of Labour investigators charged the Moncton police force didn't provide appropriate weapons and equipment for "active shooter" incidents. They also say the force didn't give staff the training and information needed to respond to incidents like Bourque's, and that the RCMP didn't ensure the health and safety of its members.
But she said today is not the day to point fingers and blame — that may come later.