A Gatineau daycare reopened its doors to students this morning, nearly three weeks after a murder-suicide shocked the community.
There were smiles and hugs as families started to arrive at the Roots of Life Montessori daycare at 225 Gamelin St. around 8 a.m.
The centre had been closed since the April 5 shooting.
"It can be very emotional, actually, to see all these people and see how they're dealing with this and how happy they are," said parent Niels Aschengreen.
"Just in a split second, you get to the core of what life is all about."
"I think it's the best thing that could happen for the children, to go back and kind of … make the place normal again?" said neighbour Michèle Léveillé.
20 days since fatal shootings
Robert Charron, 49, the husband of the daycare's director, walked into 225 Gamelin St. and shot and killed Neil Galliou, 38, a daycare worker visiting from France, according to Gatineau police.
Charron then went next door to 229 Gamelin St., warned daycare workers to get the children out and went to the office. Staff fled to a neighbour's home with the daycare's 53 children.
He spread a flammable substance, including on the director, before unsuccessfully trying to start a fire.
The director fled and shortly afterward, Charron's body was found by police with a registered shotgun by his side.
The director and some teachers remain off work, but an interim director and other staff are at the centre.
Interm director from Kingston filling in
Interm director Antoine Beyret said he offered to come from Kingston and run the daycare while the former director is away.
"All the staff is new so we need to really take care of the children, make them … really feel comfortable in this daycare," he said.
Parents met with the interim staff on Tuesday.
The daycare hopes the children will be able to reintegrate smoothly, but Beyret said he doesn't know how many of the 53 children will be back right away.
A welcoming ritual for the returning children was held today to help the children reclaim the space as their own after what happened.