On the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death, the widow of Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell told CBC’s Metro Morning of a difficult year adjusting to life as a single mother.
Russell, a 11-year veteran of the Toronto Police, was killed on Jan. 12, 2011, after he was run over and killed by a stolen snowplow.
The death of Russell, 35, triggered an outpouring of grief at a public funeral attended by about 12,000 people, including uniformed members of police forces from across North America.
His death also left Christine Russell alone to raise the couple’s son, Nolan, who had just turned two when his father was killed.
'It's been a long year'
Christine Russell spoke with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway to reflect on the day her husband died and the difficult year that followed.
"It’s been a long year," she said. "So many firsts, going through them by myself. I’m used to being married to a shift worker, so you’re used to spending so many nights and weekends and holidays alone then all of a sudden, you’re alone all the time."
"So it was that quietness in the house. Doing everything by myself, all the grocery shopping, taking care of Nolan, doing all the baths. It’s just a major life adjustment and you don’t have any warning."
'I knew something was drastically wrong'
Galloway asked Russell about her memories of the day her husband was killed.
"I remember everything that day," she said. "Driving to work and the conditions on the road, it was dark. I was on the Gardiner and I remember getting the phone call from his friend. They were parked in my driveway at home, trying to tell me in person. They didn’t have to say anything, it was the tone of the phone call. I knew something was drastically wrong."
Galloway asked Russell how her son is dealing with the sudden loss of his father at such a young age.
'It was the tone of the phone call. I knew something was drastically wrong.' —Christine Russell recalls the morning her husband was killed
"Eventually he figured out that daddy’s not coming home any more, and he’s not around," she said. "I showed him pictures and explained that he had been killed by a snowplow and that he went to heaven. I was trying to [convey] that concept, that he’s not here, but he’s somewhere else and he’s safe and he still loves you and will be watching over you."
"He’s pretty familiar with police and photos. Whenever he sees Canada flags he thinks of his Dad. He calls them ‘Daddy’s flag,’ he’ll point up at the moon and he’ll say ‘Oh, that’s daddy’s ball.’ He thinks he’s up in the sky somewhere, which I think is perfect."
Moved by mourners
Russell also reflected on the day of her husband’s funeral, when downtown Toronto streets filled with mourners.
"As we curled down University Avenue, it was dead silent. I just couldn’t believe how many people were standing there. It was the regular citizens that were there; I expected it just to be uniforms. There were so many everyday people that had left work and had shown up and lined the streets and that meant a lot to me."
As she enters the second year without her husband, Christine Russell said she will reflect on the anniversary of Ryan’s death during a quiet gathering with close friends and family.
"This past year there has been a lot more public events and I’m looking forward to just getting some privacy back in my life," she said.
"There will be a gathering with our most intimate friends. Nothing formal, just something that’s finally private for us to sit back and give cheers to a guy that we loved."