How Const. Heidi Stevenson inspired a 6-year-old Dutch girl 20 years ago
'The way she dressed, the way she behaved, it was all very majestic'
When Mara Wienke saw a photo of Const. Heidi Stevenson, she recognized her immediately despite living across the Atlantic.
A photo of the RCMP officer hung in the Dutch woman's childhood bedroom, a source of inspiration and a reminder of their memorable meeting 20 years ago.
Wienke was six years old when the two met at an event in her hometown of Apeldoorn in 2000 to mark the community's liberation by Canadian troops during the Second World War. She remembers being drawn to Stevenson, who looked like a superhero dressed in her bright red Mountie uniform.
"The way she looked, the way she dressed, the way she behaved, it was all very majestic to me and it just felt like talking to an actual hero," Wienke, who is now 25, told CBC's Information Morning.
Stevenson, a 23-year member of the force and a mother of two children, was killed Sunday during a gunman's rampage through rural Nova Scotia that left 22 victims dead.
Stevenson, who met with Wienke several more times during her trip in 2000, gave her a card with a photo of herself that remained on Wienke's wall well into her teenage years. She said she was in disbelief when it matched photos she began seeing in the news following the weekend's shootings.
WATCH | Const. Stevenson 'was a superhero' to Dutch girl 20 years ago:
The two didn't speak the same language, but Wienke said that didn't stop Stevenson from taking time to kneel down so she could communicate with her at eye level.
A photo of the pair from that day shows the RCMP officer and little girl shoulder-to-shoulder.
"I was amazed by how she managed to make me feel seen despite the fact that we at that time didn't speak the same language, but she truly saw me and she had so much time and attention for me," Wienke said. "And I think that just speaks volumes of the person that she was."
A letter to her family
Wienke penned a letter Monday to Stevenson's family that was shared widely on Facebook. She wrote that there are no words in Dutch or English to do justice to the pain.
Stevenson is being remembered as a loving mother and kind colleague and friend. Wienke said it's clear she had an impact on people wherever she went.
"I think the only thing I can do is talk about her memory and how wonderful she was to me, and I hope others will do the same so that way collectively we can keep her alive," she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said during his daily media briefing Tuesday that he's spoken with Stevenson's family as well as with Const. Chad Morrison, who was injured over the weekend, and thanked them for their sacrifice.
Trudeau said when he offered his condolences to the RCMP officers he works with he was reminded of how tightly knit Canada is.
"I was amazed to see how many of them knew Heidi and had incredibly fond memories of her," the prime minister said. "They'd worked with her on the musical ride. They remembered her as an extraordinary person."
WATCH | Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about Const. Heidi Stevenson and Cst. Chad Morrison.
If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.
With files from CBC's Information Morning