Ottawa

6 honoured for helping Cpl. Nathan Cirillo during Parliament Hill shootings

The six passersby who rushed to the aid of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo after a gunman opened fire at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22 were honoured by St. John Ambulance for their bravery at a special ceremony on Parliament Hill.

St. John Ambulance presents medals to passersby who rushed to aid of wounded serviceman

'Team Nathan' from left to right: ​Master Cpl. Anthony Wiseman, Barbara Winters, Col. Conrad Mialkowski, Martin Magnan, Margaret Lerhe and ​Master Cpl. Kyle Button. Each received a medal in the Senate chambers on June 20 for their efforts to save Cpl. Nathan Cirillo amid the Parliament Hill shootings. (CBC)

The six passersby who rushed to the aid of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo after a gunman opened fire at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22 were honoured by St. John Ambulance for their bravery at a special ceremony on Parliament Hill this afternoon.

Each received the Gold Life-saving Medal of the Order of St. John from the first-aid training organization for their combined efforts to compress Cirillo's wounds, perform CPR and offer him comfort in his final moments as he lay bleeding on the cenotaph. They are:

  • Barbara Winters, a lawyer and former naval reservist.
  • Margaret Lerhe, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders.
  • ​Martin Magnan, Veterans Affairs press secretary.
  • ​Master Cpl. Anthony Wiseman.
  • ​Master Cpl. Kyle Button, the third, roving sentry on Oct. 22.
  • Col. Conrad Mialkowski.

Ahead of the ceremony in the Senate chambers, Winters said she was "delighted" to be receiving the medal.

"The thing St. John teaches us is to not be afraid, to not doubt yourself," she said. "That even with first aid or even if you don't have first aid, to try to go to somebody's assistance, to even just hold their hand, or talk to them, or give them a blanket or touch them and let them know they're not alone."

We call ourselves Team Nathan.- Margaret Lerhe, medal recipient

Magnan said the honour was bittersweet.

"It's an unusual mixed bag of feelings. If the outcome had been different, I'd be much more pleased," he said.

Lerhe said the group of six have grown very close since they met at the cenotaph in the chaos of the shooting. 

"Now we're a team. We call ourselves Team Nathan," she said.

'Glad that we could be there'

Cirillo was shot in the back three times while standing ceremonial guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier along with Cpl. Branden Stevenson. Stevenson tried to chase gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who ran to his car and drove to Parliament Hill, where he was shot dead as he continued his attack inside Centre Block.

Button, who was on ceremonial guard as a rover, was the first to reach Cirillo and begin first aid.

"That's when I started yelling for help," he said. "They all came and helped. Everyone came together as a group and did what we could."

Winters previously told CBC Radio's As It Happens that she tried to comfort Cirillo as others worked to save his life.

Everyone came together as a group and did what we could.- Master Cpl. Kyle Button

"I told him he was loved. And that he was brave. And that he was a good man," Winters said in tears.

Cirillo died in hospital. Now whenever Winters passes by the cenotaph, she said she stops to have a moment for Cirillo.

"He is the hero of this story and I think all of us were just glad that we could be there in whatever small capacity that we were. We were glad to be there for his last moments and I think all of us have him in our hearts and in our minds and will probably think of little else today," she said.

St. John Ambulance also honoured 18 volunteers for their "contributions to the charitable work of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem."

The medal ceremony followed an earlier service of remembrance at the National War Memorial in honour of Canadian veterans. Four of the six Gold Life-saving Medal recipients attended the first ceremony, as well.

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