Saskatoon

Wounded La Loche student finds strength in grandmother's love

One of the students wounded in the La Loche shootings a year ago is back at school, and is grateful for her grandmother's support. The grandmother calls the girl's recovery a "miracle."

'She motivates me to go to school and to finish it — to become something'

Taylor Haineault is the first student wounded in the La Loche school shooting to speak publicly. She says she is particularly grateful for the love of her grandmother, Annette Montgrand. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Annette Montgrand begged for a miracle.

Montgrand's 14-year-old granddaughter, Taylor Haineault, had starred for the La Loche Lakers volleyball squad.

Now, Montgrand's "baby" languished in a medically-induced coma following a shooting that killed two people and injured several others at La Loche Community School in northern Saskatchewan.

"I prayed and prayed," she recalled in an interview nearly one year after the Jan. 22, 2016, incident.

Her lips moved and she says, 'I love you.' It was amazing.- Annette Montgrand

"I even talked to people that are passed on, like her dad, pleading with them that if her spirit's out there with them, please send her back …You don't need her. I need her."

Montgrand had raised Haineault since birth. Now, she and other relatives kept a rotating vigil at the girl's bedside at Saskatoon's Royal University Hospital.

Eleven days after the shootings that, in all, left four dead and seven wounded, Montgrand got a call to her hotel room. It was her son, current La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre.

"Mom, I think baby's waking up," he said.

Montgrand rushed to the hospital.

"I walk up to her side of the bed and she was talking. Her lips moved and she says, 'I love you.' It was amazing. I thought that was a miracle."

Last week, Haineault spoke with CBC News, the first time one of the wounded students has conducted an interview.

Haineault said she knows how much Montgrand loves her.

"I care a lot about her, too," she said.

Family beset by tragedy

The noon hour of Jan. 22, 2016, was like any other for Haineault and her grandmother. They had lunch together at home, then Haineault's aunt gave her a ride back to school.

Montgrand, a retired parole officer and social services worker, had spent the morning cooking and baking. She sat on the couch and was watching one of her favourite programs, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, when the phone rang with news Haineault and others had been shot.

Annette Montgrand says her granddaughter's recovery from injuries sustained in the La Loche school shooting is a 'miracle.' (Jason Warick/CBC)

As Montgrand rushed through the doors of the La Loche Hospital, her mind was flooded with images of her son, Haineault's dad. In 2010, he was gunned down on La Loche's main street "on a sunny Sunday afternoon," she said.

Walking through the hospital doors, Montgrand was also weighed down by memories of other relatives lost: A sister fatally struck in the head with a rock; a brother drowned; another who tumbled down a long staircase; and a second child killed in a snowmobile accident.

She was relieved to see Haineault was alive.

Back to school

After Haineault woke up, she was determined to get back to school. A few weeks later, she was back in class.

During a break between classes, Haineault said she hopes to eventually get back on the volleyball court. She played setter, hitter and every other position on a Lakers team that travelled to tournaments in Calgary, Saskatoon and other cities. Her arm movement is still limited, in addition to other injuries, but she remains hopeful.

She's focusing on finishing high school before making any other plans. Haineault's future is uncertain, but Montgrand will be there to support her. Her granddaughter clearly appreciates it.

"She's there for me when no one is … She believes in me when no one does," Haineault said. "She motivates me to go to school and to finish it — to become something."

Silent on the shooting

Montgrand said they haven't yet talked about the shooting. She won't force the issue. She said Taylor will open up when she's ready.

With the one-year anniversary of the shooting arriving Sunday, many have asked Montgrand how she's feeling. She has advice for well-wishers talking to the affected families: Offer a smile or a hug instead of questions.

Sunday marks the one-year anniversary since the La Loche shootings. (Jason Warick/CBC)

"It's just not appropriate to ask 'How are you doing?' because you're not going to get an honest answer," she said. "It's impossible."

Montgrand said she has to sometimes force herself to laugh when visiting with her children, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. She doesn't want them to see her grieving.

"I don't want them to start thinking, 'Do we have to die for grandma to love us?' because I love them and I don't want them to die," she said.

"So when they come around, we're happy together."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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