The Current

Parliament Hill shooting one year on still haunts eyewitnesses

One year on from the Parliament Hill shooting, we speak with people who were there that day. Guests, including the CBC's Julie Van Dusen, share their memories and analysis of the chilling event that changed Parliament Hill forever.
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      "We heard three batches of shots.  The first one was very loud, it sounded more like a rifle.  And then there was sort of  a second, smaller batch.  And then the video picks up for the final round of shooting.  It all happened very quick." - Josh Wingrove, journalist who shot the video of the shooting on Parliament Hill 

      One year ago today, even with the passage of time, it's still hard to believe that Parliament Hill was attacked. 

      When the news of shots fired first broke that morning, it was far from clear what was happening.

      The names have since become familiar: the shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeaul; and the soldier shot dead while protecting the National War Memorial, Corporal Nathan Cirillo. 

      Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, seen here on duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Oct. 19, 2014, three days before a gunman shot and killed the 24-year-old reservist. (Submitted by Guillaume Hache)

      Just what happened has since been studied by officials, seeking lessons to prevent it from happening again.  And the precise nature of what happened -- terrorist attack, or lone wolf incident -- has since been debated again and again.

      But that day one year ago, as events developed, we simply tried to keep you informed. The CBC's David Common and Anna Maria Tremonti were on the air live, for 5 hours straight --  to bring you the story.

      Today we are going to revisit the events of the Parliament Hill shooting with two people who were there in person. 

      Josh Wingrove was the Globe and Mail's parliamentary reporter at this time last year - he ended up taking a video of Zehaf-Bibeau's final moments. Today he's a journalist with Bloomberg. He was in Ottawa. 

      I can't really move from where I am and we're told to keep our voices low. I've heard different sounds in the last hour but I don't know what they are.  At one point someone came to the door and kind of banged on it but not in a threatening way but we're not going out to see who it is.- CBC's Julie Van Dusen on CBC News special from inside The Hill during attack

      Another voice we heard from over the course of our coverage that day was Julie Van Dusen, CBC's parliamentary reporter. She was on The Hill when the shooting started and we spoke to her while she was still in hiding. Julie Van Dusen joined Anna Maria from our Ottawa studio.

      Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers in the House of Commons in Ottawa October 23, 2014. Vickers was being thanked for shooting the suspect after a gunman killed a soldier and rampaged through parliament before being shot dead. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

      Of course, the hero of the day for many one year ago, was Kevin Vickers. He's the former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms who shot and killed Zehaf-Bibeau.  And while he's said previously that he does not want to talk about what happened that day, he did speak last May --- when he was presented with an honorary degree from Mount Allison University.

      Here's some of what he had to say:

      "My career as sergeant-of-arms went by very quickly.  And then on October 22nd came that tragic, tragic day.  And I found myself on one side of the pillar and a gunman on the other side of the pillar.  His gun was right there.  There was a moment when I thought that I'd just reach out and grab the gun. He shot and fired.  At the moment he shot and fired, I dove through the air landing on the floor just beneath him.  As my friend, Craig Oliver from CTV, said, I bumped up against a moment in history. That day was a blur to me.  I went home that night and I had a hard time falling asleep.  And I woke up around 5:30 in the morning, and I was crying.  It was the loneliest moment of my life.- Kevin Vickers, former House of Commons sergeant-at-arm

      This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Ines Colabrese and Josh Flear.