Despite the fact it was probably Nanaimo's warmest, sunniest day of 2014 to date, Wednesday April 30 will forever haunt the city's residents as one of its darkest. At around 7:00am, Kevin Douglas Addison entered Western Forest Products mill with a shotgun, killing two men and wounding two others. One of the wounded was shot in the face. Addison was arrested and tonight charged with two counts of first degree murder and two of attempted murder.
Since moving to Nanaimo in December 2006 we have grown to love the place. It's certainly rough around the edges with a tough history, but it has a real sense of community, warmth and civility that we deeply appreciate. One reason we like it here is because it feels safe. Sure, like anywhere the city has sketchy areas, but overall it's pretty cool. Any and every society experiences violence, and Nanaimo is no exception, but it is rare that anything truly shocking occurs. Yet when it does, everyone feels it, just as we did today.
I learned the news from a born-and-bred Nanaimo musician, who came into the store greatly agitated about the incident. I couldn't believe what he told me. Four people shot?! Two dead? Really? It's surreal to hear such news in Nanaimo, at least in my limited experience of seven-and-a-half years' living here. But I saw just how real it was when visiting the Nanaimo Daily News website on the store's computer. The news was breaking; details were scant yet emerging, but two dead were confirmed.
Such an act of extreme violence - at least by this sleepy Vancouver Island city's 'standards' - is bound to provoke immediate widespread discussion, especially amongst those that grew up here. I was myself horrified and distressed, genuinely feeling a shockwave of disbelief as it moved through the store, from the outside world via several upset and bewildered customers. It was, of course, mentioned frequently, but it was particularly heartbreaking to witness the reaction of my young colleague, himself born and raised in Nanaimo. He was clearly shocked and raging within at the senselessness of the act, struggling to understand the barbarity us humans can - and so often do - unleash upon each other in the name of what the fuck.
For much of the remainder of the day we talked about this between us, and with customers who had entered the store, obviously affected, some seemingly relieved to talk to us about it. Seething with anger and sorrow, we solemnly exchanged thoughts about how the deceased men - one of whom had 34 years of service to his company behind him - might have kissed their loved ones goodbye in the morning or previous evening, gone off to work to earn money to feed their families, and will never be going home. It was almost too much to bear thinking about this, the nature and ramifications of the crime hitting home very hard for both of us.
"A lot of people in this town will be just a few steps removed from someone they know that's affected by this nightmare." These were the words of a stunningly beautiful and charming young woman, who provided a brief yet most welcome distraction from the grimness of the day. The proverbial light, she, too, was visibly shaken, and these kind of staff-customer encounters continued sporadically throughout the day. It was a tough one, for sure, and there was a lot of welling up at various points.
In the worst imaginable circumstances I felt truly connected to Nanaimo today. I felt grief as a member of this community, and shared it with people that have lived here their whole lives. In some ways the experience brought great comfort, the fact that I truly belong and need to be here really smacking me in the face. Yet I never want to feel that in this way again.
My condolences go out to the families, friends and coworkers of the four men gunned down today. Your community is behind you.