A Saanich neighbourhood came together for a block party aimed at helping residents heal, just over a month after a nearby bank was the site of a shootout which left two suspects dead and six police officers injured.
On Aug. 4, Elm Street was host to some 60 people enjoying good food, drink and most importantly, company for the first time since two men walked into the nearby Shelbourne Street BMO Bank of Montreal branch, then later shot and injured six members of the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team before being killed by police on June 28.
The block party was organized by neighbourhood resident Rebecca Kirkwood, who has multiple connections to the incident. An ER nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital who helped treat two of the injured officers, she is married to one of the tactical team members who responded to the scene but was not injured.
”A lot of us were barricaded in our homes at the time, others had to evacuate and stay in a hotel,” Kirkwood said. “The party was wonderful. It was so much fun to have people we have never met before come out and exchange stories about what they were doing during the incident and all that … later in the night we set up the camp fire and people brought out their guitars and sang around the fire.”
Once she decided to organize the event, she reached out to several local businesses who were happy to donate some gift cards to help cover the costs of food and drink, making it feel even more like a community coming together to support each other.
While time can be a healer, Kirkwood said it can still be difficult to reflect on that chaotic day, especially for her husband Ron, who at times found neighbours’ questions about the incident overwhelming, though he appreciated their words of support and thanks.
“I looked after two of my friends who were shot, and at the same time I’m getting phone calls and texts from my kids who are in our house four houses down from the bank asking where their dad is,” Kirkwood said. “He was fine, he was safe, but later on we were FaceTiming and my six-year-old was crying because there were more gunshots. I realized then I needed to be home with my family and the two injured officers were being looked after well, so I went home and had to barricade inside.”
Kirkwood said she plans on making the block party an annual event, though future editions won’t be tied to the bank shooting and will instead be a simple summer celebration of community.