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'The light at the end of the dark': Memorial items for N.S. shooting victims moved to new home
PORTAPIQUE, N.S. -- Community volunteers spent several hours Friday moving the many items of remembrance left in the small community of Portapique, N.S., in honour of the victims of last month’s horrific shooting.
The items had been left at a large makeshift memorial at the mouth of Portapique Beach Road. It’s down that road where the shooting rampage began the night of April 18. The killer murdered 13 people in Portapique and torched several homes and properties in the community.
Earlier this week, the charred remains of one of those burned properties was bulldozed, turning the killer’s former residence into an empty lot.
That was the first step this week in removing some of the reminders of the tragedy, to help people in the community move forward.
“It gives you something to focus on, but it’s very emotional,” says area resident Cees van den Hoek.
He had started his own memorial site down the road shortly after the shooting began, at the old Portapique church. That is where the items from the roadside memorial have been relocated.
Van den Hoek is glad the site can continue to serve as a place where people can take a moment to remember the 22 lives lost in the tragedy.
“Just to come, spend some time reflecting,” he says. “Do what you need to do, for yourself.”
Halifax resident Gary Greenough and his wife drove more than an hour to come to the memorial site to leave a bouquet of flowers.
“It was a tragic event that we had,” says Greenough. “And we’ve had a lot of those in a series of events recently in Nova Scotia, unfortunately.”
Tom Taggart is the area councillor for the Municipality of Colchester. He says the steps taken this week are necessary to help residents try to regain some sense of normalcy.
“We wanted to get this away from the end of the road so that the families could go in and sort of get back to a life,” he says. “But we recognize, and I know that the families recognize, that this memorial is a way of healing for a lot of people in Colchester County and Nova Scotia.”
Van den Hoek says he’s not sure how long the memorial items will stay at the church, but there is talk among community members around creating a more permanent memorial. He says they have also been discussing the best way to get some of the items to family members of the victims.
Van den Hoek is also among a group of county residents who have formed a non-profit society -- the “Nova Scotia Remembers Legacy” -- to support the families and communities into the future.
“We’re trying to make this about, how do we go into the future after something like this? We don’t want to be just the place where this awful thing happened," he says.
“We want to be the light at the end of the dark.”