There were words and candles. And there were tears. Lots of them. Roughly 600 people gathered at the Machine Shop in the Canal District last night for a candlelight vigil, to show their support for a family mourning immeasurable loss. Many said they couldn’t believe what had happened, still, in many ways in deep sadness and shock.
The vigil comes in the aftermath of four innocents murdered by a 44-year-old shooter, who then took his own life. A 41-year-old woman, and three children, ages 6, 7 and 12, suddenly and horrifically taken last Sunday night. The senseless tragedy, five days old, is a genuine gut-punch to a city not accustomed to coping with a mass murder.
The investigation into the murders continues. So does the grieving. Sault MP Ross Romano said he was “shocked and stunned” by the tragedy. He said he organized the vigil knowing the city would want to
show support. “On Oct. 23, an unimaginable tragedy occurred,” Romano said. “The fact that you’re all here is what matters the most. We’re here to heal. This is about our community finding a way to offer our collective support to all of the families of the victims. It’s a way of us honoring those victims.”
Romano added the vigil is also a way to “recognize and appreciate the incredible work of first-responders”, including police, fire, paramedics, hospital staff as well as school boards and counsellors.
He also touched on two tragic traffic early September accidents which claimed the lives of Sault Police Services Const. Orrette Robinson and 26- year-old Mikayla Ouellet.
Romano also read a letter from Shirley Marshall, who was unable to attend the gathering. She’s the mother of Taylor Marshall, 22, who was murdered Sept. 7, a day which saw her killer also attack a man on the boardwalk.
Residents, said Romano, likely thought at the time, matters couldn’t get any worse. “We can heal, and we will heal,” said Romano. “But, we have to do it together. If you know someone that’s hurting, get them help. If you are hurting, get help. It’s so critical that you get help if you need it.” Sault Mayor Matthew Shoemaker said the city is grappling to deal with acts of “inconceivable” violence. He encouraged residents to “look out for and support one another during these incredibly challenging times.”
Sault MP Terry Sheehan said the Sault has heart “but that heart is broken right now”
“Families have been shattered by violence recently,” said Sheehan. “Children who had a great future and who had unknown potential have been lost. To the family and friends of the cities, I send you my deepest,
To the school community,” Sheehan continued, “to the residents of the Sault gathered here today and the broader communities around us as well, Garden River, Batchawana. I know you’re hurting. I heard it in your voices on the phone and in person. Words cannot express the shock and sorrow we are feeling. But we shall be there for each other as we have this week, this month and into the future.”
Sheehan urged those that are hurting to reach out, to a friend or a family member, a therapist or a counsellor, a clergy member or an elder. “There are services that you can see online. Some of them are free as well. Please…get the help if you need it.”
The final speaker of many on the night was Brian Sweeney, his 41-year-old daughter a victim of last Sunday’s shootings. “My daughter was a beautiful soul. She had a big heart, and it was her big
heart that cost her her life.” Tears flowed for many at this point. “She always gave, all her life, Sweeney continued, “if you had the privilege to meet her, she was the best friend you’d ever have. She was just a
forever giving and loving soul, all her life.” Sweeney said the family is grateful for all of the support they have received.
“I just want the people of Sault Ste. Marie to know that we really are thankful to be in this lovely community because the amount of support we are receiving from everyone from the victim’s services to the police department to our fine municipal people and the citizens of Sault Ste. Marie most of all…the most beautiful people in the world.”