Bearing Witness: 2014 — The Globe and Mail looks back on the cataclysmic news events of 2014 through the eyes of the people who were there – be they bystanders, participants or journalists. Their accounts shaped our perceptions, while their witnessing the events changed their lives.
The smell of cordite hung in the air when Garry Noel and his wife, Flora, ran towards the body in the street. They didn't know who he was. Nor did they recognize the young man with the rifle skulking away from the normally quiet intersection of Mailhot Avenue and Islington Street in Moncton.
Over the next 28 hours, the New Brunswick city would be on lockdown as police searched for the gunman, Justin Bourque, who is now serving a 75-year prison sentence for murdering three RCMP officers: Constable David Ross, Constable Fabrice Gévaudan, and Constable Douglas James Larche – the fallen officer the Noels ran out to assist.
On the evening of June 4, when most people retreated inside and locked the doors, the Noels did the opposite. As Mr. Noel explains, he was born and raised in small-town Newfoundland, the kind of place where you help someone in need, no matter the risk.
We heard some noise outside. I looked out and happened to see a gentleman shoot another gentleman as he was getting out of his car.
I was about 300 feet away. There are certain things about it that are vivid in your mind and certain things that your mind makes you block out that you don't remember. That's just how it is with those things.
I'm from a place called Stephenville, Nfld., and my wife's from Glace Bay, N.S. We've been here 23 years. And I guess that's why we did what we did. Where we come from, people help people when they're in need. The person that fell in the roadway here was in need. It didn't matter that he was a police officer or who he was, he needed help.
My wife and I ran out to see if we could assist, to see if we could help the fallen gentlemen. The assailant was still walking away by the time we ran up to the body. And when we arrived, we realized then that he was a police officer. It was quite obvious by the time we arrived that [he] was gone.
Every minute seemed like an hour.
My wife and I were totally amazed how quiet it was. I was on the phone to 911 trying to get some help and we couldn't hear sirens. We were wondering where the police were, where the ambulance was. So, yeah, it was like time stood still.
A passerby managed to stop and he happened to have a sleeping bag in his vehicle. I covered the fallen officer. Shortly after that, an armed police officer came around the corner with his gun drawn. Myself and him and another gentleman lifted the fallen officer out of the roadway and we carried him up to this driveway here and I covered him over again. I offered to stay and assist the police officer, but he advised me to get back in the house and lock the doors as the area was very unstable. My wife left and went up on our neighbour's step and I stayed with the fallen officer until another armed officer arrived.
It's been a tough time, there's no doubt about it. We saw something that day that nobody should ever have to see in the course of a lifetime.
I guess if there's any silver lining through the cloud, it's that my wife and I saw the same thing. So each and every day we're there to support each other and talk to each other about it and what we saw and what happened and how we feel and that's a good thing. I guess our emotions and what we feel are normal according to all the professional people we spoke to. But it certainly changes you. It certainly changes your outlook on life and really makes you realize how precious life is and how easy events can change it.
We have to move on. We have to continue. Hopefully mankind will learn from the terrible acts that took place here that day.
I think Moncton will move forward because it is such a resilient community and the city and its people have been strengthened I guess by what's happened here. Recently they had a block party here just to try and help people get through everything that took place in this particular area during the events back in June. The turnout was unbelievable. People were hugging people. And it's just the sense of brotherhood and sisterhood.
The only thing we regret is that we weren't able to help Constable Larche and do anything for him. I guess the piece of mind we have, if there's anything, is that by being there and staying with him and covering him over and carrying him out of the roadway, we gave him some dignity in his remaining moments that he served his community and served his country as an RCMP officer. Hopefully, some day his daughters and his family will realize and understand that he wasn't alone.
This interview, as told to Deborah Baic, has been edited and condensed.
Deborah Baic is a videographer for The Globe. Patrick White is one of several Globe reporters who covered the Moncton shooting.