As Pierre Leclair girds himself for the 10th anniversary of the massacre at École Polytechnique, he is coming to a sorrowful realization: The tragedy didn't end when the crazed gunman stopped firing.
The shooting at the University of Montreal engineering school in 1989 stamped out the lives of 14 young women, including that of Mr. Leclair's daughter, Maryse. But the bullets also ricocheted through the lives of countless others.
"There were 14 victims -- but really there were thousands more," said Mr. Leclair, a police officer who discovered his daughter's body that night.
In a rare interview recently, Mr. Leclair recounted the brutal toll of damaged and destroyed lives that piled up after the shooting.
In 1996, death again visited the ruined family of the École Polytechnique gunman, Marc Lépine. His sister died of an overdose after years of alcohol and drug abuse.
Nadia Gharbi had long been a thorn in the side of her older brother.
She was an extrovert whose taunting of her withdrawn sibling reportedly fuelled his pathological hatred of women.
By the time she died a month shy of her 29th birthday, she had deteriorated into a 95-pound drug addict who had been shooting cocaine into her arm. Her mother, Monique Lépine, came to claim her daughter's ravaged body at the Montreal morgue, the second and last of her children to die gruesomely by their own hand.
"The damage it [the massacre]caused was incredible, just incredible. It spread, like a bomb," Mr. Leclair said.
Despair silently stalked others touched by the Polytechnique shootings. Eight months after the slaughter, a 24-year-old Polytechnique graduate from small-town Quebec took his own life, despondent that he had done nothing to stop the gunman's rampage. His parents, unable to bear the grief over losing their only son, killed themselves 10 months later.
Another boy, who had seen the gunman pause to unjam his weapon in the university corridor but didn't seize the moment to immobilize him, wallowed in self-doubt for years. It's only "now that he's apparently getting over it," Mr. Leclair said.
Another father who lost his daughter was also frozen by grief for many years. "He lost his job, and he was never able to return to work.
"Imagine the dramas in these families -- the brothers, the sisters, the in-laws, the parents," Mr. Leclair said.
Mr. Leclair was head of communications for the Montreal Urban Community police when he reported for duty at the university on Dec. 6, 1989. He was standing outside the engineering building briefing reporters when he decided to gather information inside.
"Hold on, I'll go see what's happening and I'll come back and see you," he told them.
He knew his daughter was at the university that day delivering her term-end presentation. But with hundreds of students in the school, he wasn't worried. Then, as Mr. Leclair slowly made his way through the university's eerie hallways, the sickening scale of the carnage began to sink in.
In one room, he saw the bodies of six young women. In another, he saw a woman who had been shot through the glass of her office.
"I was getting more and more worried," Mr. Leclair recalled.
Then he came to a classroom on the third floor. He looked inside and saw before him what no parent ever wants to behold.
"I saw my daughter on the ground. I recognized her right away. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to react. It was her."
Maryse, 23, had been giving her presentation on a podium at the front of the class when she was shot. "She fell on the podium, crying, but she didn't die. Maryse was crying out, 'Help me, help me,' " her father said.
The gunman stalked the classroom, shooting three more women before returning to a moaning Maryse Leclair. He pulled out a knife from a sheath on his belt and stabbed her to death.
The mystery of why Maryse was the only victim to be stabbed haunted Mr. Leclair for years. But he has come up with a theory over time, and it has nurtured his deep belief in gun control.
"He was forced to touch her," he said. "With a bullet, there's no contact with the person. But when you touch someone, you feel them, you feel their warmth.
"Maybe all of a sudden he realized the magnitude of what he'd done. It was as if he woke up."
Maryse Leclair was the final victim. The killer uttered, "Oh, shit," then turned his gun on himself.
Mr. Leclair's first thoughts were to get home to suburban Laval to share the shocking news with his wife, Louise, a retired secretary, and the couple's three other daughters.
Mr. Leclair, a solidly built man who speaks about his daughter with nervous intensity, said he's decided to talk about her death after years of silence in the hope that something -- he's not sure what -- will come of it. But events over the past 10 years haven't been encouraging: Dunblane, Scotland; Littleton, Colo.; Taber, Alta.,; Honolulu -- every other week, someone seems to go berserk and fire on innocent people.
"Ten years later, do incidents like this happen any less? No," he said. "Its causes are still not settled. Did it happen because Mr. Lépine was deranged? Well there are still lots of deranged people out there. Was it because he was a misogynist? There are still others out there today, too.
"I'm not so sure we've learned anything."
But Mr. Leclair, now the chief of police in the Quebec City suburb of Ste-Foy, is remarkably free of anger. He described the killer, the son of a brutally violent father, as a victim himself. And he spoke lovingly of his deceased daughter, finding solace in the memory of a determined young woman and good student in her final year in metallurgy who wanted to make it in a man's field.
"There is no danger of my crying," he said as the interview began. "It actually gives me pleasure to talk about my daughter. I loved her, and I love her still. Even if she's gone."