For RCMP Corporal Laurie White, originally of Brockville, Ont., yesterday was to have been a day of quiet pride. The award she received honoured her inspirational courage in returning to work less than a year after losing most of her right leg as a result of a gunshot wound sustained on duty in northern British Columbia in 1998.
But the celebration in Vancouver was tinged with sadness: Cpl. White learned earlier in the day that a young Mountie, who grew up close to her hometown and attended the same high school, had been gunned down in the line of duty.
"I'm really appreciative [of the award] I'm really grateful. And yet it's bittersweet because I have this news of a colleague that lost his life," the 37-year-old said in an interview.
Constable Douglas Scott, 20, who grew up in Lyn, an Eastern Ontario village outside of Brockville, was shot dead late Monday in a Nunavut community while answering a drunk-driving call.
The shooting brought back painful memories of Nov. 27, 1998, for Cpl. White.
She had been shot in the leg as she tried to serve a search warrant on a suspect in a sexual assault case. He then turned the gun on himself.
Doctors struggled to save her leg before resorting to amputation.
Cpl. White became a national hero and a role model when only 10 months later, with the help of an artificial leg and her own inner drive, she returned to her regular duties at the Kitimat RCMP detachment. At one point, she made a stop at Brockville's Thousand Islands Secondary School to speak to students about the incident and her recovery.
Cpl. White's voice cracked as she spoke of Constable Scott's death. Just moments later, she was receiving the Commanding Officer's Commendation award for her service in improving the self-esteem and well-being of amputees and those who are physically challenged.
"The first thing I thought of was 'Oh my God, not again.' It hits very close to home. It brings back a lot of stuff for me as well," she said.