Remembering the Montréal Massacre

December 6, 2009 § 1 Comment

On 6 December 1989, a lone gunman burst into the École Polytechnique de Montréal, part of the Université de Montréal, and opened fire.  He targeted women specifically.  He was upset that “feminists” had ruined his life.  For his delusions, 28 innocent people were shot, before he turned the gun on himself.  In the first classroom he broke into, he separated men from women, then shot all 9 women, 6 of whom died.  Then he wandered the hallways, the cafeteria, and another classroom, targeting women, shooting another 14 women, and 4 men.  All 4 men survived, of the 24 women who were shot, 14 died.  All this within 20 minutes.

I was 16, living in suburban Vancouver when this happened.  I remember the shock.  I couldn’t fathom then, and I still can’t, how someone could open fire in a school, let alone, to kill women for being in school.  These 14 women died because they were just that: women getting an education.  I have never been able to wrap my head around that concept.  It doesn’t make sense to me.  It didn’t in 1989 and it doesn’t in 2009.  The Montréal Massacre is one of those transformative moments in my life, it is deeply embedded in my view of the world.  It was a shocking, terrible event.  And despite all of the school shootings since in both Canada and the USA, this is the one that is, to me, a horror story.   Every 6 December, I remember watching the chilling news footage in the living room back in BC, I remember trying to understand why this had happened, my mother and I both horrified.  And every 6 December, I find myself asking those same questions over and over.  I still don’t have an answer.

But what particularly upsets me about 6 December is that the shooter’s name lives on, in infamy, of course, but nearly everyone of my generation, we were all affected wherever we were, know his name.  I refuse to utter it, print it, post it, etc.  I do not want to remember him.  Diane Riopel, who taught at L’École Polytechnique in 1989, and narrowly missed meeting the killer, echoes this sentiment: “We have given him enough publicity. Out of respect for the victims, the killer should be completely anonymous.”  I don’t think Hell exists, but when I think of him, I hope it does.  I don’t think anyone can name all 14 women who died.  I certainly can’t.  They’re all agglomerated as “the victims.”  The shooter maintains his individuality in death, but the 14 women he martyred lose theirs.  All we seem to know is that they were engineering students.  But what else about them?  What were their dreams?  What did they plan to do with their lives when they finished school?  What books did they read?  Where did they hang out with their friends?  All of this, I wonder about every year at the anniversary.  And I have no idea what the answers to these questions are.

These are the victims:

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student, age 21.
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student, age 22.
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student, age 21.
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student, age 29.
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department, age 25.
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student, age 23.
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student, age 22.
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student, age 28.
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student, age 21.
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student, age 23.
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student age 20.
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student, age 31.

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