My Mother’s Birthday Almost Ended in the Death of Both Her Children

Gillian Sisley

I have two too many “close calls” with attempted mass-shootings.

Photo by Victor Xok on Unsplash

As I’m writing this, stemming off of a previous article about the date I went on with an attempted mass shooter, I too find it hard to believe that I don’t have just one, but two stories related to this topic.

And I live in f*cking Canada. On the East Coast. Where nothing ever really happens.

But then again, my city is fairly small, so I suppose my odds increase that way.

Here’s an article on the event of this particular incident, in case you want to get some back story:

'Halifax never would've been the same': How police foiled Valentine's Day attack | CBC News

When RCMP Staff Sgt. Lisa Stuart learned of a Crime Stoppers tip that two Nova Scotia men and an American woman were…

An innocent shopping trip for a birthday present.

I’m usually pretty good at preparing for birthdays in advance — but this particular time, I found myself at the mall on the day of my mother’s birthday with my best friend looking for a present.

I was always prepared — my brother was the one who would be the child shopping the day-of for a birthday present. Never me.

I just mention this to communicate how unlikely it was that I even ended up in this situation...

So, my best friend and I decided to grab a coffee before starting our search, and were sitting in the food court enjoying our drinks when we saw several police officers walking the premises.

This was odd — Canada is a fairly peaceful place, and the urgency with which they were walking was out-of-the-ordinary enough to draw attention.

Still, we finished our drinks, got the present, and I drove home.

The “close call” is revealed.

I walked in the back door, the birthday present discreetly hidden in my purse, and came into the family room where my parents were both standing in front of the television looking rather disturbed.

“What’s up?” I asked.

My mom replied:

“Apparently, there was a mass shooting at the Halifax Shopping Centre planned for today, and police just announced that they caught the perpetrators last night.”

My delivery of the news could have been better.

“Oh, sh*t! I was just there! Huh — that’s a close call!”

My mother almost fainted when she heard this. And I don’t blame her. I'm not a parent, but I can imagine the panic that comes along with a loved one being put in harm's way, and potentially a fatal situation -- just by fluke.

For the rest of the day, more details surfaced.

I was on the phone with my best friend when a police interview revealed that the attempted mass shooters were planning to start their rampage in the food court around noon.

Exactly where my best friend and I were enjoying our cups of coffee just hours before, around noon.

My mother was in quite a state as we headed off to dinner.

More surprises to come for my poor mother.

My brother and his wife walked in and sat down at the table. Almost immediately, we brought up the attempted shooting at the mall. It was big-deal news for our local, small city.

My brother cheerfully replied:

“Crazy, huh? And Kate and I were at the mall today too — close call! Haha!”

It just about gave my mother a heart attack when she was informed that she almost lost her son, daughter-in-law, daughter, and daughter’s friend (who she views as an unofficial daughter), all on the same day.

On her birthday.

That would have been a horrific birthday to remember.

I had yet to realize that a date I had gone on not long before this incident would also lead to another “close-call” of sorts with an entirely unrelated attempted mass shooter.

And years later, I would learn that my husband-to-be was also a participant of the almost-Valentine’s Day Shooting, having lived a street or so away from the shooter (one of three in total) who shot himself before the plan unfolded. The entire neighbourhood was on lockdown for the night, and police showed up at my partner’s front door telling him to shut all the windows and doors and to not answer the door for anyone.

I guess my city is pretty damn small.

What I’ve learned.

With two very too-close-for-comfort incidents under my belt, I can tell you that they bring a lot of perspective to the table.

For one, I cannot express how incredibly blessed and thankful I feel to live in a country with extremely strict gun control laws. I see mass school shootings from the US on the news almost every day (or so it feels) and each time I say a small prayer of thanks that that didn’t happen to me when it almost could have.

With stricter guns laws, there are fewer people with firearms. With fewer people to keep an eye on, it’s easier to catch the dangerous ones. When the dangerous people with firearms are caught, mass-shootings are prevented.

Secondly, close calls like this really show you how life can change in an instant. One day, everything can be fine, the next everything can change, and it’s entirely out of your control.

That’s why it’s so important to treasure each and every moment we have. Life is a gift, and it can be taken away at any time.

Especially in these times of hardship, it's more important than ever to hold our loved ones close. It's important to live in the moment and treasure the time that we have, because it can so easily be taken away in an instant.

2020, in particular, was a tough year, and we all lost many things, from opportunities to loved ones to jobs to security. Our freedom. We can all agree that it was a tough time for many... that said, most of us have come out the other side with our lives.

And that is something to be very, very thankful for.

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.


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