My primary goals were to attend the unveiling of the new memorial to the living Medal of Honor recipients, meet a few and get some photos and autographs, get lots of pictures of the grave markers for the brave Canadians who earned Medals of Honor and other Canadians who are buried in either Arlington or Gettysburg and do some major research of these individuals at both locations.
But destiny had other plans for me I guess.
On that first day when I stepped out into the streets of Gettysburg I looked right across the road at one of the entrances to the Gettysburg National Cemetery. My view focused on the very large mast and the American flag flying proudly. However it was at half mast. I was told it was in honour of those killed and injured in the horrible incident just a few days earlier at the naval dockyard at Washington DC. A man known to suffer with mental issues was on contract to do work on the base. His had been previously checked and he was known to have fired shots in the past but, if the news is correct, the results of those checks were not passed up the line, and so his clearance to enter the highly sensitive area was not affected. Nor was the fact that he just happened to be carrying a sawed of shotgun, detected, as he went through security. Eight were apparently killed and another dozen injured. And thus the flag at half mast.
(In contrast, a few years back and well after the 911 disaster, I was challenged at a northern BC airport because within my carry on luggage was a shaving kit. With it was a nail file. I was not allowed to return to Victoria with the nail file. Though they did kindly offer me the opportunity to mail it to someone if I chose. When I noted it travalled with me to the north, apparently the return trip was not allowed.)
LET'S NOW JUMP FORWARD TWO WEEKS.
I did some of my work in Gettysburg, went to DC to do my work and came back to Gettysburg yesterday to finish work here and will be heading off to Harrisburg tomorrow for my return flight home.
But I can not do my work here. It involves museums and parks run by the federal government who have shut down. Millions are literally affected. These last four have been almost a complete wipe out for me as far as research goes. Just thought I'd note that. Thanks US Government. Please be sure to tell me where to send my bill.
But let's get back to that flag pole and coming full circle. Today you can see the flag pole but it is now behind a secured gate that prevents descendants, the public and tourist to visit this historic site. A million people come to this town of about 2,500 every year to see the history all around them. But now the town will no doubt take a massive hit on revenues because of the federal government's inability to sort itself out. Millions of others who work for government are unemployed. And who knows how many, who's duties are considered essential services, are still forced to work... they just don't know if... or when they will get paid. No doubt their mortgage holders and there grocery store will just say... OK, don't worry, just pay whenever.
There is a second reason why I feel I have come full circle. A few weeks back the fellow with mental illness made news with the shootings above noted. At Gettysburg the fallen were recognized with the flag lowered.
But yesterday, as you have no doubt hear in the news, a woman was shot by police in Washington DC. Rumblings are that she may have also had mental illness issues. But this unarmed woman was shot, no doubt multiple times and the flag is at full mast. Hmmmm!
Folks I was there yesterday and stood on the very spot where part of this event took place less than two hours before it unravelled.
Those of you who know me also know that I am a former police officer. When I saw that shooting on the news it sent the same chills up my spine that I got from seeing the numerous shooting You Tube videos taken of the Toronto youth who was shot in a streetcar about a month back. He had a knife but was alone of the streetcar. The police shot him three times, if memory is correct and then for good luck fired another six at him. Then just to make sure, they tasered him.
It seems that many of the same questions there need to be raised here.
Americans ought to take note that the Toronto police officer has now been charged with murder.
At the time of the DC shooting, the woman had attempted to drive her small compact car through a road block outside the White House. Apparently in the process an officer was injured as her failed attempt resulted in her racing off from the scene, down almost 20 city blocks and ending up at the Congress buildings. There she raced back and forth along one side of the buildings with the police is hot pursuit in numerous cruisers. At lone point the vehicle was in a stationary position and demands for her to get out to face several officers with weapons pointing at her resulted in her backing out of the situation and racing off again back and forth until again coming to a rest along side of the road. Then one or more officers fired into the car, probably not realizing at the time that there was a lone one year old baby also in the car they were shooting into. She then stumbled out and tried to run away. They continued shooting, I guess in her back, rather than chasing her. Throughout the whole ordeal apparently at least ten shots were fired by the police. Who knows how many hit her but she was killed. The baby was OK, and according to the news was rescued by the very people who killed her mother...a woman who by all accounts so far... was unarmed.
News of the tragedy was wide spread in short order. Someone in the Congress took the floor to express our gratitude to the capital police. Chiefs of at least three police agencies followed suit in public statements praising the heroics of the police who apparently performed so well. All within hours of the shooting, and before such wonderful performance has not been determined by an independent investigation that would hopefully seek details of the event, rather than protecting the status quo of all involved.
Something is very wrong with what happened in DC. Those charged with getting to the bottom of the incident ought not to focus on the apparent authority to use this amount of power when the woman had... as her weapon... a car, but ought to focus on why the car was simply not taken away from her. How many shots were fired at the wheel while the vehicle was stationary. Absence of comment in the media might suggest NONE. How many of the dozens of PD cars on site were used to block the car so that it was no longer move in any direction, and thus, useless as a weapon. Media coverage suggests one though dozens were in the immediate vicinity.
In my visit to DC I could not help but notice that on MOST CORNERS in the downtown area sat one OR MORE cruisers with the red lights flashing even though the officer inside seemed to be doing nothing but observing what was going on around him or her. Why could they not have been brought into play to help cordon the offending vehicle off.
Ending the life of this woman was not the only solution... just the quickest and easiest. Where were the tasers and the rubber bullets and the tear gas... and the common sense?
Where was there ANY EVIDENCE of attempts to DE-ESCALATE by using any of the above or other tools. None that I can see. They ought to have blocked the car and backed off to allow cooler heads to taker over instead of using her for target practice.
What a tragedy!
And to think that as this unfolds, we in Canada are celebrating are first week of Womens History Month.