It’s been 13 years. I almost died. The person who tried to kill could be walking the streets right now. I don’t know.
13 years ago this week, I was doing a word find puzzle from the paper and chatting with our assignment editor Garnet Lewis. I was waiting for my camera man to take me back to the infamous Park Allen cat house. The day before, hundreds of sick and dead cats were found living in a small house along with an elderly woman. The smell of that place covered in a foot of feces and that penetrating scent of urine still gives me olfactory hallucinations to this day. I was going back to do a follow-up story from the day before. The camera man was late.
I was just there waiting. Passing time. Chatting. In between my word searches…I saw Garnet with a big vanilla envelope. You know, the type used in every office. It was addressed to the Trouble Shooter. We didn’t have a specific consumer reporter so Garnet, the man who filters all story ideas, opened it. I remember a tape case was inside. I just remember a flash. I remember Garnet closing the box. I remember him throwing it out in front of him. I remember the noise. It sounded like a fire cracker. I remember something hit my eye…and bounced off. I remember thinking “why would someone send us one of those Christmas crackers?” Inside, I must have known it’s wasn’t something innocuous as a cracker. I ran to a nearby office to call 9-11. I dialed the numbers and I put down the phone. I couldn’t believe what I saw…why would police? I went back and saw Garnet lying on the floor. His glasses askew on his face. My co-workers who didn’t run away like me but ran towards him told me later he kept asking “Where’s Stacey? Where’s Stacey?”
We all hurried out of the station…and it’s a bit of a blur after that. The building was evacuated. The whole busy area around Jasper Avenue and 102 St was completely shut down. Emergency crews started to show up. And so did the news vans. We were now the news and I didn’t like it. Garnet and I were taken by ambulance to the Royal Alexandra hospital. Police took photos of me. Doctors checked me out. I was fine. Garnet lost some of his hearing that day. And all of us at the station lost our innocence. We didn’t find out until later exactly what happened. A bomb was sent to the station.
A bomb? I wasn’t a soldier. I wasn’t a cop. I was a young reporter on my way to investigate the stinky house of a couple of cat hoarders. Why were we targets of a bomb? What did we do to deserve that? Turns out we would never learn the answer to that question. Police told us the bomb was filled with razor blades. It would have killed or seriously maimed us had Garnet not attempted to close it when he realized something was wrong. He didn’t allow it to detonate fully or things in my life, if I still had one, might be very different. I dubbed Garnet my ‘bomb buddy’ after that. He was back at work the next day. But he left A-Channel less than a year after the bomb. He’s a Facebook friend. I wish we were closer than that. I will never forget him and how he followed his instincts.
Turns out an Edmonton man was behind the bomb. He had sent others. One went to Calgary Police chief. That was safely detonated. And turns out he also shipped a fake one to the Edmonton Police chief. The crown prosecutor of the case filled us in on how they caught him. It was amazing police work, the kind you see in TV cop shows, that led police to his door. I went to court when he was charged with attempted murder. Justice was quick in this case. He pleaded guilty. He stood up in court and apologized. The judge said this was an act of terrorism and he was sentenced to 12 years in jail with no possibility of parole. He had to serve his full 12 years. It’s been more than a dozen years now, I have no idea if he is out of prison. I did see him in the courtroom, but I don’t know if I have ever passed him on the street. Or if he watches me on TV.
I don’t think about it much but recently a young mother died in Innisfail after she was sent a bomb and a man was caught with explosives in Mill Woods. Those headlines brought it back. And just a few months ago a former co-worker who was in the station but nowhere near the bomb when it went off reached out to me. It was still haunting him all these years later. It surely left its mark on me. But I had to ponder…how?
- I think about death a little too much. Occasionally, I can close my eyes and see bad things happening to my loved ones. I immediately open them to stop the macabre show. But, I am a news anchor and read about death and destruction all the time so I’m not sure if the bomb is the only thing to blame.
- You do not want to sit next to me at a scary movie or walk up behind me when I am not expecting you. I am unreasonably jittery when it comes to unexpected loud sounds. I will scream at the top of my lungs usually freaking out everyone near me. They don’t know why I do that. People laugh. So do I. But I know the bang I heard that June day is the reason everyone is staring at me in the theater shaking their heads.
- I also am very careful about the mail I open. The station bought a scanner checking all of our packages shortly after the bomb. Anything dicey-looking I am very careful with.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how this experience has affected me. Self analysis has never been a strong suit of mine. I know this man’s crime gave me perspective. After something like this happens, it gives you pause…you slip into trite musings. “Hug your children.” “Never leave the house without telling your loved ones how much you care”. Those are powerful and important words.
But sometimes I do go to bed mad. After a while that ‘life-affirming’ perspective slips away, falling victim to mundane life. I know every minute is precious. And life should be lived. Believe it or not, I hope the man who sent the bomb has a great life as a free man and finds happiness. I don’t want him to ever again feel the anger and desperation he must been mired in when he packaged up those razor blades to indiscriminately kill. Saying all this if he passes me on the street…I hope he walks right on by.