December 6, 1989 was an ordinary Wednesday. But thirty years later, it has become a: “I remember where I was …” day. As in, I remember where I was when JFK was shot. Or I remember where I was when 911 happened. Because before Virginia Tech, before Sandyhook, before Columbine even, there was École Polytechnique in Montreal.
On that evening, a gunman walked into the engineering school in Montreal and killed 14 people. His targets were only half-random. They had to be women. Not any specific woman, any woman would do. His hatred for them was across the board.
I remember exactly where I was. My husband was taking a night class and I was at home alone with the kids. I had just put them to bed and was looking forward to relaxing and watching a little TV. No sooner had I turned on the television than all the local channels were covering the event.
Details were not yet known, but even the bare-bones basics were shocking. Someone had walked into a school and opened fire on university students. I couldn’t process the information or pull myself away from the television. How could this happen?
In the end, 14 young women were killed by a disturbed young man. He walked into a classroom, asked the men to leave, and then shot the nine women who remained, killing six of them. He continued on a 20-minute rampage throughout the school killing nine more women because he was “fighting feminism” before shooting and killing himself.
Each year, these women are remembered on December 6th. We ask ourselves who they would have become, how might they have changed the world if their lives had not been cut short. And our City honours them by illuminating the night sky with 14 beams of lights to represent the shining lights that were extinguished 30 years ago today.