Tuesday 23 July 2013

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Vacationing at a Terror Target

I've had people threaten me before. In elementary school “I’m gonna kill you!” was a pretty common utterance on the playground. Rough and tumble games of ball hockey can always be counted on to cause tempers to overheat, and at least one ex-girlfriend has wished for an end to my time on Earth, although in her defence I probably deserved that one. Until this Canada Day though, I've never had anyone actually try and follow through on it.

Of course unlike all the other occasions my existence has been threatened, this one wasn't focused solely on me. Neither I, nor I suspect anybody else gathered in Victoria that weekend, knew the people who decided to plant bombs around the legislature lawn, but that really doesn't offer me a whole lot of comfort in the situation. I mean, I like to think that anybody who knows me would think I’m a nice, friendly person. Even on my worst day I’d hope that I’d be able to make a good enough first impression to qualify above the line of “people I’d like to blow up”. That seems like a reasonable ‘minimum level’ to hope to achieve in pretty much all human interactions,  yet somehow while celebrating my country’s birthday I found myself lumped in with a group that, at least in two people’s eyes, failed to make that cut.

I had no idea that my family had become a terror target. The RCMP were apparently well aware of the bombing plot and felt confident enough in their surveillance that they allowed the would-be bombers to take the ferry to Victoria and plant the bombs around the legislature lawn. The police simply followed along behind and gathered the bombs back up as they were planted. I envision it unfolding similar to a Scooby-Doo episode where Shaggy leaves a trail of Scooby Snacks behind him and Scooby follows along eating them up as he goes. That probably downplays all the hard work that the RCMP put in to this investigation but I like to envision happenings in my life in terms of Scooby Snacks. In any case, the police felt that they had the terror plot under control and thus never bothered to alert the public to its existence until the day after the Canada Day celebrations.

Which leads me to my question. If I had known that there was a terror plot afoot for the day, would I have altered my Canada Day plans at all. I know it’s been said that if the terrorists make you change the way you do things then they've won, but from my point of view I also consider it a winning scenario when nobody blows up. Even if the RCMP had assured me that there was no longer a threat, I wonder how comfortable I would have felt joining thousands of people on the legislature lawn to form a living flag. Would I have been able to enjoy the concerts when every drumbeat would leave me scanning the crowd for suspicious looking people? And the fireworks….well the setting off of miniature bombs in the sky would have certainly made me a nervous wreck by the end of that night. I might have felt a whole lot more comfortable staying back at the Fairmont Empress and watching the festivities from across the street, although I’m sure it wouldn't have been long before I began to wonder how great a target the hotel itself would make for some attention seeking terrorist. I don’t know how I would have reacted had I known about the bombing plot, but I do know that I enjoyed my weekend a whole lot more without being in the know.

Unlike most people, we hung around for an extra day after Canada Day. We were still in Victoria when the press conference was held to announce the details about the foiled terror plot and as the details were given you could see people starting to go back through their weekend and picture what could have been. For a while we were sitting next to a giant tree on the legislature lawn. Would that have been where one of the bombs was planted? What about the statue we all assembled next to for the living flag? And what about that guy who was hauled out of the crowd during the concert on Sunday night? They used four police officers to arrest that one guy. Was he involved in some way? When I look back on the weekend with the new knowledge it seems like a chaotic, high stress vacation, but at the time it was peaceful, relaxing, and a whole lot of fun. I’m glad that the RCMP didn't let us know about the bombing plot. I’m thankful for the very heavy police presence at the celebrations, even though at the time I thought it might have been a little overkill, but most of all I’m grateful that they didn't miss any of the bombs. It would have only taken one stray Scooby Snack to ruin everybody’s weekend, and they would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling cops.

I'm not RCMP, but I would have had this lady under surveillance 24/7.

Written by Steve Pratt