Patrick Ryan, a retired RCMP officer, observes the Mounties in the parking lot of Holy Family Church in St. Albert Jan 26 prior to the funeral of Const. David Wynn.

Patrick Ryan, a retired RCMP officer, observes the Mounties in the parking lot of Holy Family Church in St. Albert Jan 26 prior to the funeral of Const. David Wynn.

February 9, 2015
SHARON RYAN
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

In the early morning hours of Jan. 17, I awoke to the ominous sound of helicopters hovering closely over my house. My instincts told me something was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, the citizens of St. Albert heard the terrible news that two RCMP officers were shot in the casino and the shooter had escaped to a nearby acreage. For 10 hours, the city listened to the low-flying helicopter and wondered about the fate of the two officers.

The killer shot himself dead and sadly Const. David Wynn died of his wounds. Derek Bond, an auxiliary constable, survived. We were first a city under siege and now a people in mourning for our loss.

We love our Mounties in St. Albert. We share "hellos" in the coffee shops. Our children greet them in their schools, and we even thank them for keeping us safe when they stop to give us speeding tickets.

It was no surprise then that Father Maurice Okolie of Holy Family Parish opened the doors of our church and parking lot to the RCMP, police, military and other security forces on Jan. 26 for Wynn's regimental funeral even though Wynn wasn't Catholic.

We knew we were in for a day of extreme contrasts with snipers on the roof outside and the Catholic Women's League inside preparing hot coffee, cookies and snacks.

ALWAYS A MOUNTIE

My father, Patrick Ryan, 88 years old and retired from the RCMP, sat in the banquet hall in his red serge amidst dozens of young RCMP officers preparing for the march. He was invited to participate by the local detachment because once a Mountie, always a Mountie.

I will never forget the scene unfolding in the Holy Family parking lot. What looked like 5,000 RCMP, police, military and other security forces were lining up for the funeral procession with snipers scanning the area from the roof of the church with automatic weapons and a helicopter hovering above.

The church parking lot had been cordoned off with yellow tape and was now a restricted area. Only a few Catholic Women's League members and our two African priests were allowed to stay.

My own father walked among the young troops in awe. At one point, I led him to the centre of the parking lot where he and I stood as we felt the presence of a sacred silence, like in the eye of a hurricane, with the 5,000 troops lining up all around us and the helicopter buzzing directly above.

INVITATION TO MARCH

Thirty seconds later, he and I were surrounded by armed police and politely quizzed about his identity. Relieved, they invited him to march with the troops. Instead, given his age, he chose to salute them from the sidewalk.

My father trained troops over 50 years ago in Regina and he feels the sadness of every death like it is his own son.

On Jan. 21, when he learned of Wynn's death, Patrick began his own mourning for the deceased Mountie and then learned later the same day of the birth of his second great-grandson Ryan.

More contrast and more profound conversations with God: We are feeling the pain of a great loss and the joy of a great blessing on the same day.

When I was growing up, my father taught me to love God and to love my neighbour. Today he showed me this love in action.

(Sharon Ryan lives in St. Albert and teaches ethics for UCLA Extension. Sharonryan2@gmail.com.)