A La Loche man said the expressions painted on students faces, as they funneled into the community hall on Friday following the school shooting, speaks volumes about how crushed and shocked the community is.
“When they got off the bus, I saw the fear in their eyes, the tears and the utter disbelief,” said Leonard Montgrand, executive director with the La Loche Friendship Centre. “I thought to myself, this is unbelievable and my heart goes out to the teachers.”
On Friday, RCMP alleged a 17-year-old male shot and killed two brothers in a home in La Loche, before heading to the high school where the teen allegedly shot and killed two teachers, wounding seven others.
Now after an emotional weekend filled with vigils, memorials and crisis management, Montgrand said the community faces a long healing road before things go back to normal.
He hopes teachers find the strength to walk back into the school and continue educating. On Monday, the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation sent its president Patrick Maze, executive director and senior staff and counsellors to support La Loche teachers traumatized after losing two of their colleagues.
“It’s hard to move forward. It’s hard to focus about things when everything around you is chaotic. Things don’t seem to have any purpose or direction at times,” Montgrand said.
When he turns on the evening news, Montgrand said the town he sees on television, isn’t the town of La Loche he’s grown to know.
“People out there think our community is this evil and horrible place to live in but it’s not like that, isolated incidents that happen in the community, unemployment is so high and addictions are so high, but there is a lot of good people in the community,” he said. “We have a lot of good things going on, a lot of positive changes and I’ve been lucky enough to see these changes.”
Acknowledging issues like addictions and suicide, Montgrand, who runs many youth programs out of the Friendship Centre, said it hasn’t been easy but local organizations have fought hard to change the culture of addictions in La Loche, and for the most part, they’ve succeeded.
“I won’t lie to people, we’ve had our share of issues, we’ve had suicides, we’ve made changes and we’re starting to see the changes,” Montgrand said, adding Friday’s shooting is a huge step backwards.
“It’s like someone punches you in the stomach and you have to start all over and it’s very hard to do,” he said.
Montgrand said he’s grateful his son, who was in school while the shooting happened, made it out safely, but his condolences are with the families of the victims.
“This is a rare isolated incident and it shocks everyone and the family must be going through hell and I feel sorry for them.”