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Dawson College unveils garden 5 years after shooting

09/13/2011 09:46 EDT | Updated 11/13/2011 05:12 EST

On the fifth anniversary of the shooting at Montreal's Dawson College, the school is unveiling a garden on its grounds dedicated to the memory of the 18-year-old student who was shot and killed on Sept. 13, 2006.

The Peace Garden is meant to be a living memorial to Anastasia De Sousa's spirit and to the courage of those who were affected by the tragedy.

De Sousa was killed and 19 others wounded when a gunman opened fire at the school five years ago, before turning his gun on himself.

De Sousa's family attended the garden's inauguration ceremony Tuesday, as did police and dignitaries from all levels of government.

Former Dawson College students gathered around the garden alongside current students.

Katherine Mandilaras, who was shot in the leg five years ago, said at first she wasn't planning on attending the Dawson memorial to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, but she changed her mind when she saw the garden.

"As soon as I saw it, a calm came over me," she said. "I look at it as if I ever need somewhere to go and think, it's a good place."

Mandilaras said her emotional recovery is still continuing, five years on.

"There's never a point in your life where you're like, OK, I'm done with it," she said.

The garden is built around Anastasia's Tree, a flowering almond donated by the Montreal police on the first anniversary of the shooting.

"It's going to turn to pink blossoms," said Antoine Bock-Caron, one of the current Dawson students involved in the Peace Garden project. "It's a gorgeous, gorgeous tree and it's in memory of Anastasia because pink was her favourite colour."

Dawson's director general, Richard Fillion, said the garden is part of the healing process, but it's also for educational purposes.

The college is also hosting an international conference at the end of the month that will examine factors that could contribute to violent behaviour and what preventive measures educators can take.

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