POLITICS

Ottawa Shooting Had Lasting Impact For MPs, Staffers

10/22/2015 05:49 EDT | Updated 10/22/2016 05:12 EDT

OTTAWA — The effects of a gunman's assault on Parliament Hill still reverberate for New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen, who can't forget the scene inside the party's caucus room as shots cracked in the hall outside.

"As I put my hand on the door to open it, our security came in the other way and then we stood against it or tried to figure out what to do next," Cullen said Thursday. "Me and another MP went and barred the other door."

Cullen said it wasn't until later that he realized his colleague was standing just where a bullet lodged in a door.

"That sort of brings it home a bit for sure," he said.

Michael Zehaf Bibeau stormed into the Centre Block with his lever-action rifle after shooting and killing honour guard Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the nearby National War Memorial.

Cullen says the day's events have had a long-term impact.

"It is very much still on my mind," Cullen said. "It certainly affects the place where we all work."

Bullet holes can still been seen in the Hall of Honour. There are imprints on people, too.

Marc-Andre Viau, a NDP political staffer, remembers leaving the building that day and being told to "get down" by police.

He also recalls seeing Zehaf Bibeau making his way toward Parliament Hill.

"We took cover and that's when I saw in my peripheral vision, someone running towards the front door," Viau said.

"We heard the shots, five, ten shots followed by a short pause and then about 40 shots after that ... It was hard to believe that shots could be fired in Centre Block, it was kind of surreal."

Outgoing Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said he remembers being in the Conservative caucus, across the hall from the NDP meeting, when he heard shots.

"There there was a moment of disarray where we realized that something was happening and that we were facing the unexpected," Blaney said.

"The prime minister was extracted fairly soon and then I was extracted at the end of the afternoon with three other then-ministers — Minister (John) Baird, (Rob) Nicholson, Peter MacKay.

Blaney said the ministers were taken to the prime minister's Sussex Drive residence in a light-armoured vehicle.

"So you could tell how much our capital was under attack by the attack of this terrorist," he said.

"I will always remember the smile on the face of the prime minister when he saw that we were all good and it was good for us to see him as well."

Viau says he was plagued with many "what if" questions following the attack.

"I could remember what happened," he said. "What did I do right? What did I do wrong? ... What if I had decided to leave 30 seconds after? ...

"It's pretty powerful statement to make to enter Centre Block and just start shooting."

A police investigation found the gunman was hit by 31 shots fired by police and security officers. In all, they fired 56 rounds during the intense gunfight.

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