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On Guard, For All of Us

10/23/2014 01:06 EDT | Updated 12/23/2014 05:59 EST
Steve Russell via Getty Images
OTTAWA, ON- OCTOBER 23 - Flowers are placed on the barrier near the War Memorial in the aftermath of a shooting in Ottawa, where a soldier murdered at the War Memorial and a gun battle in Parliament killed the alleged gun man. in Ottawa. October 23, 2014. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

This morning, I walked into my daughter's bedroom to help her get ready for kindergarten. She was lying in bed "reading" her books and I asked if I could take a picture of her. I was thinking of an internet meme I'd seen a few weeks ago - #GirlWithABook - after Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Malala famously said that "Extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book." I wanted a picture of my own girl, with her own books. My own contribution to our world's future.

She refused my request and I didn't want to push it. She and her brother got their things ready for the day and we walked out the door and made our way down the few blocks to their school. We met up with friends along the way. It was a crisp, clear morning. The sky was that particular shade of blue that seems even brighter against the yellow and red of the leaves, the sun's light streaming through the branches.

I kissed them on the cheek and told them I'd see them later and made my way home to pick up the car so I could drive into work.

And then things changed.

My sister had texted me: "This thing in Ottawa is intense! MP's tweeting that the shooter has been killed."

I had no idea what she was talking about so I did the Canadian thing and turned on CBC news (I was sitting in the car at the time, just getting ready to leave). I stayed there, parked in my driveway, for nearly half an hour listening to Anna Maria Tremonti and David Common try to make sense of what was going on for the rest of us.

Like so many others across our country, I was - am - so upset about these tragic events. I am upset that a reservist guarding our nation's war memorial was murdered so callously. I am upset that the building where the legislation that shapes our country has been discussed and debated and passed into law was violated in such a visceral way. I am upset that schools in the area had to put their lockdown skills to good use. That these events mean that the ceremony at which Malala was going to receive her Honourary Canadian Citizenship was cancelled is an irony no one could have expected. I hope we can take some inspiration from her own response to being shot by terrorists and answer this attack on our nation in a peaceful, loving, productive way.

We Canadians are curious when it comes to expressing our patriotism. We know we've got things pretty good here, but we tend toward self-deprecation and modesty when anyone points it out. Our national pride tends to galvanize around sporting events, like a hockey game or the Olympics or for the ultimate display: an Olympic hockey game. Thousands of us have a maple leaf tattoo, but we don't go around showing it off, making sure you know it's there. (Okay, maybe some of us do.)

Make no mistake though: this quiet pride masks a flame that burns deep within us, and if you stepped outside today you would see millions of hearts glowing across the True North Strong & Free because that flame is burning brighter than ever before. We will not let this violence define us.

But it's changed us. It's changed me, anyway. This is the first time I am going to leave the TV off when my kids are around. They do not need to know how close it's come. They need to feel safe and secure, not full of fear.

Then I'm going to reinforce just what a special place we have the privilege to live in and remind them that they must never take that for granted. And I will tell them that though we may not put on a uniform and risk making the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country, we all have an obligation to defend the values our flag stands for. Never before have the words of our anthem carried such meaning: From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Proudly. Everywhere. Still.

In Photos: Ottawa Shooting