Sunday #25: June 17, 2012 – A Dark Week: Remembrance, Prayer and Gratitude

This week in my home city—Edmonton, Alberta, Canada—has been tough. The last few days in particular have been filled with terrible, tragic news, the kind that breaks your heart and weighs heavily on your spirits.

On June 13, the horrible story about 27-month-old twin girls who had been abused and neglected by their parents came to light. Several weeks earlier, their father, who cannot be named to protect the girls’ identities, had called 911 when one twin was having trouble breathing. When paramedics arrived that day, the twin was in cardiac arrest. She is still on life support in hospital with a serious head injury. Her sister also remains hospitalized. When they were rescued, the girls weighed a mere 13 pounds and 16 pounds, barely heavier than a newborn baby and about half the average weight for that age. Their “parents”—for lack of a more appropriate word—are still in police custody. They’ve been charged with two counts each of aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life. Because the critically injured girl’s head injuries are life-threatening, the homicide unit of the Edmonton Police Service is investigating this case. The couple’s other child, a son, was thankfully not harmed. He is now in foster care.

The senselessness and sorrow of this situation is mind-boggling, yet it is matched by another event in the city which Edmontonians read about the very next day. On the evening of June 13, shortly before 11:30 p.m., 46-year-old Andrew Green was hit and killed by a car on Anthony Henday Drive in west Edmonton. Green had stopped to help another driver whose car had a flat tire. Police spokesman Scott Pattison explained that Green was bending down to place a hazard triangle on the road when he was struck by a dark-coloured SUV. The careless and heartless driver then sped off without stopping.  The next day, the vehicle’s owner turned himself in. His vehicle was later found with major damage to the front-end. Perhaps most tragic of all in this story, Andrew Green had moved to Edmonton only six months ago. He was looking to start a new life; instead his life is over. I cannot imagine how devastated his family is at this abrupt and heartbreaking end to his life.

By the end of the week, three more families would feel the same crushing despair at the unexpected, untimely loss of a loved one, a despair shared to a lesser degree by most residents of this city. We woke to news on Friday morning that three G4S guards had been murdered in cold blood, and another is critical condition with life-threatening injuries after an armed robbery at HUB Mall, on the University of Alberta campus. The alleged killer is also an employee of G4S, who reportedly shot and killed his armoured car team before fleeing with $330,000 in cash and an apparent plan to sneak across the border into the United States. Fortunately, the suspect, Travis Baumgartner, was apprehended without incident before he was able to make his escape. His capture, of course, does little to assuage the pain of the families of fellow armoured guards Michelle Shegelski, 26; Brian Ilesic, 35; and Eddie Rejano, 39—the three murdered guards—or Matthew Schuman (no age given), the guard in hospital in critical condition. Those people will never have the shattered pieces of their lives fully put back together.

It has been a shocking, sad week here in Edmonton. Today, a Sunday, marks the end of it on the calendar. Soon, the stories will fade, replaced by other stories, other tragedies. Soon, this week will remain only a memory for most of us.

The end will never come, however, for the families of all those lost and for the survivors of those tragedies. I hope that before Edmontonians mentally move on to other things, we will each take a few moments to remember those lost, to pray for those left behind—and to be grateful for all our own loved ones who will go to bed and be safe tonight.

Rest in peace Andrew, Michelle, Brian and Eddie. I did not know you, but I feel your loss along with the people whose lives you graced.

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