“When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are.”
She was an anonymous hero desperately laboring to save the life of a reservist mortally wounded at the cenotaph of Canada’s Unknown Soldier.
Who was this woman? Where did she find her courage?
Laura Eggertson answered the question for me. Laura is an award-winning journalist whose friend – Barbara Winters – was the woman in the picture. I share her story with permission.
Barbara was headed to a meeting near her office at the Canada Revenue Agency where she works as a lawyer. She paused at the National War Memorial, stopping to snap a few pictures of the two honor guards standing soberly at attention.
It was October 22, 2014.
Moments later, as she walked away, she heard four shots.
Running To The Roar
Eggertson wrote, “For Barbara Winters, a former member of the Canadian Forces Naval Reserve, the sounds were unmistakable.
She began to run — not towards safety, but towards the shots.”
As Winters ran, she looked for — but couldn’t see — the two soldiers. Her mind went to the hit-and-run death in Quebec of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent two days earlier, and she instinctively knew the honor guards had been targeted.
As she reached the memorial, Winters saw four people bending over a fallen soldier. She dropped her purse and briefcase on the steps and began to help.
Margaret Lerhe, (read her account) a nurse on her way to work at the Elizabeth Bruyere Hospital, was pressing her hands to a wound on Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s left side to stanch the bleeding.
A corporal, a third member of the honour guard was on Cirillo’s right side, pressing his hands to a wound there.
Another soldier was bent over Cirillo’s head, talking to him. “You’re doing good, you’re doing good, buddy,” he told Cirillo. “You’re breathing — keep breathing.”
Another passerby was at Cirillo’s feet.
Winters, who served as a medic during her 17 years in the Naval Reserve, asked the man to elevate Cirillo’s feet. She loosened his tie.
With A Prayer
Winters began to pray, reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
She talked to Cirillo. He was conscious; his eyes were open, and he was staring straight ahead. She felt that he could hear her.
“You’re a good man, you’re a brave man,” she told him.
Read the rest of Laura’s article here.
Hear the CBC radio interview with Barbara here.
Laura Eggertson runs her own communications consultant business, and in addition to writing on adoption-related subjects, enjoys writing about health, science, education, and relationship issues. She is an award-winning journalist and previously worked for The Canadian Press in Toronto and Washington, D.C., and for the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star in Ottawa. Laura facilitates an adoptive parents’ support group (Ottawa Adoptive Families) and is also a provincial representative for the North American Council on Adoptable Children and a co-founder of the Canadian Coalition of Adoptive Parents.
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I am so glad I found a page where I can express my deep and resounding gratitude for Barbara Winters. She demonstrated all that is good as Canadians …and most importantly perhaps she told that lovely young man and father how much he was loved…I agree that when people are dying they need to hear these words…I have said the same to dying loved ones in their last moments and I would like to think it helped ease their way from this life to perhaps the next. In that moment all is forgiven …
I think it is also particularly wonderful that she gave him the kiss of life without hesitation..to watch her gently stroke his head and comfort him was remarkable..and while his mum could not be with him, a lovely kind woman was there as her proxy…
I am sure there are millions..millions of Canadians who would want Barbara Winters at their side at the last moment ..I know I would.
Well said, Catherine. Barbara and the others who came to Cpl Cirillo’s aid are a reminder that when evil rears its ugly head, good responds with grace, kindness and love. Love wins out. Thank you for commenting.