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Parliament Attack Shakes Otherwise Quiet Ottawa


An emotional day in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.


UNIDENTIFIED PARLIAMENT MEMBERS: (Singing) God keep our land glorious and free.

CORNISH: Members of Parliament sang the national anthem as they opened their session the day after a gunman killed an honor guard at a national war memorial and then stormed the Parliament building. In a moment we'll examine what yesterday's events may reveal about the way Canada approaches potential terrorist threats. NPR's Jackie Northam begins our coverage in Ottawa.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Parliament's return to business 24 hours after the deadly attacks here in Ottawa set the tone - life must go on. Members of Parliament gave a hearty standing ovation for Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms who killed the attacker just a few feet shy of the lawmakers' caucus room. That was followed by a moment of silence for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot dead by 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as he stood guard over the nearby National War Memorial.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear the country would not bow to violence.


PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER: We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic. And as for the business of government, well, here we are in our seats, in our chamber, in the very heart of our democracy and our work.

NORTHAM: Outside Parliament, many of the surrounding streets are still closed off and police are everywhere. The hordes of reporters that have descended on Ottawa mill about while cameramen film the picturesque House of Commons and the war memorial. Richard Beard, a young engineering student at the University of Ottawa, said, he'd come to the war memorial to pay his respects.

RICHARD BEARD: I'm not here for anything else but the soldier, to - I was actually checking to see - I know that now you can bring flowers so I think I'm going to come back with some, but I mean, that's the reason why I'm here.

NORTHAM: Beard says, the whole thing feels surreal - that it's hard to believe this could happen in Ottawa. This city has an open feel to it, especially around Parliament, where its broad lawns are regularly used for games of soccer or Frisbee. There been only five murders in Ottawa this year, but many people interviewed say they're not naive and know that Canada isn't immune from attacks, especially now since the government has signed on to a U.S.-led effort against the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Janaki Mody, owner of the nearby Parliament Pub, says, it's clear security is going to be more of an issue now.

JANAKI MODY: And with us, you know, sending troops over and getting in the fight and speaking our minds, yeah, I mean we're definitely on the target list, obviously.

NORTHAM: Still, Mody says, once the shock of the violence has passed, the community will only be stronger. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Ottawa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.