Yesterday started out as a pretty average day.
I drove the boys to school then went to the office. I had plenty to do so I got started.
Then, about an hour later, everything changed. My day suddenly became a day that every parent has nightmares about.
I received a text message from one of my sons that Fredericton High School was in lockdown.
A man with a gun had been spotted in the vicinity of the school. I jumped onto the internet immediately to find whatever information I could.
The Fredericton Police had posted a photo taken from a surveillance camera showing what appears to be a man carrying a long gun in what appears to be a gun sock.
It wasn't much to go on but it looked pretty convincing to me that this was indeed a weapon of some type being carried by a man who almost seemed to be trying to conceal his identity with a hat and hoodie.
This scared the hell out of Cheryl and I and every other parent I was hearing from.
The thought of our kids being in danger and us being unable to do anything about it is almost too intense to describe. We've seen far too many stories of situations like this where lives were taken away and no-one could stop it.
Most of all, this made me very angry. How DARE some crazy bastard with a weapon threaten the things I value most in my life! How DARE he??
I'm pretty sure that I was not alone in feeling this.
All we could do was wait and watch as news developed and hope for a good ending to the story.
You can imagine some of the rumours that were flying around on social media as time went on. I won't even bother saying some of what I heard.
Fortunately, both of my boys and those around them were safe and lying under tables in darkened, locked classrooms. All they could do was stay where they were and wait it out.
At times like this I am extremely grateful that our kids have smartphones and stay in touch with us. I realize there are some folks who don't approve of this but to them I say blow it out your hat. In times like this when nothing is known as fact, the knowledge that our kids are safe is the only thing I want to know and if a smartphone is how I hear it then that's just fine with me.
However, the tension and anger are still there until it's over.
Finally, about 2 hours after it started I received word that the lockdown had been lifted and classes were returning to normal. Both of the boys messaged me and all was well.
And then, something happened and everything changed for me.
A photo was posted of an umbrella that was mistaken for a weapon and triggered the panic.
I certainly understand how it could have been seen as a weapon. It's actually a very cool umbrella to tell you the truth.
It turns out that someone spotted the man with it and a manager at the Canadian Tire store (where my sons both work) captured the above images from the cameras outside the front of the store.
But Sean is what happened that changed things for me.
The Gleaner sent out a Breaking News email alert and everything became very clear.
Sean is a young Fredericton man who just happens to be autistic. He is involved with a wonderful organization called Jobs Unlimited which is located just opposite Fredericton High School. They provide employment and care services to adults with intellectual disabilities. Their website is www.jobsunlimited.nb.ca .
Yesterday morning, Sean was on his way to work at the Giant Tiger store in the mall at the opposite end from Canadian Tire. It turns out that his mother had given him that cool umbrella for his birthday and was the ideal item to have with him on this day. Rain was forecast for the afternoon.
Here is Sean with his cool umbrella.
When Sean got to work he and the other staff were told to remain safely inside the store. His mother Frances was following the events and was very scared. In the article she tells that her family has always been opposed to firearms. Sean didn't even have a toy gun as a child.
At some point yesterday morning Sean realized that he may be the person the police were seeking. He realized that they were looking for someone walking from Priestman Street and that's where he had been. When he saw the video from the surveillance camera he knew it was him. The police were contacted and everything was cleared up.
This is where the story broke my heart.
The article talked about the concern for stress that Sean is going through over the event and the image that may be transmitted in the city about him. He was anxious at work all morning. He didn't realize that the umbrella could be mistaken for a firearm when he carried it at his side as he did. I wouldn't have thought of this either.
His mother decided that it would be in Sean's best interest if they shared more about him with the public. She says that "If he's recognizable it makes the world safer for him.""Sean is the sweetest, kindest most loving person".
My god. I had been angry at this person. Someone with absolutely no intention of causing any harm to anyone had made me terrified and angry! Sean wasn't concealing himself with his hoodie. He was trying to stay warm! It was cold yesterday morning. I'm sure that Sean kissed his mother goodbye and took off with the goal of doing the best damn job that he could of whatever was asked of him that day.
Then tears came to my eyes. They still do as I write this actually.
I felt ashamed at my thoughts and so sad at the idea that anyone could ever think badly of Sean.
So, I went to the phone book to looked up their phone number and called his house. I wanted him to know something from me.
A lady answered and I asked if she was Sean's mom. She said yes she is. I introduced myself and asked her to please give him a message.
"Please tell him no harm, no foul. Carry on, my friend. You've done nothing wrong at all".
She said "Aww. Thank you Tim. How do you know Sean?"
I said "I don't, but when the article said you are worried about what people may think of him, I wanted to call and say that I think he's great and not to worry."
She said "Aww" again and we said goodbye.
I felt a lump in my throat for most of the conversation.
I hope that my phone message helped him, even if just a little bit.
Carry on, my friend....