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'It’s an important message to send': Lynn Valley library reopens following shocking knife attack

"Just feeling the love and support from this community is phenomenal."
The library has books on all matter of subjects, but there’s no perfect playbook when it comes to moving on from a tragedy.

Still, the staff and volunteers at Lynn Valley library – and the community at large – are trying.

“It’s been an emotional time for everybody,” said Jacqueline van Dyk, director of library services for North Vancouver District Public Library. “It’s hard to come up with the words. We’re a word organization, but it’s hard to come up with the right ones to describe it.”

The library reopened today [March 31], following a seemingly random and horrific knife attack that took place inside and around the library complex Saturday afternoon.

A woman was killed and six others were injured in the attack. A suspect has been charged with second-degree murder and there is no longer an ongoing threat to the public, according to police.

Staff were welcomed back into the library on Monday, where they were offered crisis counselling and had the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the space following so much turmoil and chaos.

“The reality is this could have happened anywhere,” said van Dyk. “I’m incredibly proud of the staff and how they reacted. They did what needed to be done. They worked together as a team. I believe they saved lives.”

Normalcy slowly returns

In addition to yesterday’s reorientation, van Dyk and staff spent a good chunk of time just walking around the village square, reading the chalk work that now blankets the area in vibrant colours, positive messages and good vibrations.

“I just had to take a few moments to cry through that – just feeling the love and support from this community is phenomenal,” she said.

Countless witnesses have already shared their stories of help and heroism during the attack. In the immediate aftermath, the library and much of the Lynn Valley village complex were closed as investigators worked to figure out what had happened.

While it may be a while before we know all the details, the community has done a striking job of reclaiming the space.

On Wednesday, following the library’s 10 a.m. reopening and despite the shocking violence that occurred only days earlier, there was a sense of normalcy, calmness and respectful quiet in the area – children chased bubbles, seniors enjoyed a leisurely stroll and a cup of coffee with friends, teens were hanging out, and people stopped to pay their respects by the hundreds of flowers, bouquets and makeshift memorials that now dot the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the library.

Congregants from nearby Lynn Valley United Church walked through the village square, handing out uplifting pins and a placard in front of Brown’s Socialhouse – where many witnesses and bystanders also helped during Saturday’s chaos – read: “We are choosing happiness today. … We are stronger together and are grateful to be a part of the Lynn Valley community.”   

One other activity had returned to normal: people were bustling in and out of the library again.

Sharing and reading stories

Dustin Alexander left the library Wednesday morning with a pamphlet in his hand for the library’s new StoryLab digital storytelling facility.

“They just opened recently and I think it’s pretty cool that we have that here in Lynn Valley,” said Alexander.

He said he was very happy the library had reopened.

“Walking up and seeing all the [chalk] hearts, that really just hit me in the heart as well. This was a pretty crazy scene just a few days ago.”

North Vancouver residents Tosca Jaeger and David Mathers came to the library to return borrowed materials and to grab something new as well.

“I didn’t want to get a fine,” quipped Mathers.

Jaeger said Saturday’s knife attack wouldn’t deter her from enjoying a public space she’d been frequenting for years.

“It would definitely not stop me. I’m very glad I can come back. This has been my main source for many, many years for DVDs, and books and information,” she said.

Sending an important message

Emergency calls reporting a series of stabbings in Lynn Valley started to come in around 1:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Eleven ambulances and two supervising vehicles were deployed to the scene at Lynn Valley Road, between Mountain Highway and 29th Street, and the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was eventually called in. The motive behind the attacks remains unknown.

North Shore Emergency Management has opened a Wellness and Resilience Centre out of Karen Magnussen rec centre, open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, to support people who been left shocked and traumatized following the stabbing attack.

As life around Lynn Valley Village slowly starts to return to how it once was, van Dyk said it was important for library staff and the wider community to reclaim the space for themselves.

“We learn by sharing our own stories and hearing other stories but also we learn by reading through the stories of the books on the shelves,” she added.

On Wednesday morning, Lynn Valley resident Maggie Morris took a seat outside the library on one of many public tables. Surrounded by groups of other people doing the same thing, Morris reflected on the importance of the public square, what it means to the community, and how for a brief moment, the actions of one person attempted to take that all away.

“We come here all the time. I’m always here with the kids. It’s so bizarre,” she said. “Obviously, a terrible thing happened here and people are still recovering, but I think it’s really important to just come back and be a patron here. It’s an important message to send.”