For Lynn Valley resident Steve Mossop, the terrible events that unfolded in North Vancouver’s Lynn Valley library plaza a year ago are never too far from the surface.
Mossop, who lives near the plaza and came across the aftermath of the knife attacks as a witness, said he often walks by the area and feels those memories tug at his consciousness.
“Once you witness something like that, you can never erase it.”
This weekend, the North Vancouver community will mark the anniversary of a series of knife attacks on strangers in the middle of a public plaza that left one woman dead and six others wounded on March 27, 2021.
It’s a complicated occasion, one that involves an acknowledgement of the way lives were tragically impacted by the events of that day. It’s also a recognition of resilience, both of the six victims who continue to recover and of a community adamant that the horror of that day would not continue to define it.
That Saturday, a year ago, Mossop was driving past the plaza when he was waved down by a woman covered in blood. He stopped immediately and helped her and her young son into the nearby Brown’s restaurant.
She had been stabbed multiple times by a stranger.
Mossop said he’s thought about what happened many times since then.
He’s become more aware of who’s around him in a public space, for instance, as well as suspicious activity that might signal the potential for trouble in the community.
At the same time, Mossop said he’s grateful that he stopped that day, and for the actions of other bystanders who leapt into action.
'You can make a difference'
“You can actually make a difference,” he said. “You can get involved in a split second and change the course of somebody’s life.”
This weekend, there will be sidewalk chalk placed outside the library and post-it note hearts will be available for the public to share messages of love, hope and support, reflecting on the day.
Emily Dicken, director of North Shore Emergency Management, said it’s important to know “that it is completely normal to experience heightened emotions during anniversary events.”
Dicken said free mental health supports are being made available at the library this weekend, as they were in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.
Heightened emotions normal
The emergency management office has also compiled a list of resources that Dicken is urging people to consult if they feel overwhelmed.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for everyone.
“There are patrons of the library and some of the businesses that are coming back to the space for the first time [in a year],” said District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little.
After the attacks, people who were working in the civic plaza that day – in the library or nearby businesses – had to deal with repeated questions from a curious public about what they saw, he said.
“It became very hard for the staff ... so we started putting up signs around saying, ‘Not everybody's ready to talk about this yet. Please respect their privacy.’”
Little said he’s been in contact with some of the people injured or directly impacted in the attack and is hopeful they will eventually visit the memorial space being created by the district in the plaza.
Jacquie McCarnan, the founder of the North Van Cares non-profit society, lived in Lynn Valley for many years and felt a deep connection to the hurt felt by community members that day.
McCarnan started a GoFundMe campaign to help victims of the attack with expenses, eventually raising over $133,000.
Resilient community spirit
Once the shock began wearing off, “a predominant feeling was that this man is not allowed to take away from our community spirit,” she said.
McCarnan said she’s in contact with four of the people injured that day, who are all making progress with their recoveries.
McCarnan said instead of dwelling on the events of one year ago, “People should grab their family members and hold them tight and do something fun and celebrate life. Not death. Not hurt.”
A trial for a 29-year-old man who faces seven charges in the case in set to start May 1, 2023.