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Witnesses share stories of help and heroism following knife attack in Lynn Valley

Bystanders step up amid scenes of fear and chaos

The sister of a North Vancouver high school teacher who was stabbed while trying to help a woman being attacked Saturday in Lynn Valley said the Argyle teacher is recovering after the harrowing event.

Teacher Sheloah Klausen, who posted a photo of herself from hospital giving the shaka sign, despite a bandaged head and finger, is recovering at home and is “doing much better,” her sister Leah Carol Michayluk told the North Shore News.

Michayluk said Klausen told her she was at the library book fair with her 10-year-old daughter when Klausen “turned around to see a man running into the library and go directly to a certain woman and just start stabbing her.”

Klausen immediately told her daughter to run and hide, said Michayluk.

“And she picked up her umbrella and ran over to the guy and just started beating him with it” to try to break up the attack, she said.

“He turned around and slashed her hand and stabbed her in the back of her skull,” said Michayluk. That’s all her sister remembers, she said.

“She’s got a very nasty bruise on the side of her face.”

Michayluk said the events of Saturday have left her with a lot of questions.

“Why did he go after an innocent lady?” she said. “I hope he gets a lot of help. He really needs it.”

Women with stab wounds helped by passersby

Steve Mossop was driving back from a leisurely brunch on Saturday when he saw a woman standing on the sidewalk who was covered with blood and waving her arms. At first, Mossop said he thought there must have been a car accident as she was standing beside a vehicle. Mossop said he pulled over right behind that car, and helped escort the woman to the back of Brown’s Social House to wait for paramedics. The woman had stab marks on her head and was with her young son, he said. “She just said a man attacked her,” he said.

Mossop said he heard there were other victims, so ran back out to see if he could help.

He turned the corner and saw a young woman who had been stabbed, leaning against some construction fencing. A man was using his T-shirt to stop her bleeding, he said.

“She was in rough shape, like she had multiple stab wounds to the face and arms and her hands,” he said.

Mossop said he ran and grabbed a towel from his car to help the Good Samaritan.

He then ran to warn others of the danger and that’s when he saw the suspect lying face down on the pavement, surrounded by police.

He said the scene was very confusing and his initial fears included not knowing how many victims there might be.

There was also a tense moment as he and his partner tried to track down her daughter – who fortunately had left the area five minutes before.

Mossop said the events of Saturday have hit home, not just because it’s his own community, but also because they happened in a place that’s familiar to everyone.

Darren Hailes was another bystander who offered assistance at the scene on Saturday.

Hailes had just arrived to meet friends at a café, he wrote in a post on Twitter, when a woman approached and asked if he knew first aid.

Hailes said he offered what assistance he could to a help a 78-year-old man who was one of the attacker’s victims.

Hailes wrote that he saw many examples of assistance on Saturday. “Librarians triaged and got supplies for first aiders, who in turn patched wounds,” he wrote.

'You never know what turn your life can take'

“You never know what turn your life can take, and at times such turns occur not only in the blink of an eye, but on days and in hours that would otherwise seem so normal.”

Tyler Mackay came across the scene shortly after the stabbings occurred, saw the suspect on the ground and two women being taken away on stretchers. Mackay said he wasn’t sure what was happening until he saw blood on the ground near an outside table. “That’s when I kind of realized there were some serious things happening.”

Since then, Mackay said he’s learned his two daughters know one of the victims. “It kind of hits home,” he said. “They’re shaken up. I don’t want them to feel like that in what we thought was a pretty safe community.”

District of North Vancouver Mayor Mike Little said he’s heard many stories of heroism from Saturday’s events, which ranged from people who tried to chase away the attacker to those who offered first aid and shelter.

“People were willing to step up at risk of harm to themselves and help perfect strangers to get out of a terrible situation,” he said.

Civic space shattered by 'senseless violence'

Little said the fact the attacks happened in such a familiar public space has made the news more difficult. “It’s a civic space, a welcoming family-friendly space that the community uses to get together and was just shattered the other day by this senseless violence. People were just going about their daily routines, shopping, maybe checking out the books or grabbing a coffee. And I think that the average person can just identify that that could have been them in that situation.”

Little said while a suburban community like Lynn Valley isn’t the kind of place where anyone imagines such incidents occurring, “I suspect when someone decides that they're going to inflict violence in the community, 'where' is anybody's guess.”

Expressions of support have been pouring in from around the country since Saturday, said Little. Those included messages from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan.

On Monday, Horgan said, "I cannot express my sorrow for the people involved and affected by this action. And I want to say to all of those who stepped up to help and to be part of a solution, thank you, for being good citizens – helping those who needed help, needed the shoulder, needed someone to talk to. And of course, to the families affected, my deepest sympathies at this time."

Little said it’s heartening to know that emergency responders were trained to deal with the situation, and did so “with a very measured response, considering the situation they were in.”

Little said library staff had a debriefing session on Monday. The library remains closed, with a decision expected Tuesday or Wednesday on when it might reopen.

A centre offering counselling and support has opened for the community at Karen Magnussen arena and will remain open for the next week, said Little.

Mark Pearmain, schools superintendent for the North Vancouver School District, said there has been an outpouring of love and support for Klausen, and relief that she is expected to make a full recovery. But "some of the other victims are also connected to our school system through their kids or through their families," he said, and there has been concern for those people as well.

Pearmain said local secondary school students were also working in businesses close to where the stabbings happened and "certainly they were present during that extremely traumatic time and were witnesses to what took place."

Extra support is being made available in schools where families have been affected, he said.

"II think what's unique for us with this incident is that there are ripple effects across the whole North Shore."

Several GoFundMe campaigns have been launched in the wake of the attack to help support victims and their families. Those include a general fund for all victims as well as separate campaigns for Susanne Till, a single mom of three, and Emma Henderson, a 22-year-old SFU student, who have both been identified by family and friends as among the people attacked.

Jini Segulam Singh-Henderson, Henderson's mother, expressed gratitude in a Facebook post "to our Lynn Valley neighbours and the many others we don't know personally for their well wishes, prayers and gifts dropped off for my daughter and our family."

Heartfelt thanks to our Lynn Valley neighbours and the many others we don't know personally for their well wishes, prayers and gifts dropped off for my daughter and our family.

'Look for the helpers'

Lindsey Jespersen, a registered clinical counsellor who is also a North Vancouver mother, said it’s not surprising that Saturday’s events are hitting the community hard.

Everyone likes to think, “These kinds of things don't happen close to home,” she said. “And so when something happens close to home . . . it becomes that much more real, and troubling and scary.

“It does shift people’s perspective.”

Jespersen said people often feel helpless in the face of events like Saturday’s stabbings. But she said it’s important to realize that many people stepped up to make a difference that day, including even those whose actions may not have been noticed.

Jespersen said although it’s human nature to want details when terrible things happen, it’s also important to “look for the helpers” who stepped up even in the face of tragedy.

“It's introducing another story that exists at the same time as suffering,” she said.