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Life at the scene of the crime

Cheap rent and vintage charm don’t balance out the risks
of living in what is coming to resemble a combat zone

The charm, affordability and sense of community that once drew tenants is being eroded by violence. (Theodora MacLeod)

By Theodora MacLeod

RESIDENTS OF THE city centre are not strangers to screeching sirens at any time of day or night. Ambulances, fire services, and police hold a presence in our community that is a cause of both comfort and concern.

So, at midnight Thursday, when police cars with lights flashing wildly raced down the road outside my window,  I didn’t think twice. In fact, I put my headphones on to drown out the noise, wondering briefly if this was a drug bust or they were finally going to put a stop to the fireworks to which I have grown accustomed.

The next day, Thursday morning , my phone woke me up – after Edmonton Police Services held their press conference and news agencies had spread word of the previous night’s shootings. A flood of texts and calls from my parents, co-workers, and friends.

But I hadn’t heard the “fireworks.”

I wonder now, how many gunshots I have written off as something else: a car backfiring, fireworks, anything loud that isn’t an indicator of danger. I sleep better ignorant of the threat.

Though I have often been the one to call emergency services or the security company that patrols our buildings, I tend to maintain a strange balance of fear and naivete, a hangover from my somewhat sheltered Catholic childhood.

There’s an unhoused woman who screams curse words to her demons in my parking lot a few nights a week. A man I’ve been told is aggressive, whom I have found sleeping in the hallway. I watched him try to open the front door of my building – right in front of me – the night of the shooting. Various residents and neighbours squabble outside their buildings.

This has become the soundtrack of my life.

The more that comes out about both men
the more our hearts will ache

There’s no doubt I am not the only person in the city who would like to go back to the time before Const. Travis Jordan and Const. Brett Ryan were killed. The more that comes out about the events and the lives of the men, the more our collective hearts will ache.

“This is Canada,” we say. “It’s not supposed to happen here.” But, now, 10 years after the death of Const. Daniel Woodall, formerly the last EPS officer killed on duty, we will have to accept that it does happen here. 

Just a few days earlier, there was gun violence at the Pizza Hut across the street – which some suspect was perpetrated by the same teenage boy responsible for the events Thursday – and, a year ago, there was the shooting at Ertale bar.

Three prominent shootings within close walking distance of each other. 

Lately, I feel fortunate to call my home in Inglewood a temporary one. When my lease ends in September, I’ve been told my rent will increase significantly. Combined with ongoing safety concerns and a desire to leave Edmonton, it’s highly unlikely I’ll stay.

However, many of my neighbours don’t have the opportunity or the means to relocate.

From my window, I can see the local children play in the parking lot. They laugh and scream joyously and I ache with concern for them. They deserve to live without the looming threat of gun violence in their own neighbourhood.

We all do. 

Something has shifted since Thursday morning. The streets feel quieter. I suspect many of us have chosen to spend more time inside. 

Driving past the scene, it’s as if nothing has changed. But living so close to the site of such a tragedy, I wonder if anything will ever be the same. I flinch at the sirens and lights when they go by now.

Praying I won’t once again awaken to the news of yet another act of senseless violence.

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