Greater Moncton is a big sprawling region of nearly 140,000 people, and yet these days it feels a lot like a small town.
There is not a store window in town not adorned with a sign that reads “Thank you, RCMP” or “Moncton strong.” So many mourners have come to drop off flowers, handwritten cards, candles and balloons on the steps of the Codiac RCMP detachment on Main Street that downtown has become an all-day traffic jam, even over the weekend.
Officers, still grieving the loss of their own, have been dispatched to direct cars. Mailhot Avenue, the upscale subdivision where three officers killed by a roving gunman last Wednesday, was still covered in police tape on Sunday. That didn’t stop more than 300 children from staging a bike ride in support of the RCMP.
More grievers came to a public visitation on Monday at Moncton Wesleyan Church on St. George Street.
Inside, residents — many of whom had never met the fallen officers — wept openly at the site of three caskets draped in Canadian flags, and embraced each of the six RCMP officers standing guard over the coffins in long hugs, a gesture that reduced one of the officers to tears. The emotional scene was filled with touches of the personal.
In his free time, Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, was an avid diver. Beside his casket was a photo of him in his diving gear. For Const. Douglas James Larche, 40, a runner, it was a pair of well-used running shoes and a Montreal Canadiens baseball cap. Const. Dave Joseph Ross, 32, was one of the RCMP’s dog handlers and was pictured with his German shepherd, Danny.
An official state funeral for the three officers is set for tomorrow in the Moncton Coliseum. It seats more than 6,000. But this is Moncton, and so the city fully expects to shut down for the event and has already arranged another nine public viewing areas across town for the overflow crowds.
At some point Moncton will go back to its daily routine, but many here say it will never quite be the same city it was only a few days ago. A sign left on the steps of the RCMP detachment best captures the spirit here: “We are all individuals but when faced with tragedy we are one Moncton Strong.”