Anthony Joseph McColl was born in Gatineau, Que., on March 11, 1992, the first of two children to David, a manager at an Ottawa travel agency, and Monica Thibault, a social worker at an Ottawa health centre. He quickly stood out for his strength. Still in the hospital—he was being monitored in an incubator for fear of being diagnosed with diabetes like his mother—his father was doing his first diaper change when the newborn grabbed hold of the metal rail. “He just managed to grab hold of it and he was about to pull himself off the change table,” says Dave. “He was incredibly strong.”
With big cheeks, a mop of strawberry-blond cherub curls and a boisterous spirit, toddler Anthony was energetic, physical and gregarious. His family nickname, Ant, was incongruous with his bigness. “People would say, ‘Why isn’t he talking?’ ” says Monica, who says strangers would peg him at seven or eight. “Sorry to disappoint you,” she’d say, “but he’s three.” In 1995, sister Alanna was born. “He would rub my tummy and talk to her,” says Monica. “He wanted to help me give her first bath.”
Exposed to art by his family (his father was an avid photographer), Anthony became interested in things Japanese, drawing from Miyazaki films and characters from Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon. His interest in the arts would span from music—he became a vocalist in a screamo band—to video. In his early teens, without any formal training, he and three of his closest friends began work on Bow chicka wow!© productions. The 15-year-olds would use the camera Anthony’s parents lent him to “film and make dumb jokes,” says Nicolas Moncion, one of the friends. “It was his camera so he was the one doing the edits—that showed a lot of his leadership skills. The video turned out great.”
The inaugural episode of the series opened with Anthony—Tony, as he was called by his friends—wearing a white hat and aviator sunglasses, introducing himself as “Capital-A.” Speaking in front of forested suburban homes, he launched into a polemic about emo kids. “I think it’d be a lot easier to have sex than try and deal with your emotions,” he said. That episode alone has had 3,616 views on YouTube; in total over 10,000 people watched Bow chika wow!© TV.
One of the more active of his friends, Anthony participated in extracurriculars at D’Arcy McGee, his high school. He played football and rugby, and starred in school plays, including a turn as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. As a B student, Anthony didn’t stand out academically, but he shone socially. “It was a sense of security—if you’re with Anthony you feel safe and accepted,” says friend Jonathan Carroll. Such trustworthiness prompted descriptions of Anthony as a “big teddy bear” and close confidant. He was most devoted, however, to his younger sister Alanna. Talking about her was taboo in his circle of friends: he didn’t want to hear any cracks from the guys about hooking up with her.
Eager for independence, Anthony got his drivers’ licence soon after his 16th birthday. He took a delivery job at Dinty Moore’s Restaurant—“Dinty’s”—a pizza and Greek restaurant in Aylmer. On a typical night, he’d do his deliveries until 8 p.m., then come home for a barbecue dinner before heading out with his friends. He was a connoisseur of a good bonfire, Viceroy cigarettes and 10 per cent beer. He took the route of his friends and went to Heritage College, the anglophone CEGEP in the Outaouais. Unsurprisingly, he studied visual arts.
Yet, nearing the final semesters, Anthony was getting restless. After Friday’s class one early spring day, he met with friends at a Tim Hortons and told them he had just completed a forest firefighter training course and was looking for a summer placement. The conversation drifted to parties; Anthony mentioned one that Alanna, 15, was intending to go to that Friday night. His friends were uninterested, but Anthony wanted to make sure she’d be safe and made the half-hour drive anyway.
Around 2:30 a.m., Saturday April 16, it was time for the McColls to go home. Alanna asked her brother for a lift, but he already had four girls in his car and so gave her $20 for a cab instead. Alanna left first; driving east, her cab passed by an erratic westbound car pursued by police on Highway 148. Anthony, who was driving minutes behind his sister, was unable to swerve out of the way and the two cars hit head-on. Both the driver and Anthony were killed instantly. Anthony was 19.