Mayerthrope 1st aniversary

Mayerthorpe marks RCMP shootings anniversary with candlelight and hockey

at 14:06 on March 1, 2006, EST.

MAYERTHORPE, Alta. (CP) - People in this small farming community will mark the anniversary of the worst massacre in RCMP history by cheering a simple game of shinny between a squad of Mounties and the local oldtimers team.

It has been a year from hell for Mayerthorpe - a town that has become forever linked with the ambush of four young constables by a suicidal gunman on March 3, 2005.

When the puck drops Thursday in the old arena, residents and relatives of the fallen four will also be cheering the way they helped each other make it through the anguish of a loss they will never forget, but are slowly rising above.

"We remember what happened every single day of the year. This seems like a good way to come together," said Margaret Thibault, co-ordinator of the RCMP victims services unit, who has lived in town for 29 years.

"One evil act put Mayerthorpe on the map worldwide. We are not part of the act. We are people who care and get things done. We want to show who we are. How we loved our RCMP."

Memories of the deaths of constables Brock Myrol, Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon and Leo Johnston remain as raw as the weather on that cold winter day.

Tammy-Lee Gilroy, a self-described hockey mom with four boys, remembers how she froze at home when her radio started to crackle with news about the shootings.

"The first reports I heard said four officers were down. I was just numb. Sick."

She then turned on her television and computer. For hours she watched helplessly as the media reported that James Roszko, a notoriously violent man and police hater, had fatally shot the Mounties at his farm outside of town before turning his gun on himself.

Not our RCMP officers, she thought. Not from our friendly community, where the side of the Medicine Bottle drugstore is painted with a big mural of smiling people playing tug-of-war in a farmer's field.

"You are sitting there listening to the radio and watching the news and you are saying 'Is this real? Can this be really happening?' It was just an awful time."

The shootings, and the media frenzy that followed, nearly overwhelmed the town of 1,600 that until then had been best known as the home of a gold medal-winning saddle bronc rider and a Canadian women's arm wrestling champ.

To get through the pain and notoriety, people had no one to turn to except each other.

Church attendance went way up. The number of children registered in minor hockey is at its highest level in years. The summer farm fair was unusually crowded.

And so many people want to help out with the hockey game that organizers turned away volunteers.

Tracy Eisert, a waitress at the Burger Baron near the RCMP detachment, said while it has been a brutal year, Mayerthorpe has turned the corner.

"It has been very hard because they just weren't Mounties, they were our friends. We don't see their smiling faces anymore," said Eisert, who used to serve the men burgers and pizza.

"Things are getting back to normal, but it is going to take a long time for the healing. We wonder how their families are doing."

Colleen Myrol, Brock's mother, said her family remains totally broken by their loss.

The last year has been an agonizing blur of memories and media images. Friends and strangers have helped her deal with the shootings hour by hour, day by day.

Recently, while Myrol was returning a leather purse, the sales clerk burst into tears when she learned that Brock was her customer's son.

"This year has just been something there is no roadmap for," said Myrol, who isn't sure how she will mark the anniversary.

"I don't know how we got through it. We are just going by the grace of God."

Doreen Gordon, Anthony's mother, can't face the idea of going to Mayerthorpe for the hockey game. She wants to avoid anything public that will remind her of that terrible day.

"I'm having a mass said and will go to his gravesite," she said from Red Deer. "I just want to be close to him."

Grace Johnston, Leo's mom, said she appreciates the pain the town has gone through and is warmed by the idea of the hockey game and plans to build a memorial.

Organizers hope to raise $1.5 million and complete the memorial in time for the second anniversary on March 3, 2007.

Don Schiemann, Peter's dad, is dealing with his grief through prayer and by helping others.

Since the shootings, Schiemann, a Lutheran minister, has been serving as chaplain to the Mayerthorpe RCMP. Once a month he drives north through the area his son used to police to offer solace to officers who need to talk about what happened on the Roszko farm.

"They tend to want to talk about it. They feel comfortable talking to me because they know I'm going through it too. And sometimes I lean on them," said Schiemann, who will gather with family at his son's grave.

"They are doing all right. I know Peter loved that little town and the people in it. It is neat to see how the people there are returning that love and support."

No one from James Roszko's family would comment on the anniversary of the shootings.

On the day it happened, Roszko's father, Bill, called his son a "wicked devil."

The elder Roszko died at 81 in late January, not far from the scene of his son's crime.

The RCMP remain tight-lipped about the details of what happened last March 3, citing four separate investigations that have yet to be completed.

"We know all Canadians want to know what happened," said Cpl. Wayne Oakes. "We cannot do anything that might infringe upon any one of those four investigations."

On Friday the churches of Mayerthorpe plan to hold a candlelight service to pay tribute to the men, said Pastor Wendell Wiebe of the local Baptist Church.

Wiebe, who was called to the Roszko farm last March 3 right after the shootings, will also be in the stands to watch the Mounties face off against the oldtimers.

"It is going to be jam-packed," Wiebe said with a smile.

"We are going to be yelling and screaming and having a good time together. Supporting the people who put their lives on the line for us." (external - login to view)

Now it seems that there was or still is a kind of cover-up by the RCMP into this investigation regarding why the rookies were sent to the hut, where they were killed, why Rosko wasn't in prison and why Rosko wasn't questioned in a 1999 death of a VIP. So I feel sorry for the rookies but they didn't know what they were dealing with and now they are dead.
Now why does a monument cost 1.5 million?
I can't believe it's been a year.
I'm sorry to say, that while their deaths were a sad event, they perpetuated their own doom. Reports that came in from the scene in the weeks following the shooting cited that the Mounties had approached the situation incorrectly, up to and including not having weapons drawn.
no new posts