by Daniel Garvin, EMT-P
Urgence Sante, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
What in God’s name happened? That was the question that kept on surfacing from the jumbled mind of my partner the day we responded to a triple homicide in a small home
What in God’s name happened? That was the question that kept on surfacing from the jumbled mind of my partner the day we responded to a triple homicide in a small home in urban Montreal. My partner was not religious by any means, but I was a practicing Christian.
We were dispatched to a small home in a quiet part of the city for an “unclassified” medical call, priority 4; no lights or siren. The sun was shining very brightly that morning and we were about an hour away from a week-end off. Upon arriving at the home, we retrieved the jump kit and O2 bottle and walked up to the door. Mark (not his real name) rang the bell and we waited for a few minutes. He rang the bell again but still no response after a few minutes. I suggested that maybe they had gotten tired of waiting and took a taxi to the ER. We were about to call dispatch when we heard a voice on the other side of the door telling us that it was open. I reached for the handle and Mark gave me a look of distrust. I opened the door and pushed it wide. Inside was dark and we were standing in the bright sunlight so seeing anything was difficult. “I’m in the kitchen,” a voice called. “There is no danger to you, come on in”. We entered cautiously and found our way to the kitchen. The house was quiet and there was a strange smell hanging in the air. Nothing offensive but strange. I couldn’t place it. The woman sitting by the sink looked to be about 40 years old and very tired. She lit a cigarette and I asked her to snub it out but she either didn’t hear me or chose to ignore me. Funny, the things we remember.
“What can we do for you, Ma’am?” Mark was leaning over to see her face. She didn’t answer right off but cried softly and mumbled to herself. The more we attempted to speak to her, the more she cried. Finally, she sat up and looked at us with a faraway smile. She began speaking coherently about her husband and children. He had left her a year ago for a younger woman and she was bringing the kids up alone on a small salary. She told us her life story, or so it seemed. It was quite obvious that she needed to talk to someone and we let her continue. We would be finishing late anyways so what was a few extra minutes?
After about a half hour, she suggested we check on her kids. “Where are they?” I asked. “Upstairs, in bed sleeping” she replied. Mark said he would go up since I had a good rapport going with the woman. We continued talking and she appeared to be so calm. I could hear Mark walking down the stairs. Something was not right… I just felt it.
When he came into the kitchen, his face was white and he looked like he was going to be ill. “We need to call the police”. Mark went to the phone and started dialing. He looked at me and said, “this is a crime scene, don’t touch anything”. I was not sure of what he meant but I felt very cold inside. “Are they still asleep?” the woman asked looking at Mark. He signaled to me to come closer. “She shot them all” he said in monotone. He started crying and could not speak when dispatch came on the line. I took the phone and requested police presence for a crime scene. “What kind of crime?” the dispatcher asked. I think there has been a multiple murder here I heard myself say. It seemed that someone else was speaking but I knew it was me. Mark was sitting on a kitchen chair and the woman was calmly sitting across from him saying “they are alright now”. I hung up the phone and asked her where the weapon was. She did not know. “Did you kill the children?” I asked. She just said “they are alright now”.
The police arrived very quickly and shouted at the front door POLICE! I stood up and walked to the hallway entrance. The first officer who saw me asked if I had seen the bodies. No, but my partner did. “We will need to take your statements,” he said. “Where is the woman?” I led him to the kitchen where she sat in the same place across from Mark.
Everything from there is a bit blurry. I remember her being handcuffed and read her rights. Many plainclothes officers started arriving and telling us not to leave. I wanted to get outside for some fresh air when I heard an officer say, “it smells like cordite in here”. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I told myself, “That was the smell you couldn’t place”. Again, funny, the things we remember.
The rest of that day is something I would rather forget but I know I never will. Mark quit as a paramedic about a year later after getting caught up in cocaine use and alcohol abuse. I tried to help him with my faith but he did not want to talk. He certainly didn’t want to know about Jesus. “Look what He did for those kids” he said. I tried but he would not listen.
I turned to the church for support for myself and perhaps for Mark. It has been over 25 years since that call. I am still working as a paramedic and have since seen many other horrible scenes but my faith has kept me strong and on the right path. I council co-workers from time to time and serve as a mentor to students who are fresh out of college. I met up with Mark about two years ago and was pleasantly surprised to learn that he cleaned himself up after hitting the bottom. He was working as a car salesman and was married with a little girl. Mark never said a word about our call but after we had chatted for a bit and he was about to leave, he shook my hand and said “thanks”. I didn’t understand what he meant and it must have been obvious from my face because he said, “you know, for introducing me to Him”. I was dumbfounded and overcome with a sense of joy. “He got me through the jungle and showed me the way home”. I was speechless. I mumbled, “He is still showing me”.
Mark left and I sat there for a long time thinking about a day I had tried to forget for many years. My faith had held me strong and saw me through the tough times. It had also touched Mark in a way I never knew. We can only plant a seed and nurture it. If it grows or not is not up to us. If you know someone who is dealing with a painful situation and does not know the way, plant the seed in them and nurture it. The feeling I had after Mark walked away was one of complete peace and joy. I was finally healed through my faith.
About the Author: Daniel Garvin, 56, is married with two daughters aged 22 and 18. Holding true to his faith, Daniel is a member of a Christian music ministry which promotes unity within the Christian faith and all other faiths through understanding. He believes that once you DE-mystify something we don’t understand, it loses its power to frighten us.
Daniel served his country for nine years after leaving high school and was stationed in Egypt, Cypress, and Germany as well as at home in Canada. He became a paramedic after working for a record company as a warehouse supervisor for another ten years. Today, he is a primary care paramedic working in Montreal, Canada. He has been a paramedic for 27 years and teaches CPR and First Aid as well. His hobbies and pastimes include speed walking, lifting weights, watching movies, gardening, swimming, and patch collecting.
“I grew up in a strict Christian home with four sisters and one brother. We were raised Catholic primarily by my mom and my dad was Presbyterian. Both my parents are gone home now and my siblings and I are very tight. Family is everything to us. I was recently appointed as the commander for our Honor Guard and am hoping to retire from the road soon. I also enjoy volunteering with a group that feeds the homeless of Montreal. I am a member of a Bible study group and continue to search my soul for a deeper understanding and relationship with Christ. I have the utmost respect for police officers, firefighters, paramedics, soldiers and anyone else places their safety and well-being in second place while caring for others. Bless you all!!”