A La Loche memorial ribbon. Photo courtesy Kevin Joseph, Facebook.
La Loche's mayor said he's left feeling "hopeful" after spending Sunday with hundreds of community members during memorial events marking the one-year anniversary of a mass shooting that rocked the northern community.
Teen brothers Dayne and Drayden Fontaine, teacher's assistant Marie Janvier and teacher Adam Wood were the four people killed in La Loche exactly a year earlier. Seven others were injured, all by the same shooter.
"It was a day of memory and so we came together as a community and it made us feel hopeful for a better tomorrow," Mayor Robert St. Pierre said in a phone interview on Monday morning.
"By being together, by working together, by leaning on each other, by communicating, by making choices as an individual, we can move forward."
The day started with a Catholic memorial mass, which was held in the gym at the Dene High School and was live-streamed online.
Bishop Murray Chatlain guided the mass, speaking in Dene and English.
"Grieving doesn't happen quick. So it's important that on the year anniversary that we remember our brothers and sister who passed away and those that were injured and all of us, all of the families, every one of us has suffered from that day," he said.
A community lunch came afterwards. As the minutes ticked down to when the shooter had opened fire in the high school a year earlier, St. Pierre and his niece, shooting victim Taylor Haineault, read a poem called "Choose Love."
"We had the mental health worker come up and identify the supports that were there in the audience right now if they needed it. It's emotional times, right, we wanted to be sure that we covered that base," St. Pierre said.
Bishop Chatlain then guided a vigil and two minutes of silence.
Afterwards, there was a pause in the events.
"Some people needed to be alone, some families needed to spend time with their own family," St. Pierre said.
People came back together around 7 p.m. for live music in the community hall. The Voices of the North group members were invited by town councillor Keith Shewchuk, and invited local talent onstage as well. This included a rendition of the song "Lean on Me," a song which went viral last year after the Voices of the North group posted a video of a jam session they did last year in support of La Loche after the shooting.
The music performances went until around 11 p.m.
"It was about songs, and just being together and just that feeling of connectedness," St. Pierre said.
The emotions were strong for musicians like Mitch Daigneault, who posted on Facebook: "We brought them music, smiles, laughter and enjoyment. We all laughed we all cried. We brought our best tools, our music. It was such an honor to be invited to share that with them."