I would like to thank you for helping make the memorial a success. You helped collect over 700 pairs of shoes, which were greatly appreciated by those we pass them on to. It is hard to convey what the day is like but I hope the following written by a woman, new to both anti-violence work and the Shoe Memorial.
Our faithful blogger has again done an excellent job and we hope you take a look at the short documentary/blog http://lostironies.blogspot.com/2011/12/vancouver-shoe-memorial-2011.html
Women, Information and Advocacy, its directors and volunteers were and are saddened that another group erroneously claimed that they were a part of the Vancouver Art Gallery Shoe Memorial. This does a great disservice to the women we wish to remember and to the volunteers who work year round to make this memorial the success it is. Women, Information & Advocacy and We Can BC are the only organizations involved with Pat Kelln being the creator and producer of this Memorial.
My thoughts on December 6th.
A new volunteer
It's just after 6am I'm on the SkyTrain heading downtown to help and participate in the Shoe Memorial at the Vancouver Art Gallery.... it’s early and it's still dark out. I look out the window with thoughts of today and wonder what it will bring...I'm anxious, excited and a bit nervous all rolled in to one.
I get off the train and begin the small walk to the Art Gallery, it's still very dark, I am nervous about walking in the dark it's not something I normally do by myself, but I notice it's very lit up and there' s lots of people around..
I get to the Gallery nobody is there I stand there for a few minutes, then realize I am at the back so I walk around to the front nobody is here either.... I call John, they are 10 minutes away and I'm on the right side.
I turn around and look at the steps, I see someone laying in a sleeping bag on one of the steps, they are completely covered, I can't see their face – I hope they are alive!!!
Within minutes John and Pat arrive...John gets out of the Van slowly approaches the person in the sleeping bag, they move and slowly get up, I see he's a man, a young man, I'm glad he's alive. He gathers his few belongings and wonders off – I wonder where does he go from here?
We set-up the shoes, more people arrive to help.... we place shoes on the steps and it starts to look amazing as we make our way to the top of the stairs. By the time we have completed setting up the shoes the dark night has turned to the light of day. John brings out a stand and puts a beautiful wreath of flowers in the middle of the stairs on the landing. The names of the victims are written on big white sheets in black writing there are six of these sheets. It's decided to put 3 sheets on each side of the stair well. I take a random glance at one of the sheets closest to me and the first name I see is Heather Thomas, it just popped right out at me as if to tell me - I'm here. Heather Thomas murdered by paedophile in October 2000. I look at another column and see Reena Virks name. Reena Virk murdered by a group of bullies male and female. I think to myself that's two names I recognize within seconds, I decide to look away I will look again later. Before I look away I notice a few unknowns – to be murdered and listed as “unknown” bothers me more than words can say.....but I'm glad that “unknown” persons “are” listed.
I speak with, Pat and look at some of the information set-up on the table. I read my fact sheet, most of these facts I don't know and I'm shocked at what they reveal.
People are stopping to look at the shoes and asking what it's for, I tell them it's December 6th, Canada's National Day of Remembrance, I mention it's the 22nd anniversary of the Montreal massacre of 14 women killed. I tell them there are 700+ pairs of shoes representing 850 women who have been murdered in BC over the past 30+ years – their names are written on the white sheets. Many people are aware of what today is, but many can't believe the statistics I mention from my fact sheet – their eyes grow bigger at the mention that 25 women have been killed in B.C. so far this year, an average of 30 women are killed each year, 1 in 4 women are abused, 1 in 9 will get breast cancer and investigating domestic violence is the 2nd highest killer of police officers.
I listen to John and Darlene as they approach the public to hear what they say and I learn.
I speak to a lady who's upset who tells me she was 11 years old when the 14 women were murdered in Montreal and it changed her life – as she now lives with the fear “I could be murdered just because I am a women”. I want to make this person feel o.k. but I'm not too sure what to say I ask her name, then ask if she'd mind speaking to Pat. I introduce her to Pat and I notice the immediate compassion in Pat's eyes as she listens to this women. A little while later Pat and this lady have finished talking, the lady walks past me and smiles WOW!
A lady comes by and realizes what we are doing, goes back to her office and returns with shoes – how kind!
Many people just say thanks to what we are doing as they walk by, others both men and women stop, ask questions and show genuine interest.
A man is angry at John he's yelling at him about what we are doing – John is really trying to speak to him and explain, but this man doesn't want to hear – he walks away yelling, full of anger. I think to myself why is this person allowed to walk around like that doesn't anybody care about him! This city and others citys need to be more responsible for their citizens.
Another lady has beautiful red roses, she hands them out, I take mine and place it on the wreath and when I do and say this is for you, Heather!
Three pairs of shoes have been placed in separate bags, there's writing on them...one label says Maria 2006, another one says Maria killed by spouse in 2006, and the other one says Marie 2006 “I love you nana” - I wonder about this last label was Marie the granddaughter and this was written by her Nana or was Marie the nana and this was written by her granddaughter.
The ceremony begins at 1pm. I listen with intent to John, Pat and the lady from We Can. Then John closes.... The speeches are brief yet powerful and to the point.. As I listen I look around at the few people standing I wish there were more, I wonder why isn't there any media here or any representatives from the City.... it’s not right. I wonder if one of their family members was a victim of violence would that make a difference, would they be here?????
After the ceremony I taker another, closer look at the names and I recognize other names, Melanie Carpenter the girl from Surrey, kidnapped from her place of work and murdered. Several Robert Pickton’s victims, Marnie Frey, Angela Arseneault, Brenda Wolfe, who was known as the Downtown Eastside guardian Angel and Sereena Abotsway who I remember seeing on the news talking about her concern for the missing women - before becoming a victim herself. I wonder to myself do these poor girls know they are being remembered today – I hope so!
I'm talking to Pat, a man walks by quickly and throws a shoe on the steps, we check to see if it's a womens shoe – it is..... we wonder what his story is?
It's close to 3 o'clock we begin to pack up – a lady comes from the Parole office to collect shoes for kids who are arrested and their shoes are taken for evidence leaving these kids with no shoes – I think to myself “what the heck” this should not be allowed – we are not a 3rd world country, kids going without shoes is inexcusable.
I head home, it's dark again and I make my way back to the skytrain. I'm cold and tired it's been a long day, yet I feel good – I was glad to be there to help and remember all those women. I ride the train home it stops at the stadium station I notice the huge posters with all the Canuck players on them, what a waste of money – can't these walls be utilized in a better way “How about pictures of missing children, women, etc”
I get in to my warm bed, in my warm house, my daughter is safe at home in her warm bed, my husband will be home soon from work. Again, my thoughts go to the day as it plays through my head – I think what an amazing day I had talking to all those people, being there, listening to the speeches. And as I start to drift off to sleep my final thought of the day goes to the man I saw sleeping on the steps this morning and I wonder – is he laying there again tonight.
We are honouring the memory of the women and their families by attaching name cards to each pair of donated shoes which represents a woman or girl who have been killed in violence or are missing. The names of the victims should never be forgotten. more
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