Sometimes it takes a crisis to open people’s eyes to the value of something they had not valued before.
Part of the student residence was cordoned off with crime scene tape.
During the early hours of June 15, five armed security guards were restocking an ATM machine at HUB Mall, a combined shopping mall and student residence at the University of Alberta, when three of them were killed, another critically injured, and a large amount of money stolen. Days later, the fifth guard was arrested at a U.S. border crossing and charged with the crime. Up to $1.9 million remains unaccounted for.
After the shooting, police initiated an immediate lockdown. Students who were outside at the time wandered around all night; inside, a SWAT team of Edmonton Police officers began going room to room, unsure whether the killer remained in the building.
Christian Reformed campus chaplain Rick VanManen, along with other chaplains, worked through the day and night with displaced and distressed students.
“It was a terrible time,” VanManen said.
Many of HUB Mall’s residents are international students, and many come from countries where violence and the terror of armed men arriving in the middle of the night to shoot or take away family members is not uncommon. So they were very upset and reluctant to return when HUB Mall reopened.
Campus chaplains held a “cleansing service” of the murder scene and individual students’ rooms, led by the Buddhist chaplain. Many of the students then felt safe to return.
VanManen said he was sad that students had to experience this. But there was a positive side to it. “I know it sounds strange to say it, but this tragic event has had a very positive outcome for chaplaincy services at the university. It elevated the profile and the importance of the role of chaplains, especially in times of crisis,” he said.
VanManen recounted the words of one senior university administrator who said, “Although we’ve had a number of tragic events on campus, and the place always felt ‘heavy’ afterwards, we never thought to call on the chaplains.”
Hopefully, now they will.