Article Source: The Chronicle Herald
BRIDGETOWN, N.S. —
Const. Cheryl Ponee wants the world to know more about the RCMP officer killed in Canada’s deadliest mass shooting.
“She was the most outgoing, bubbly person that you’d ever meet. You see all the quotes about it, but it’s true when everybody says her smile was infectious,” said Ponee. “It’s 100 per cent true.”
Ponee knew Const. Heidi Stevenson as a coworker and friend. They met shortly after Ponee was stationed in Cole Harbour in January 1998.
The fresh-faced constables both started coaching high school sports within the community. Stevenson, a former rugby player for Acadia University in Wolfville, coached rugby. Ponee focused on soccer.
“We had a lot of the same kids that we coached together,” Ponee recalled.
Ponee was looking forward to spending some quality time with Stevenson during a group trip to Cuba that they had originally lined up for May, and planned to take when the travel restrictions relating to COVID-19 are lifted.
“She was taking her husband and her kids on her first trip to Cuba and couldn’t wait to go,” said Ponee. “It’s just so surreal that all of this is happening.”
Enfield and ‘what-ifs’
Ponee, now an Annapolis District RCMP member, worked with Stevenson in Enfield prior to her current posting. She still takes overtime shifts there.
Earlier in the week, Ponee expressed interest in working overtime in Enfield this past weekend. Const. Chad Morrison, however, was the first to claim it. Morrison, also a friend to Ponee, was injured while assisting with the weekend manhunt for an active shooter believed to be armed and dangerous. The 11-year member of the RCMP is now home recovering from gunshot wounds.
“Even as police officers, we cannot wrap our heads around that this can happen in Nova Scotia.”
The lone gunman’s 12-hour rampage started in Portapique, spanned several Nova Scotian communities, and ended with the suspected shooter being killed during a confrontation with police at the Enfield Big Stop.
“The ‘what-ifs’ go through your head,” said Ponee.
As of Monday afternoon, RCMP confirmed that at least 19 victims were killed. A friend called to tell Ponee that Stevenson had died in the line of duty before the RCMP publicly identified the fallen officer.
“I dropped to the floor,” she said. “I was freaking out and crying.”
Ponee won’t say the name of the gunman. He doesn’t deserve it.
She believes it’s time to focus on telling the stories of the innocent people who lost their lives, including the police officer who put hers on the line to protect others.
“Keep her memory alive,” she said.
Stevenson fit the definition of a model Mountie in Ponee’s mind. She served and protected for 23 years. She participated in the popular RCMP Musical Ride. She worked in local schools. She spoke of her family often.
“She adored her husband and her kids. They were her life – her life,” said Ponee.
“She’s not only a police officer, but a mother and a daughter and a wife, and things will never be the same for her family.”
Hard return to work
Ponee considered staying home from work Monday, but she felt it was best to be in the company of fellow police officers following the loss of one of their own.
“Even as police officers, we cannot wrap our heads around that this can happen in Nova Scotia … you don’t think you’re going to be involved in a mass shooting and you don’t think you’re not going to come home to see your family,” she said.
A note thanking officers for all they do for the community was waiting for Annapolis District RCMP members Monday morning. It was taped to the door of the Bridgetown detachment.
“My sincerest sympathies go out to you all and your families. Const. Heidi Stevenson paid the ultimate price to ensure our safety and freedom,” the letter said.
“I realize you have incredibly demanding jobs every day. You see people at the lowest, hardest times in their lives and try to help them and keep all of us safe at the same time.”
Passersby honked and waved at Ponee as she made her rounds in a cruiser. Some people dropped flowers off outside of the detachments, and others offered condolences or expressed sincere gratitude.
It all helped.
“The community has been amazing,” Ponee said.
Did you know?
A GoFundMe account was launched in support of Const. Heidi Stevenson’s husband, and their two adolescent children. The online fundraiser set out to raise $10,000. Within a day, more than $58,000 in donations poured in.
Messages of condolence for the family can be sent to RCMP.Condolences-Condoleances.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca