Fear came home to West Island in form of three-hour bomb scare in Pointe Claire
Tuesday afternoon's bout of slight hysteria over a suspicious package left at a gas station in Pointe Claire was to be expected as soon as the news hit. One day prior, two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds more in a callow attack that has thus far prompted more questions than answers.
Tuesday afternoon's events – and the speed with which the news was communicated across the West Island and through local media – were a testament to the power of social media. It goes to show that Twitter and Facebook can actually provide a valuable service to society – at least more valuable than baby pictures, inspirational quotes and language politics – and can be of benefit in a crisis.
In fact, just minutes after the package was found and police arrived on scene, the news was out on westislandchronicle.com – thanks to social media. After the police cordoned off parts of the area where the package was found (at a gas station adjacent to Fairview Pointe Claire shopping centre), which happens to be the West Island's most-trafficked intersection – where St. John's and Brunswick boulevards meet in Pointe Claire's commercial sector. The ensuing discussion was enough to keep many motorists from travelling in and around the area, which surely contributed to fewer traffic jams, less stress and fewer concerns for all involved. The incident, while ultimately benign, provided several moments of real fear, including one account of employees in the office building across St. John's from the gas station being asked to stand back away from windows that could potentially have been blown in by an explosion. In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, fear arrived on the West Island's doorstep that day – and it was not a welcome guest.
The fact that the Montreal police bomb squad managed to clear the package with minimal effort was almost beside the point (although the mental image of Jimmy the bomb-squad robot tipping over on its side momentarily does provide some form of levity, however small). The fear felt in the West Island was palpable – even if you were just sitting behind a computer or smartphone screen monitoring events on Facebook or Twitter.
We don't have to live in fear – but Tuesday's events were indeed a firm reminder of how the world we live in has changed, forever. The events of 9/11 ushered us all into a new generation of being fearful – but Tuesday's three-hour block of worry were a sign that violence could come close to home, and provided a stark reminder of what is truly important in life.