It’s 10 p.m. on Sunday night and Concordia’s support centre closes for the last time. A group of DSU workers and students lock up the CSU office and head out for drinks. They joke around like any other group of young people, but once sat down together, their conversation is not so lighthearted.
As they exchange stories of their rough week, the grim details come out in cathartic spurts: how student Fehr Marouf followed Marie Vigouroux as she blindly ran from the gunman in their school parking lot, although Marouf thought at the time that the gun was a harmless paintball gun; how Tom Clark, reporter for The Plant, Dawson’s student newspaper, is convinced a missed rendez-vous at 12:45 at the front of the school that day saved his life; how Arielle Reid ran from the building to Concordia with a shoe missing and was given a sock to wear for the rest of the day by Khaleed Juma.
But though they’ve had as much to process as many other students at Dawson, they haven’t taken the time to grieve or visit counselors in the past four days. Instead, they’ve turned trauma to action.
Realizing that students needed a place to decompress, on Thursday the two student unions set up a support centre down the hall from the their offices and got help from psychologists and counselors.
And the students did come. Around 50 were counseled, estimated Alyssa Blank, who set up and ran the Centre.
They made it clear that they were not professionals and didn’t feel equipped or qualified when they set up the Centre. “I keep thinking, ‘We’re not supposed to be doing this,’ said Reid. “I don’t know who these psychologists are, we’re not equipped to gauge their qualifications.”
She said she was frustrated with the lack of response she saw from the Dawson’s administration and wished someone would come down and take charge. “They haven’t been in contact with us.”
Someone who did lend their support, she said, was Dr. Adler from the Herzl Family Counseling Institute. “Dr. Adler was wonderful,” she said. He offered his personal support and sent over counselors for the support centre.
Help also came from Kids Help Phone Line, the largest national and bilingual youth service in Canada. They have offered their counseling services to anyone who needs it.
Reid said the DSU was also grateful for the CSU’s help, who let them use their offices to work out of while Dawson was still considered a crime scene.
For now, Concordia’s role has receded to the background. As of Monday, the crisis centre moved to Dawson where it will continue to provide links to the appropriate help. Reid just hopes it was enough, in time.