Author’s note: Penticton is a city in the south central interior of British Columbia, Canada. Population is about 35 thousand. The area is known a a popular vacation and retirement area. Gun violence has basically been unheard of…until now…
There’s this place I know…It’s nestled between two lakes, flanked by rolling hills and high-reaching mountains that offer their constant and unbroken embrace.
It’s a city that welcomes the nearby bedroom communities into its heart and opens the doors to tens of thousands of visitors every year.
It’s a place where school children release salmon fry into the Okanagan River channel every spring with hopes of seeing them someday return. It’s a place where high school students step up to the task of filling sandbags for their community to save the streets from flooding. Young couples settle to raise their families here and the elderly are respected and can feel safe.
It’s a place where peaches grow, the wine industry flourishes, and sport, nature, and wildlife abound.
In space and numbers, the city would be considered small on the world stage but personality, ambiance, and untouched beauty balance it all out.
It is a place we call home…this is Penticton.
I don’t fool myself. I know it’s not a perfect utopian society—nothing is. We’re all aware that social and economic challenges exist and that disagreements and/or issues need to be addressed. But, I will say it’s the locals who give it the atmosphere of acceptance and accessibility—it’s the residents that make the city special.
On the morning of April 15, 2019, tragedy came knocking and Penticton’s innocence was shaken to the core. Stolen actually—along with the lives of four innocent people.
In case you missed the news, a person is alleged to have killed a man who’d been working outside, then drove across town to shoot and kill three more people. All victims were known to the shooter and were targeted. He then turned himself into the police station where he was arrested and ultimately charged with four counts of murder.
It reads like a script for a made-for-TV movie but it was all too real for the citizens of that beautiful place I know and love. Many Pentictonites found themselves in the midst of a locked-down city, unable to move freely.
Over the last month or so there’s been so much gun violence around the world but never did I expect it so close to home. No longer can we say that this type of violence happens in other countries or in large cities… it’s now a part of Penticton forever.
For me, and probably many others, the day itself was spent checking on friends and ensuring safety. As the story unfolded, a sense of melancholy and deep heavy sadness swallowed me up as the senseless loss of life became apparent.
How do we rationalize these actions perpetrated on innocent people?
The simple answer is—we don’t…we can’t.
There’s no answer that would justify such behaviour. We will continue to move forward because we have to. It’s important not to let fear take hold and don’t allow the hatred to spread or fester. We need to remember those lost and the possibility of such things happening anywhere—even in our idyllic laid back little city, we’re not immune to the ugliness of those that want to wreak havoc.
Pentiction… a place to call home and live forever. The innocence may be gone but the grace-filled spirit of its residents will continue on.
I hope there’s a renewed faith in the strength of neighbours helping each other. Supporting and holding each other up because that’s what community is all about.
I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of Rudi Winter, Darlene Knippelberg, and Barry and Sue Wonch. I’d also like to extend a word of sympathy to the interior city of Salmon Arm who also lost Pastor Gordon Parmenter to gun violence. My thoughts are with you all.
Also, a word of Thanks to all the first responders—you’re all amazing.