- Barbara Winters ran to help when she heard gunshots
- A photo of her kneeling over Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was heavily circulated on social media
- Although he was unconscious, she believes he heard her
Thousands lined the streets on Friday as the body of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo began its final journey home.
His death dominated international headlines this week both for its circumstances and the impression he left behind. Especially touching have been images of his dogs, unaware their master is never returning home.
But the following account from what may have been the last person to speak directly to Cirillo, and tell him he was loved, is especially poignant.
Attorney Barbara Winters was early for a meeting on Wednesday when she stopped at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Ontario, to take a few photos. Two men in uniform solemnly stood guard.
In an interview with CBC Radio on Thursday, she said she remembers remarking to herself what a beautiful October day it was.
"The sun had come out. It was a wonderful fall picture. I got two pictures straight on of these gentlemen standing in front of the cenotaph."
Moments later the beauty would dissolve into scenes of panic, chaos and mourning as shots were fired and one of those guards, Cirillo, was hit.
Video from the scene just after the shooting shows gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau calmly returning to his illegally parked car on the roadside, holding what appears to be a weapon. It is believed Bibeau shot Cirillo and drove a short distance to the Parliament building, where he opened fire again. Bibeau was eventually killed by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers. No one else was injured.
Winters said she was already walking toward Spark Street when she heard the shots and found herself moving toward the sounds as other people ran away.
Soon she found herself kneeling at Cirillo's side, along with a handful others.
"I think it's human nature to run towards somebody to help them," she said. Winters had served many years in the Naval reserve, part of that service as a medical assistant.
Several people worked together in an attempt to save Cirillo's life, including a nurse and another corporal, Winters told interviewer Carol Off.
Nearly breathless at times during the interview, Winters calmly detailed their various roles. But her voice caught and eventually broke as she described talking to Cirillo, telling him that he was loved, and that he was a brave man.
"Just think of what you were doing when this happened," she said she told him. "Just think you were standing at the cenotaph. You were honoring others. Just think of how proud that will make your family. Your family must love you so much."
He never responded.
An image of Winters and the others bent over Cirillo was captured by photographer Wayne Cuddington.
But Winters said she kept speaking because she had once been in a coma, and although no one could tell, she could hear everything.
"I just repeated, repeated, repeated that he was a brave man, that he was a good man, that he was loved, that he was respected," she said.
Off asked Winters what instinct prompted her to speak to him about love.
She paused a moment before answering.
"I think you tell people when they're sick, or when they're ill, or when they're hurting that they're loved. Because everybody's loved," she said through tears, "by somebody."