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Tears flowed in Steeltown Thursday as those who knew and loved Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as well as many complete strangers, struggled to understand the proud soldier’s cold blooded murder in our nation’s capital.
At one point in the day, two dogs believed to belong to Cirillo poked their noses out from under the backyard fence at his home perhaps waiting for their pal, unaware he won’t be coming home.
While a mountain of flowers has been steadily growing at the armoury where the slain Argyll and Sutherland Highlander reservist was based, a second makeshift memorial has sprung up at the Cirillo family home in the city’s east end.
“It really touched me that someone so young has lost their life over something so ridiculous,” Gisella Pacifici, a Grade 2 teacher at a nearby public school, said Thursday.
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With a heavy heart, she brought her young students from Viscount Montgomery to the Cirillo home.
The kids made cards in class and wanted to hand deliver their messages to the slain soldier’s family, Pacifici explained, as tears ran down her cheek.
All Viscount Montgomery students plan to wear red to school Friday in honour of Cirillo, she said.
One after another, Hamiltonians stopped by the quiet street now dotted with Canadian flags and yellow ribbons to pay their respects.
“Too close to home,” Cindy Hasler said of her neighbour’s death. “It’s very scary.”
Those who knew Cirillo are remembering him a kind hearted fitness buff who loved his dogs, his five year old son and serving his country.
And those who never met the 24 year old are calling him a “hero” whose death will never be forgotten.
Cirillo was wearing his dress uniform, holding an unloaded rifle and standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Parliament Hill when a rifle toting Michael Zehaf Bibeau, 32, approached from behind Wednesday morning, the RCMP says.
The gunman fired a single fatal shot at Cirillo, then a second round that fortunately missed his close friend and fellow Argyll, Cpl. Brenden Stevenson.
Relatives of the slain soldier, who gathered inside the family home Thursday to console each other, weren’t ready to talk about their loss.
One family member said they were waiting until after Cirillo’s mother speaks.
“She wants to talk,” said the woman, who did not give her name.
Kathy Cirillo travelled to Ottawa after learning her son had been killed and as of late Thursday she had not returned.
“I feel sorry for the family, for what happened, and I wish them all the best,” nearby resident Frank Ciotti said.
Many people flocked to the armoury Thursday as well, not knowing what else to do as they grapple with their fear and heartache.
Some left messages among the flowers and flags, including one that referred to Cirillo as “the known soldier.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who visited to the armoury, said the growing memorial is a testament to how Hamiltonians feel about Cirillo.
“This is a community saying we loved this young man, we loved him for what he did and what he stood for,” Wynne said. “We all need to be grateful for what he did and to act in a way that will ensure this will won’t happen again.”
Wynne also said she hopes Cirillo’s family knows “how much we respect their son, their father, their brother.”