OTTAWA - Most Wednesdays, Centre Block looks a bit like a high school after the lunch bell has rang, as members of Parliament from all parties dutifully stream out of their weekly caucus meetings.
Things were much different this past Wednesday when a gunman stormed Parliament Hill before being killed in a hail of bullets.
In the caucus rooms, frightened MPs piled chairs and tables high against the doors, unsure of the nature of the threat only metres away. Here are some of their stories.
Conservative MP Laurie Hawn
"Well, the prime minister was speaking at about ten to 10, and, you know, the first sound sounded like a couple of tables falling, but it was obviously gunfire. It was very close, very loud, several automatic weapons going off at the same time, which gave me pause to say, 'How many shooters are out there, and what are they doing?' Fortunately, one of the weapons was our guy's, so that was a good thing. So the initial reaction was, you know, people hitting the floor, because you don't know what's going down, and then we started putting chairs and stuff against the doors. We didn't know what was on the other side. Things calmed down quite quickly, and we got word fairly quickly of roughly what had happened. So then it was a matter of sitting tight while the security folks did their jobs to make sure the place was cleared, there was no other shooters, all that stuff. Of course, that's a big building with a lot of offices and a lot of places, so it took a long time. So we just had to be patient and do what we were told to do."
NDP MP Paul Dewar
"Craig Barrette, who is the guard who is there next to Kevin Vickers, who not only shot the gunman, but also provided security to us right after. So here's a person is dealing with the gunman and then helping a bunch of us, including Mr. Mulcair, through the hall, down the tunnel to East Block to have us in a secure place. I can't thank him enough. He is a hero, as well as Mr. Vickers."
"When you're in a lockdown, you don't know what's going on. And he was there with us, and he gave us a briefing as to what was happening. He gave Mr. Mulcair a briefing, and then Mr. Mulcair was briefing everyone. He was so calm, and he was so determined to make sure that we were safe, and he put himself in harm's way to save us."
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler
"I was actually walking toward the caucus that was to begin, and I was stopped by a security guard who said, 'You can't go in there. You just better get back.' And I was sort of directed back to my office in the Department of Justice, which is adjacent to the Parliament Buildings, and I was there under lockdown for the next 10 hours, almost."
"I was there with one of my staff. We were there, the two of us, all day. From, literally 10 a.m. to close to 10 p.m. last night, until we were told the lockdown is over."