Yellowknife, NWT – When Will Vickers was 12, he already knew Kevin Vickers was a hero.
Will, the brother of parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin, teaches grades five and six at Yellowknife’s Weledeh Catholic School.
Speaking to Moose FM on Thursday, Will (pictured above) recalled the first time his brother had saved a life.
“It reminded me of when I was 12. I was drowning, I was panicking,” he said.
“Suddenly I just felt this huge, huge arm wrap around me – I couldn’t move – and Kevin told me to smarten up and calm down. He swam me to shore.
“He saved my life then, so I always considered him a hero.”
Kevin Vickers has been hailed a Canadian national hero for his efforts in apprehending gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau during Wednesday’s firefight inside Ottawa’s parliamentary buildings.
The former RCMP officer, 58, arrived in the Northwest Territories in 1979 and spent a decade serving in various northern communities, including Behchoko, Yellowknife and Fort Resolution.
On entering the House of Commons on Thursday morning, the Sergeant-at-Arms received a prolonged standing ovation and glowing tributes from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“I got here earlier, closed the classroom door and watched him walking into the House of Commons,” said Will Vickers at lunch during a busy day of teaching.
“I’m sure Kevin just wants it to be all over and back to work as usual.”
‘Weak at the legs’
Vickers first heard of the incident while photocopying papers in the staff room on Wednesday. Following a call to their brother John, he discovered Kevin had been at the heart of the incident.
“You get weak at the legs. Your brother is involved in it. I texted Kevin right away and said ‘Kevin, give me a yes if you’re OK.’
“Within 30 seconds he texted back to say, ‘Will, I’m just fine.’
“Then we got quite concerned about the other shooter and we knew Kevin would be in the forefront of that, too, so the fear wasn’t all gone. I was glad to see it was all over a couple of minutes after he entered parliament.”
Ottawa Police have since confirmed only one shooter had been active, contrary to many reports at the time.
Meanwhile, video emerged of the firefight inside the Centre Block of the Canadian parliament.
“I watched that four times before I even thought of anything, you know,” said Will.
“Then, after talking to John, I know all those shots are coming from Kevin. High emotions, as you can imagine. I stopped watching it, of course. At the time it was pretty emotional to have your brother in a situation like that.
“You’re 29 years in the RCMP and I’m not even sure if he ever drew his weapon before – he wouldn’t tell me.
“Having to do what he did yesterday, I’m really proud of him. But at the same time I’m sorry it all had to happen.
“He really feels sorry for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and the other members of the Department of National Defence.”
‘He loves Canada so much’
Will says his own move north was prompted by his brother’s love of the territory.
“Kevin came up north in 1979 to Behchoko, he was a young constable there. Then, I think in 1981, he moved to Yellowknife and worked at Major Crimes here.
“Around when he was 26 he became a corporal and transferred to Fort Resolution. That’s where I got in the picture. I applied everywhere – teaching jobs were tough back in 1985 – and I got a job in Fort Res.
“I absolutely loved my time there and so did Kevin. Kevin has highest respect for the Dene people.
“When I go back home, every summer, he constantly asks me: ‘How’s so-and-so doing in Rae? How’s this person in Yellowknife?’
“He’s learned a lot from them. He learned a lot from the elders. He loves Canada so much.
“Kevin’s a very modest guy. Even though he’s a hero – I consider him a hero – he will not. He was just doing his job. He’s just the one of the guys and I’m glad he was there at the right time.”
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