The West Chester University Women’s Center will be holding an annual memorial in remembrance of the 14 female engineering students slain in Montreal on December 6, 1989. The commemorative service will be held on Tuesday, December 5 at 12:15 p.m. in front of F.H.G. Library. During the service, there will be a reading of a “Just for the Record” letter written by Denise Veilleux. This letter was published in Le Devoir, a major daily newspaper in Montreal on December 9, 1989 in response to the murders. The names of the 14 women killed will also be read, along with the lyrics to a song written by Judy Small, entitled “Montreal ’89.” This service will also give West Chester students, faculty members, administrators and members of the community the opportunity to memorialize anyone who has been a victim of gender violence.
This commemorative gathering has been taking place since December of 1990 in an effort to remember and recognize the young women who were slain solely because they chose to pursue a traditionally male dominated profession. The gathering is also in recognition of all victims and survivors of gender-based violence, one of the most common hate crimes in our society today.
The murders began when a young man, holding what appeared to be a 22-caliber rifle and clothed in hunting attire, walked into the cafeteria of the engineering building, shot and killed three women. He then entered a crowded classroom and yelled in French, “You’re all a bunch of feminists!” before fatally shooting six women. Witnesses said the man divided the students by sex and sent the men out before opening fire on the women.
The gunmen went on to shoot another woman in an administration office, before searching the halls for more victims. He fatally shot four more women in the corridor of the third floor, and then continued up to the fourth and fifth floors, wounding both men and women. According to police, he then returned to the third floor and killed himself.
According to police officials, one officer called to the scene found the gunman’s daughter among the dead. The gunman shot at and missed a male student, who raised his hands in a pleading gesture. The gunman listened and left him alone. “He was clearly gunning for the women,” the male student said.
Many other killings have taken place that target only women.
On September 27, a 54-year-old man stormed into an English honors class at a high school in Colorado, dismissed most of the students, including all of the males, and held six girls captive. Reports that the gunman sexually assaulted the girls have recently been released.
He eventually released four of his captives, but failed to negotiate with police. As a SWAT team entered the classroom, they were met with gunshots. The gunman fatally shot 16-year-old student Emily Keyes, and killed himself on the scene.
Soon after the Colorado shooting, on October 2, a male gunman entered an Amish school in Lancaster County, shooting ten young girls and fatally wounding five of them. He entered the school holding two guns, and let all males and adults out of the room. He then tied up ten young girls, shot them, and then shot and killed himself.
In response to the recent acts of gender violence, Robin Garrett, head of the Women’s Center said, “I was so deeply saddened by the slayings in Colorado and Lancaster County. Not only is there the terrible loss of life, but also the powerful evidence of how girls and women continue to be specifically targeted for hatred and violence.”
The recent shootings, along with the Montreal ’89 tragedy, have partially renewed our nation’s awareness of gender violence. Garrett discussed the influence of the events, saying, “It underscores for me the importance of continued work to make clear to all people that all human beings are more similar to each other than different.” As we look to the future with hopes for progression, we must not overlook those who have already been victims of gender violence, and when tragedies like the Montreal, Colorado, and Lancaster County shootings occur, we must find a way to learn from them and better our future.
Anyone interested in helping out with the December 5 ceremony can contact Robin Garrett through e-mail or extension 2122, or go to the Women’s Center, located in room 100 on the second floor of Lawrence Center.