A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Monday, 20 July 2020

Home is where the heart is - in 2020

Are you ready to hear what the charms will be for the remainder of 2020? Let's see if my predictions were correct. But before I do that I want to tell you about the unexpected meaning of the April limited edition charm and what it has to do with the largest mass murder in Canadian history. It hit far too close to home.

The frog, bee and strawberry in the centre section of my 2020 bracelet

My husband reads the news every morning. On the morning of Sunday, April 19 the headlines in Canadian newspapers were about an "active shooter" in Nova Scotia, the province where we both grew up. I lived in the provincial capital, the city of Halifax, and my husband, in the smaller town of Truro. Our 18-year-old twins attend university just 25 km north-west of the town of Windsor marked on the map below. The news was telling us that this murder spree began in a small coastal town called Portapique.

Having grown up in the city I was not really familiar with that part of the province. The first question I asked my husband was, "How close is the town of Portapique to Truro?" (the answer was 40 km) Mike's mother and his three younger siblings all live in the town to Truro, with their significant others and their children. I then asked, "How close is it to Courtney's house?" Courtney is my son Mitchell's girlfriend from university. Although she went to high school in Truro she lives north-east of the town, so farther from the original murder scene. That was a relief.

We spent all of that Sunday on our phones, refreshing the news, watching this situation unfold. We worried about where the killer was going next. We kept checking in with family and friends in Truro and Halifax. As events unfolded we watched as the killer moved from Portapique towards Truro. He did enter the town of Truro but then carried on, and was next seen in Stewiake (#2 on the map above) mere miles from my mother-in-law's cottage. He then drove south towards Halifax. It wasn't until he got to Enfield (#3) that his 12-hour rampage was stopped. He left twenty-two people dead in his wake.

Over the next few days we learned more about what had happened in our small eastern province. The facts below were gleaned from a number of news stories; the information keeps changing as the investigation continues. As someone with PTSD, this was hard to research and write. And it's taken me a few months. I've tried to keep it simple.

On Saturday, April 18 a man in Portapique was at his neighbours' party with his long-time girlfriend. They had an argument and left the party. Once they got home, the argument escalated. He beat his girlfriend, tied her up, and set the house on fire, along with garages and three vehicles. Luckily she managed to escape and spent the night hiding in the nearby woods. The man returned to the neighbours' party, shot and killed a number people, and then proceeded to set that home on fire as well.

The remains of the shooter's home

Two brothers, Clinton and Corrie, were visiting their father in Portapique that evening and heard what they thought were gunshots and could see a glow in the sky. Corrie left to investigate and offer help. When he didn't return Clinton went to look for him and came upon his body. Corrie had been shot. Clinton could see a flashlight bobbing and fearing for his own life, fled into the woods where he spent many hours. Clinton called his father and warned him to turn out the lights and hide.

When the police arrived shortly before 10:30 pm, they found victims on the road and several structure fires. It appears that the killer visited a number of homes in Portapique and set them on fire. People may have opened their door because they saw a police officer knocking. He may have shot the homeowners or they may have died in the fires. By the time the killer escaped the town he had left 13 people dead - in a town with only 100 residents. It appears that he then holed up for the night in a nearby town called Debert.

It wasn't until the shooter's girlfriend came out of the woods at 6:00 am on Sunday morning -  and called 911 - that the police discovered that the shooter was dressed in an RCMP uniform and driving an RCMP vehicle. He also had several semi-automatic hand guns and two semi-automatic rifles.

the vehicle the shooter was driving
identical to RCMP vehicles except for the number

On Sunday, April 19 the killer drove north to the home of a former girlfriend in an area called Wentworth. He arrived there around 6:30 am. It appears that he stayed some time in their home, not leaving until approximately 9:30 am. While he was there he 
shot the woman and her boyfriend and then set their home on fire when he left. Because my husband works for Corrections Canada we knew that both of these people were correctional officers at two different federal prisons in the area. However their names were not released until officials could search the remains of the house fire and identify their bodies. Seeing the fire, a neighbour - and retired firefighter - rushed to offer assistance but encountered the killer and was gunned down. And, for no apparent reason, the shooter killed a woman just walking down the road on her morning stroll. The shooter, who of course appeared to be a police officer, pulled over a driver and shot her. He then did the same to a second driver. These women were both nurses with the VON (Victorian Order of Nurses). One was on her way to visit a patient in their home; the other going to have a socially-distanced visit with her grandchildren. The shooter drove to the home of yet another family he knew, but they called 911 and did not answer the door.

the remains in Wentworth

Around 10:00 am the killer drove through the town of Truro and proceeded south towards Halifax. He stopped in Brookfield to change part of his uniform and then carried on to Shubenacadie where he would encounter the RCMP.


Two RCMP officers on duty had arranged to meet at a gas station near Shubenacadie. The first officer to arrive saw another RCMP vehicle pull into the station, assuming it to be his colleague. When it pulled up beside the waiting officer, it was in fact the shooter. He opened fire, the officer was shot, but he managed to drive away and head to a hospital to treat his wounds. Then came the second RCMP officer. She collided head-on with the killer's replica vehicle. They exchanged gunfire and the officer was killed. The shooter set both vehicles on fire. A local man, just out running errands, stopped at the scene of the accident to offer assistance. The shooter killed him and took his vehicle. The shooter stopped at the home of someone else he was acquainted with and shot her as well. He then removed his police uniform and stole her vehicle. When the shooter stopped at a gas station in Enfield to fill up his latest vehicle, he was spotted by another RCMP officer, who also just happened to be filling up his vehicle. Gunfire was exchanged and the killer was finally shot. 

the 22 victim of the Nova Scotia shooter 

As you can see from the photos of the victims, there were a number of couples killed. Most of these people had children, and some had grandchildren. We heard that one family was taken outside their home and the gunman shot the parents in front of their children. One woman, a single parent and a schoolteacher, was killed in Portapique while her two children were on the line with the 911 dispatcher for two hours, huddled in hiding - while 
gunfire and flames raged outside.

Are you wondering what all this has to do with Pandora? Stick with me. All will be be revealed shortly.

As background, you need to know that in the year 2020 Pandora is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their charm bracelet concept. Each month Pandora is releasing a charm from earlier collections. The idea is to re-imagine some popular or classic charms. In January they started with the iconic strawberry. February's charm was a frog and March was the queen bee.




Like many of my Pandora friends I bought the 2020 anniversary heart charm on Monday morning April 20. When it arrived in the mail on the Wednesday it coincided with me having a melt-down. Let me explain.


On the Wednesday morning I watched a TV show where the main character lost her father - in a fire. I started to cry. After losing both of my parents I cry more often while watching TV shows or movies, especially if we watch someone die, as I watched my own mother die. I sometimes have to pause the show and let myself ugly cry for a few minutes as I let the wave of emotions hit me. On this particular occasion, when someone died in a fire, I was sobbing. Hysterically! And I thought to myself, "What on earth is going on?"

My mind was reeling, "They could have been there. They could have been on that road. They could have been at those gas stations. Imagine if I'd been here alone and they were there! Imagine if I'd had to watch this tragedy and they were 1300 km away. If they were a stone's throw away from this tragedy." As I let that wave of emotions wash over me, I quickly realized what I was feeling. After being embroiled in this tragedy for three days I could finally feel relief. These were tears of relief. I was relieved because Mike and the kids were meant to be there, in Nova Scotia, mere minutes away from all of the murder sites. Near Mike's hometown. Near my mother-in-law's cottage. Near the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park where we took our kids. Near the home of my sister-in-law's father. They were meant to be there that same weekend.

As I mentioned, our kids are going to university in Nova Scotia. The plan was for Mike to drive to Nova Scotia when their exams were finished and bring them home to Ontario. Taylor's last exam was scheduled to be on April 18 and the residence was closing on April 18. They would have stayed with family in Truro. They would have been there that weekend of April 18th and 19th when all hell broke lose.

Taylor and Mitchell in front of their residence
Seminary House
As it turned out, the coronavirus changed all that. Because of the virus, in-person classes were cancelled and students would finish the term online. Our kids were still in residence and still eating in meal hall but we felt they were safer there. There were no cases of the virus in Nova Scotia at the time and we already had a few in Ottawa. And then the university made the decision that res was closing early.

Suddenly Mike had to bring them home. We usually take two days to drive to Nova Scotia, staying in a hotel at the half-way point. I was feeling pretty anxious because of the coronavirus and said, "You can't stay in a hotel. Drive straight through. Don't stop at restaurants. Don't touch anything. Wash your hands often. To protect your family you won't be able to stay with them when you arrive." He brought food with him and traveled all the way through, for 16 hours, to Wolfville. He slept in the extra bed in Mitchell's room. The next day he helped the kids get packed up and drove another 16 hours, all the way back to Ottawa. The day they got home the province of Nova Scotia closed its borders. It was such a relief to have them all back home.

So on that Sunday morning, while we watched the news reports on the tragedy in Nova Scotia, our kids were sleeping here, at home, in their own beds. Sleeping IN of course, because, well, they ARE teenagers after-all.


When that heart charm arrived in the mail on Wednesday, just two days after the mass murder, all I wanted to do was hold it in my hands. And remind myself. They are home. With me. They are safe. We are safe. What a relief! This little heart, only purchased because it was a limited edition collector's item - and only cost $40 - was suddenly worth so much more.

Over the last two months since this tragedy occurred I have realized that my tears were not just tears of relief for my own family, they were also tears of compassion and sadness. I was processing the pain and fear and horror experienced by so many people in Nova Scotia, the victims and those they left behind, especially the children. Even by Wednesday we were hearing that there would likely still be remains in some of the homes that had burned down. It was later confirmed, that of the twenty-two people who were killed, thirteen of those people were shot and nine died in house fires. It is not surprising then that an incident where someone dies in a fire - even if was on a TV show -  triggered such strong emotions in me.

In the days and weeks after this tragedy, as the world grieved for Nova Scotia, and we saw the motto "Nova Scotia Strong," this song was widely shared on social media. This is a song written by Cape Breton's Leon Dubinsky and made popular by The Rankin Family. This version was recorded by a group of female doctors as a tribute to the health care community during this pandemic.




During this coronavirus, I hope you are with your family. If you are not with them, hold them in your heart. And if you have a charm, hold them in your hand. I actually took a picture of the heart charm in my hand. It wasn't very interesting. I think it's better on a bracelet. Scroll down to see how I'm wearing it.

20th Anniversary Classics

Here are the six remaining charms for the 2020 Anniversary Classics. The pig was released today but we're not 100% sure of which month the others will be released.


July: pig's head (original # 790214)
This was a very surprising choice for the 2020 collection. I would not have guessed that it was very popular and it was not one of the earlier classic charms. If you haven't seen the 2020 pig yet it looks very similar to the original. I don't have the original, but looking at the stock photo I'd say the head of the 2020 one is a little more rounded and the ears are oxidized on the inside. The 20 crown logo is not on the front as it was with previous charms, but on the back of the pig's head.

August: love you (original # 790200)
I initially considered this "I LOVE YOU" cube charm in my predictions about the 2020 charms. I thought it may have been a popular charm, especially for gift-giving. But I dismissed it because, at that time, we were expecting all the charms to be (affordable) silver. But we were wrong. They are producing two-tone charms, as we saw with the two-tone clover in May. This one will have the 20 crown logo on the gold heart. I recently purchased the original charm on sale but don't have a home for it yet, so I may put both of them on my 2020 bracelet.



September: simple heart gold clip (original # 750243)
When I first saw the 2020 heart clip I thought my prediction had come true, that they were re-imagining the everlasting love charm into a clip. I'm not familiar with all the gold charms (I only have two gold charms and they were both prizes I won through Pandora contests) and I didn't realize there was a gold clip that looks like the everlasting love. In the photo below you can see the everlasting love, a black and white version of the gold charm, and my drawing of the up-coming clip (I know, it looks like a roll of toilet paper with hearts on it). There had been rumours that there would be a gold charm in the 2020 collection and I wouldn't have wanted to spend the money on that - so I'm glad that they've instead created a silver version of this "simple heart" clip. I hope Pandora realizes that most of us will want two of these!


October: rose bouquet (original # 790414)
This charm has the name rose bouquet on the Pandora website but it is sometimes called rose bud and frequently referred to simply as swirls. I've even seen it called doodles, which makes sense. I didn't consider this charm in my predictions because I didn't think they were doing two-tone charms and I didn't think Pandora could engrave the 20 crown logo on here with the swirls and oxidation. But, as they have done with the clover charm, one of the swirls will be a smooth silver surface without oxidation and have the engraving. On a bracelet, this rose charm will be good opposite the clover charm from May. I wear the original rose bouquet charm on my Vintage Charm bracelet. If you want a special meaning for this rose charm, check out this story.


November: seeing stars (original # 790348)
The rumours were that there would be a star charm in the 2020 collection, in particular the two-tone "golden star" charm. That was an expensive charm ($220 when I started collecting Pandora in 2011) so I was glad to discover that this silver "seeing stars" will be in the lineup instead. I was surprised by this choice because it is not an old charm (it was released in 2012) but it was available in gold before that, so maybe that's the explanation.


December: house (original # 790115)
There were rumours that one of the 2020 charms would be the dog house. That seemed an odd choice on Pandora's part because I can't imagine it was popular. Mind you, they've made a lot of different dogs over the years so I could be wrong. But as it turns out the 2020 charm will be not a dog house, just a house: the original silver house, a very simple, solid (and small) charm. The engraving will be on the roof of the house, on the side without the chimney. I'm glad to see that (in addition to the strawberry) they are using another of the first fifteen charms that Pandora produced. See my last post to see what charms were in the "First Fifteen."





My 2020 bracelet work-in-progress, clockwise from the clasp at the top:
magnolia, seeing stars, bird house (to represent the 2020 silver house), 2020 heart, 2020 clover, curious cat (to represent the 2020 pig's head), feathered clip, nostalgia murano, darling daisies spacer, ridged mini spacer, 2020 strawberry, 2020 bee, 2020 frog, ridged mini spacer, darling daisies spacer, nostalgia murano, feathered clip, I Love You cube, rose bouquet, silver heart, everlasting love (to represent the 2020 heart clips), tunnel of love, and magnolia clip 

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