Why Are You Here?
'Somebody in their family or close to them had contemplated or committed suicide.'
Part 1: Jonker Brotherhood
By the end of the first weekend, says Jeff Tenhage, "we knew some things had to be done back here at the office. Between Harold, Tim, and I we agreed I would be the one that would shuttle back and forth a bit to take care of things."
After driving the kids and his in-laws home in a pickup, Jeff addressed several matters before returning to Ottawa with his wife. By then, the International was providing refuge to a stranger:
I'd never met this guy before. His company told him he had to bring the truck back. He returned, he wanted to be in Ottawa, but he had nowhere to sleep. Since I'd booked a hotel room, I said 'Well, you can use my truck.'
So he slept in it and took good care of it, moving it around when necessary. I didn't really spend a lot of time in the truck myself. I was talking to people and hearing people's stories. That's what I was really interested in. 'Why are you here?'
One was a minister from Quebec. He wanted to keep his church open and his congregation basically kicked him out. So he started a new congregation, and half of his old one came with him. He had a wife and four or five small children. He went through a really hard time.
Jeff also remembers:
Another couple I met had come quite a distance. About 600 miles. Their children were suffering, their daughter had contemplated suicide. The common refrain was somebody in their family or close to them had contemplated or committed suicide. That was in so many of the stories. It just rattles you that there's so much suffering and pain in our country.
One girl was from way up in northern BC. She was native, a student, and she wasn't allowed to go to school anymore because of the vaccine mandate. And she really had nothing else.
During the three weeks of the protest, Jeff journeyed between the office and Ottawa at least four times. Each return trip involved 12 hours of driving. The person manning the phone in their absence "was a bit overwhelmed," he says.
"I remember coming back on that first Monday and she was just frazzled. It was just constant calls. She said half were good, half were bad. I just instructed her to quit answering the phone, to deal with our drivers and main customers through their cell phones" or other means.
final installment tomorrow