Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.27.05
Stanstead, Quebec


The bomb at the bottom of the street

What a day, Sunday: warm and bright, the perfect day for raking your lawn, visiting with neighbours, or getting evacuated.

You could stand at the bottom of my street for hours watching firefighters and cops mill about on the other side of the police tape without worrying about getting cold or sunburned. Indeed, it was the perfect day for a bombing.

It was shortly after lunch. I had come home from a walk and had said to my kids and the neighbour boys, "Hey, Mrs. Q down the street is shoveling a big pile of snow off her lawn. Why don't you go offer to help her." They took off enthusiastically and for their troubles were paid a dollar each. So now they were headed to the ice cream parlour.

How great to live in a town where you could send kids off on their own. Plus, how great to have some peace around the house.

A short while later my eldest walked in. She had been working at the museum when firefighters knocked on the door and told her to evacuate. In fact, they had evacuated the entire main street from our corner to the next one over.

I was faced with a choice: do Sunday chores or check out an emergency. No contest. I headed down the street.

We're a community of under 3000 people, so crises tend to draw a crowd: accidents, house fires, unhygienic strangers. Evacuations are no exception.

The other beautiful thing about small-town life is that when someone says "Leslie found a suspicious object behind Cass," you know exactly who and where they're talking about.

And if you felt so obliged, you could go up and ask about the suspicious object Leslie found behind Cass Funeral Home - how he had found a paper on the lawn with bomb-making instructions on it, then spotted a pipe with wires sticking out of it. I felt so obliged.

This wasn't just being nosy. I was performing a public service, knowing that if I were to stay on the corner for longer than three minutes, people would be stopping their cars, rolling down the windows and asking "What's going on?"

Now I could tell them, and if they asked, "Is there a bomb?" I could reply, "An alleged bomb" or "No it's a 'suspicious object.'"

"Maybe it's the other funeral home trying to take out the competition," someone joked.

"And drum up business at the same time," I replied. Oh, how we laughed.

In my old life as a reporter, I would have had to hang out on the corner all afternoon. But now I was free to head home and wait for the bomb squad to arrive from Montreal or for something to go "boom." Besides, I had those chores.

I sauntered back down some time later, just in time to see the bomb squad robot emerge from the truck. Very cool! We practically cheered. It was a big crowd now, including television crews and reporters.

I heard a kid shout to an adult, "If it's a real bomb, you owe me 10 bucks!"

I also noticed that the Montreal cops dressed really, really well. Were those Italian suits? Who knew bomb experts were so stylish. I wondered, did they play "bomb cop/bad cop"?

But you know, if you've seen one bomb-dismantling robot, you've seen them all. I headed home. There were leaves to bag and a barbecue to prepare.

While enjoying a cold late-afternoon beer (I joked with my neighbour that we were having a Bomb Scare Party), I was manning the barbecue when I heard the "phoom" of the suspicious object being destroyed or maybe just plain blowing up. Who knew? Anyway, I'd read all about it in the papers tomorrow.

And so life returned to normal.

No more traffic detoured up the street, no more fretting that we'd miss something exciting if we weren't on the corner.

And I tried not to think too hard about how casually, how festively we'd accepted violence in our friendly little community, where kids shovel snow off widow's lawns and hopefully don't stumble across homemade explosives.