When Jack Bowers was elected last month as the new mayor of Faro, Yukon, he had no idea that he’d soon be leading a town devastated by tragedy.
Just hours before he was to be sworn into office on Oct. 26, the remote community was thrown into terror and confusion by a gunman on a shooting rampage. Two people were killed, and another critically injured.
The suspect — another local resident — was soon arrested and is now facing murder, attempted murder and assault charges.
Many in Faro are still coming to grips with what happened, Bowers said.
“For some people, it’ll take quite a long time,” he said.
“From the conversations that I’ve had with some, people are responding in different way[s] … Initially it’s confusion, denial, an immense sense of loss. There is some anger that this could have happened.”
Bowers, like almost everyone in tight-knit Faro, had a personal connection to one of the victims. 73-year-old Patrick McCracken (one of the deceased, along with 42-year-old Saengduean Honchaiyaphum), was a friend of 30 years, he said.
He’s choosing not to dwell on the sense of loss, though. Bowers talks about how the events that day revealed a “community of heroes.”
“Even when the situation was uncertain, the shooter was still at large, people were there with those who were wounded or dying, and being with them,” Bowers said.
“These are unsung heroes. They don’t want their names mentioned, but we’re so proud of them.”
Lots of work ahead
Bowers and the new town council were eventually sworn in at a subdued ceremony a week later. Yukon’s MP came, as did the chief of the Ross River Dena Council in nearby Ross River.
The relationship between Faro and Ross River has not always been easy or close, but Bowers thinks that can now change. He’s touched by the prayers and support shown by the Ross River Dena Council and says it’s “kindled a new relationship.”
Bowers knows that as mayor, he’s got a tough job ahead of him. There’s the usual municipal business, and then there’s also some cleanup and repair work from damage done by the gunman. Some homes have bullet holes, he said.
Bowers also wants to help re-establish his town’s image as a friendly, welcoming community.
“No community wants to be remembered for the bad things that happen,” Bowers said.
“We have to move on, and I think both Pat and Sang would want us to do that.”
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