With white flags, day care centers in Quebec show their solidarity with the community of Laval after the fatal crash
When Georgia Haloulos arrived at work at Montreal’s Hellenique Ta Pedakia daycare on Thursday, she knew she had to put on a smile, despite knowing that two children had died at a Laval daycare the previous day when the building was hit by a bus was rammed.
“Whether in one day care center or another, we are all teachers, we all feel the same. Children are our priority and we love what we do,” she said.
“We want to make sure we send them home happy, they had a great day, they were educated, they had fun, they played with their friends. You make sure they go home safely. Nobody wants that call a parent or let them hear that. The thought gives us goosebumps.”
Haloulos is still trying to process what happened, although she knows she can’t bring those difficult emotions to work because the kids “don’t need the stress,” she said. For Haloulos, being around children and playing games helps distract them from the tragic news.
“When we leave the premises, it’s a different story.”
Her colleague Jihad Rhoualemi, an educator for the three- to four-year-old age group, said she couldn’t sleep on Wednesday night. She said she cried non-stop as she thought of the two children killed – and how their parents must be feeling.
“Let’s say we’re outside, we’re going for a walk, an accident can happen, like a child can fall or someone is trying to kidnap, we’re there and we’re alert. That’s our job,” she said through tears.
“But a bus that goes right through a wall and kills babies kills children trapped under the bus…”
Rhoualemi says she wants parents and educators in Laval to know that she and her colleagues stand with them in solidarity. But she says she and her colleagues just have to keep going because incidents like this are rare, unpredictable and unavoidable.
“We’re trying to breathe, telling ourselves it’s already happened, we’re trying to stay calm and not show our kids anything today,” she said.
“I turned on some music this morning, they danced and sang as usual, we didn’t change anything. We do our best for the children’s safety, that’s all we can do.”
Day care centers show solidarity
The Réseau des services à la petite enfance de l’Est du Quebec urged people to hang white flags in front of daycare centers across the province. At least 10 took part.
Samir Alahmad, president of the Private Daycare Association of Quebec, said he had never experienced anything like Wednesday’s attack and hoped it never had to happen again.
“What we got yesterday is news nobody wants to hear. We are devastated. It’s tragic when something happens to children. What happened yesterday, there are no words to describe it,” he said.
But he says daycare centers in Quebec are very safe and “there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent things like this,” which he finds heartbreaking.
“Daycare should be the safest place you place your child. Can you imagine leaving your child in the morning and getting this call,” he said.
“We are speechless, we are powerless in the face of what happened.”
Quebec Family Affairs Minister Suzanne Roy said she spoke to educators and workers who have campaigned to support the children in their daycares. She said that despite their own hardship, workers still put children and their families first.
“They were shocked and emotional but wanted to be there for the kids who were still around and worried about parents coming to pick up their kids.”
She said psychosocial support for day care workers is available.