In light of the England riots, I thought it would be nice to read a ‘good news’ story about the recent Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver. Our friends at BCRTC passed this account of one SkyTrain attendant’s experience on June 15th when chaos broke out on the streets of downtown Vancouver and the Granville SkyTrain Station. Reading Virginia’s words really brings the memories back of that night.
Granville Station during the Stanley Cup Riot
A personal account by Virginia Farrow-Busch
Looking back, I think I knew that Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals was going to be crazy in downtown Vancouver the moment I heard the Canucks had lost Game 6 in Boston.
As a SkyTrain attendant, I had worked many shifts in downtown Vancouver throughout the playoffs. During game nights, I could sense the happiness that people felt; the genuine excitement that Vancouver was in the spotlight again. But on Game 7 day, the feeling in the city was something altogether different. The look on people’s faces was tense, almost desperate, and the city felt toxic, almost sinister. Something was about to happen in the city, win or lose.
Despite this, I still wanted to work at Granville Station because I knew it was going to be the hub of activity for the night. And it was. People did not stop coming and going through that station from the moment I started my shift. The constant flow of people through The Bay corridor was dizzying. I had never seen anything like it — not during the Celebration of Light fireworks and not during the Olympics.
What surprised me the most that night was how the number of people coming into downtown increased even though by the second period of the game, it became apparent that the Canucks would likely lose. By then, I was almost certain that this night wasn’t going to end well.
Previously in the playoffs, when the Canucks lost a game, most of the crowds left relatively quickly and quietly. During Game 7, it seemed as though there were people who felt they deserved to be a part of something/anything that was about to happen in the city.
The riot happened like a blur. People were running in and out of the Dunsmuir entrance to Granville Station. The smoke from the burning cars was so strong that it made me cough and my sinuses burn.
There were uniforms everywhere: SkyTrain attendants, SkyTrain field supervisors, Transit Police, Vancouver Police and RCMP. SkyTrain and TransLink executives were also at Granville Station; all pitching in to try to do what seemed like the impossible – get people to leave the city.
SkyTrain Attendants are trained in basic first aid, so we treated people for tear gas burns. I also did first aid on a young woman with a leg injury who said she’d been bitten by a police dog. She claimed to be an innocent bystander. Regardless, she came to me for help, and I gave it to her. The young woman was scared and in shock, and the best I could do was clean and bandage her injured leg and try to keep her calm. The young woman was grateful for the help. She said she felt safe inside the station but still insisted on trying to find her boyfriend who was outside on Granville Street … somewhere. I had to tell her to get on a train, go home or to a hospital outside of the downtown core. It took some time, but she finally agreed to leave on a train.
It seemed like the riot would never end. But later that night, when it felt somewhat safe, my co-workers and I stood outside Granville Station on Dunsmuir Street. We were completely awestruck by the destruction: smoldering cars, smashed windows and the remnants of looting. Smoke and ash were still hanging in the air. It looked like a war zone. It was impossible not to feel ashamed, angry and sad all at once. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
My co-workers and I were completely exhausted; emotionally and physically. No one had a break that night, and that was okay. But at that moment, I would have given anything for a hot tea or coffee. Ironically, we stood right across the street from a Tim Hortons, but it had closed early because of the riot.
Then something wonderful happened. A fellow SkyTrain attendant, Dan Fidler, who also happens to be relatively new to the job, appeared out of nowhere with 12 coffees from Tim Hortons! He had gone across the street and appealed to the employees who had taken refuge inside to make coffee for us. Dan handed out the coffees to the SkyTrain staff and Transit Police officers who were at Granville Station. Honestly, it was THE best tasting cup of coffee I’ve ever had in my life. (Thank you, Dan! Thank you, Tim Hortons staff!)
Looking back, I don’t regret taking a shift at Granville Station for Game 7. The riot is one of the worst things I have experienced in my life, but that night, is also the highlight of my SkyTrain career. I witnessed SkyTrain staff and Transit Police gel and work together like never before. From executives to field and technical staff, control operators and even the cleaners, we all did what we do best: move people. We did it professionally and safely. And to me, that is the best reward.