Sudbury

I’ll Never Forget

renee-sweeney

I knew your mom before we ever met – she worked as a secretary at my elementary school. She was always so nice and friendly. I remember her telling me she had a daughter my age who attended another elementary school, but was planning to go to the same high school as me. Maybe one day our paths would cross?

And it happened. I remember the day we met – first day of grade nine math. So it went with French Immersion, we shared several classes together. Class projects and study groups…it wasn’t long before we wound up hanging out together as a group with some other classmates.

You were different from the others.  You were the hard rocker – acid-wash jeans, high-tops, spiky hair and make-up. You listened to metal – Megadeth, Skid Row, Ratt and Poison. The first I ever heard of Faster Pussycat was from you. Your taste in music was a far departure from what I was into at the time…but thanks to you, I started getting into the sounds of Metallica and GNR.

You were tall, natural and strong. You towered over me by at least 5 inches. I was always jealous of your thick dark curly hair and striking eyes. I remember you would also show off your crooked pinky fingers, that bowed inward in the shape of C’s. We had things in common, particularly to do with family life – we were both raised by single moms, had one sister, and our fathers had passed away.

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We’d do typical high school stuff – passing notes in class and the like. You were hilarious. We’d have many a good laugh. We never argued. We kept things light. You didn’t like gossip and would never talk smack about anyone.

I know in senior year in high school we sort of drifted…so it goes. We didn’t share any classes together after sharing practically every class together. We’d always talk in the halls, say hi, hang out for lunch from time to time, but it wasn’t the same connection.

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You played the trombone in high school band, and later in the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra. I was always impressed by that. Who else knows anyone who can play the trombone? I remember the night of our class grad party you said you were going to take a Bachelor’s degree in Music.

——

I screamed the night I watched the local news and learned the victim of that fatal stabbing that occurred late morning at an Adults Only Video store in Sudbury was you.

It was YOU. Oh God, NO…

January 27, 1998. You were 23. Your high school grad picture was on TV. I wished you would have been on the news because of your talent as a musician.

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An Adults Only Video…I asked myself why on earth were you working at an Adults Only Video?!

Then, I thought about it. You were responsible, and needed money for school. I get it: jobs in Sudbury weren’t easy to come by – I know, I tried to find work in Sudbury after graduation. It was retail…and sometimes you have to take what is available. You were also no push-over and could take care of yourself.

Except…when someone robbed your store at knifepoint that morning on January 27, and you’re in the way of the cash register… you didn’t have a prayer. All this heartache for a measley $200.

He stabbed you more than 30 times. But, as that bastard took your life – thank God – you fought him. You scratched and battled him. It wasn’t enough to save your life, but…

…Thank God…thank God you fought back…

…His DNA was under your fingernails. It’s data the police can load into a North American DNA database. They say the dead tell no tales…There are evidently no stories to tell yet as that DNA hasn’t sent back any hits, but the police keep checking. They receive tips every month.

18 years. A sketch, the murderer’s bloody jacket, some gloves and strong memories of the day are what is left.

Who was this guy and why? Was he high and desperate? Did he know you? Did you know him? Were you afraid? Was this a robbery after all, or someone out for blood because you wouldn’t reciprocate interest?

I keep thinking he cannot get away with this.

I want this guy caught.

I want this guy dead.

He deserves to be dead.

I hope he’s dead.

I wish you’d had been known for your talents as a trombonist, not as one of Canada’s cold case victims.

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Your name was Renee Sweeney. You were my high school friend. I miss you. Not a week passes that I don’t think about you.

Renee: French for reborn.

Yes, indeed. Memories reborn as this awful anniversary passes year after year without finality. Without justice. 18 years.

I’ll never forget you, Renee. I love you, Renee.

I’ll never forget.

Rest in peace, forever. ox

 

[Documentary] The Hole Story (2011)

(Photo: qpirgconcordia.org)

The Hole Story is an absorbing documentary that explores the origins of mining in Northern Ontario and Quebec, the environmental impacts and the corporate greed associated with mining. The city of Sudbury is one of the main cities showcased, along with fellow towns, Timmins, Cobalt, and Rouyn-Noranda. This was a very eye-opening documentary that really hit me at my core. Let me explain why.

(Photo: Northernlife)

As some of you are aware, I was born and raised in Sudbury, Ontario. Let me share with you two points of what it means to be from this Northern Ontario town:

1. Sudbury is a mining town (The Nickel Capital of the world!) and if you are from Sudbury, you likely know or knew someone who worked for a mine.

2. There is a lot of rock in this town. I wish I was talking music here…

I no longer live in Sudbury, but the rest of my family does, and so does the hubs’ family (we didn’t meet in Sudbury, though). Basically, every time I return home, I am reminded of what Sudbury is about just by observing the landscape:

The Inco (now Vale) Nickel refinery Smelter Superstack* in the distance…

(Photo: wikipedia)

And rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. In fact, everything is built on a rock and what isn’t has been blasted through rock to create whatever.

Blackened rocks (Photo: upload.wikimedia.org)

Being from Sudbury, growing up, I never paid much attention to the landscape until an outsider describes your town differently than you’ve ever thought before. Their description: Barren. Rocky. Ugly. The fact that there weren’t too many trees and the granite that covered our fine city was black from the refinery fallout, and not pink-grey never crossed my mind, because, well, I lived in Sudbury an ignorant kid who didn’t know any different.

Not much was ever mentioned when in Elementary and High School in the 80s we talked about “the environment” as a concept and “acid rain” as a thing but would never utter the words “Inco”, nor ever point a finger towards the Copper Cliff refinery with a “THEM!!” on our lips. Nope. Not when a major employer kept the town going by providing families with a decent wage.

Eventually you educate yourself, or just plain pay more attention to what is around you. You grow up and get more environmental awareness. You read the news on environmental disasters… and then YOUR HOMETOWN is highlighted. The main employer in your old town has a spotlight shining brightly on it as a culprit for the world’s acid rain emissions, and responsible for killing off most of the vegetation around Sudbury by the 1950s, never to see a rejuvenation until 1978 when efforts began to re-forest the city. And what is that you say?? The rocks are NOT supposed to be black??

As this documentary states: “You can’t break the law when you are the law.” The mining companies hold a lot of power over the towns they operate in. Thanks to the Hole Story, if I wasn’t aware of what was literally going on under the shadow of the smokestack, I was certainly in for a shocking experience.

Sudbury has very much grown back most of the vegetation lost from the 50s. The black rock is also slowly gaining back its light pink shade, making the city more luscious and green.

I definitely feel that being from Northern Ontario had a lot to do with my interest in the Hole Story, but anyone who enjoys films on the corruption of “big smoke” capitalism and environmentalism would take away plenty from this film. The Hole Story is one of those rare films where you think the content is going to be heavy, but then 80 minutes go by effortlessly and you walk away learning a thing or two. I was seriously swept away by such an interesting piece of journalism and I truly recommend it.

Currently streaming on Netflix Canada, and free to watch on the National Film Board of Canada website: nfb.com @.

9.5/10

*Say Smelter Superstack three times. You’re welcome.

@ Sorry, I think this website is regional, so if you are from outside of Canada, you might not be allowed to watch the film on NFB.