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The cool-headed sergeant-at-arms credited with gunning down the Ottawa attacker stood stone-faced Thursday for a huge ovation from Parliament as a somber Canadian government got back to work.
Kevin Vickers nodded in acknowledgment and swallowed hard as lawmakers applauded him for two and a half minutes.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper ducked under police tape and laid flowers at the National War Memorial, where the attack began on Wednesday. He later addressed the legislature.
“We may sit across the aisle from one another,” he said, “But when faced with attacks on the country we all love and the things we all stand for, I know we will always stand together.”
He was interrupted several times by standing ovations as he paid tribute to the fallen soldier and struck a defiant tone after the attack. He said that the objective of the attack had been to make Canadians panic and interrupt their government.
“Here we are, in our seats, in our chamber, in the heart of our democracy,” he said. “We carry on.”
He also called for expanded surveillance and police powers in the face of a terrorist threat. On Monday, a man described as a radicalized Muslim ran down two Canadian soldiers with his car, killing one, before he himself was killed by police.
“They need to be much strengthened, and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that work which is already under way will be expedited,” Harper told the House of Commons.
In their own tribute, lawmakers and ordinary Canadians standing behind police barricades sang “O Canada” at the war memorial, the arched granite cenotaph where the shooting began on Wednesday.
The gunman, whom sources identified to NBC News as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32-year-old convert to Islam, shot the soldier to death before he was shot and killed inside Parliament, where dozens of shots were fired.
Law enforcement did not say officially that Vickers took out the attacker. But members of Parliament expressed thanks on Twitter and said that it was the sergeant-at-arms, 58, who killed the suspect and then returned to guarding lawmakers.
Tributes poured in for the soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist.
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