Mourners place flowers at the scene of a hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, which left four members of a family dead and their nine-year-old son in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

Mourners place flowers at the scene of a hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021, which left four members of a family dead and their nine-year-old son in hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins

‘I just had to try to help,’ says nurse who tried to save victims of Ontario attack

Nurse practitioner describes the horrific scene in the wake of family being run down

Miranda Campbell and her family were driving home Sunday night when they pulled up to a line of cars stopped at a green light.

Drivers were coming out of their vehicles, talking on their cellphones.

Maybe it’s a car crash, she thought, but there weren’t any damaged vehicles.

Then she saw the injured on the ground.

“You should go out there and help,” her husband told her.

Campbell, a nurse practitioner in London, Ont., was scared and confused.

“There were no ambulances, no police, just bystanders on their phones pacing,” she said.

When she opened the car door, the full thrust of the scene hit her.

“I’m trying to figure out what the hell happened, people were screaming and crying – it was chaos,” she said.

She recognized a local chiropractor who was trying to help. She saw a woman standing over an older woman on the ground, unsure what to do.

Campbell got down, checked for a pulse, but couldn’t find one. She didn’t want to move the injured woman in case of a spinal injury.

She noticed the woman’s traditional Muslim clothing was in tatters, leaving her exposed.

“I just covered her up, I wanted to give her dignity,” Campbell said.

Then she began chest compressions and didn’t stop until a paramedic arrived and took over.

Next to her a police officer was giving chest compressions to a younger woman. Campbell took her pulse. Nothing.

“There’s children, there’s children,” someone yelled.

She noticed a young boy on the ground.

“He was facing the whole thing: He saw his mom’s body laying there, his grandma’s body,” she said.

Then more screams.

“There’s another child!” someone yelled.

She saw a purple scrunchy on the sidewalk and a bunch of shoes.

“Their shoes were scattered all over the grass, all over the sidewalk,” Campbell said.

She looked closer at the shoes.

“All these tire tracks on them,” she said. “I saw the tire tracks that came up on the sidewalk, and up onto the grass, and then back out on the street again.”

By then a slew of first responders had arrived.

Campbell got back into her car, where her husband and their two teenage sons were waiting, and the family went home.

But she couldn’t stop thinking about the boy.

“I was praying all night that one of those adults would survive so that little, little boy is not going to be left alone,” Campbell said.

“He looked so scared and shaking and helpless on the ground covered up with a blanket – I can’t get that out of my head – I just wanted to give him a hug.”

She also kept thinking about the older woman she tried to help.

“When I saw her traditional clothing, I thought ‘I really hope this is not race related,” Campbell said.

“The next day when I found out, it just made me feel 100 times worse.”

Police said four members of a Muslim family were killed on Sunday when a man driving a black Dodge Ram smashed into them on a sidewalk as they waited to cross an intersection in the northwest end of the city. Police believe it was a targeted anti-Muslim hate crime.

Relatives identified the victims as Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, daughter Yumna Salman, 15, and her 74-year-old grandmother. The couple’s nine-year-old boy, Fayez, was seriously injured and remains in hospital.

“What the hell kind of world are we living in?” Campbell said.

Racism had been top of mind for her family. Campbell is Indigenous and her husband is Jamaican.

She said she had been talking to her children, who are biracial, about how to deal with racism, especially in the wake of the discovery of what is believed to be the unmarked graves of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

“I tell my kids ‘you’re gonna experience racism all the time and it’s the way that you handle it is how you’re going to learn,’” Campbell said.

“You can’t help what other people think, but you can teach yourself not to treat other people badly.”

—Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Mosque to host vigil for family killed in London, Ont., vehicle attack

RELATED: Trudeau calls London, Ont., vehicle assault that killed Muslim family a ‘terrorist attack’

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