At the Quebec mosque shooting, this man risked his life to save others. Who will save him now?
December 15, 2017
By Ingrid Peritz, Globe and Mail |
Aymen Derbali, a 41-year-old Tunisian immigrant who survived last year’s shooting at a Quebec City mosque, takes physical rehabilitation with therapist Nathalie Roberge. ‘Now I’m living in a body that feels like it’s not mine,’ says Mr. Derbali, now paralyzed from the shoulders down. ‘The last steps I took were in the mosque.’
Six men died in January’s attack on a Quebec City mosque, but Aymen Derbali barely survived after facing the gunman directly to draw fire away from others. He spent two months in a coma and will never walk again. Now, as he struggles to recover, his appeals for help starting a new life have gone unanswered. Ingrid Peritz tells his story
Aymen Derbali lay on the carpeted floor, his life seeping out of his body. The screams of his friends filled his ears. The bullet that sliced through an artery near his heart was draining his blood.
“Aymen, stay with us,” voices were shouting. “Stay with us, Aymen, open your eyes!”
Mr. Derbali could not be sure whether he was alive or dead. He heard someone call for ambulances. Someone else told him to urgently recite the Muslim statement of faith before dying. Then, in his final seconds of consciousness, he saw a flash of blue, a blue that he recognized as a police uniform. “No one move,” the voice in the uniform yelled. “Hands in the air!”
Mr. Derbali could not move. It was after 8 p.m. last Jan. 29 at the Grand Mosque of Quebec City. Minutes earlier, a gunman had calmly entered the sanctuary on Sainte-Foy Road and began firing after parishioners gathered for evening prayers.
Six men would die that night. A 27-year-old former army cadet would be arrested and charged with murder. Mr. Derbali would know nothing about it. He was rushed through the frigid winter night toward the Hôpital de l’Enfant-Jésus with seven bullet wounds in his body.
He fell into a coma. When he woke up, two months had passed.
And that is when Mr. Derbali’s new life as a mass-shooting survivor began.
“I never knew what it felt like to get shot,” the 41-year-old says from his wheelchair. “Now I’m living in a body that feels like it’s not mine. The last steps I took were in the mosque.”