A memorial park designed to honour the five students killed at a Calgary house party in 2014 opened in South Glenmore Park on Thursday.
The Quinterra Legacy Garden features spectacular views of the reservoir and the city skyline, ornamental trees, a performance stage and life-sized musical instruments.
It was created in the memory of Lawrence Hong, 27, Josh Hunter, 23, Kaitlin Perras, 23, Jordan Segura, 22 and Zackariah Rathwell, 21, who lost their lives at a party meant to celebrate the end of the school year.
All were known for their love of the arts, and the garden was designed, in part, with the intention of supporting music, dance and theatre.
“It’s very unique for Alberta, and for actually much of the country,” said Gregg Perras, father of Kaitlin Perras, on the Calgary Eyeopener Thursday morning.
“Just a great place to come and sit and enjoy the view, as well as pursue some appreciation of the arts.”
Something that would be meaningful
Zackariah Rathwell was in a local band with Josh Hunter.
Jordan Segura enjoyed being active in the community, and Lawrence Hong had an interest in city planning.
Kaitlin Perras was a ballet dancer.
They were stabbed to death at a house party in the northwest community of Brentwood on April 15, 2014, by Matthew de Grood, who was found not criminally responsible in May of 2016.
The tragedy prompted an outpouring of support from the community, said the families of the victims.
And the garden not only gives them a space to feel connected to their loved ones, but also an opportunity to give something back.
“We wanted to do something to honour our kids, a place to go, a place to heal and reflect. And we wanted to create something that would acknowledge the support that we got,” said Barclay Hunter, Josh’s dad, at the park’s unveiling.
“Something that would be lasting, and something that would be meaningful.”
The music, the arts and the friendships were the common threads between the victims that the families drew upon when conceptualizing the space.
The result is a colourful, bright and interactive park that offers visitors space to be creative, or listen to the music created by others, or simply to reflect.
“It was an easy connection because of all their artistic backgrounds related, particularly, to music and dance,” said Perras.
Individual elements of the park speak to unique facets of their personalities as well.
Miles Hong said his older brother, victim Lawrence Hong, explored Calgary on his bike, and believed city parks were important to the health and vibrancy of the city.
“Anything to improve our urban experience? He was really into that,” Hong said.
“We’ve included so many things that encapsulate all of the individuals that were lost.”
The process of planning the garden began four years ago, said Hong.
Many volunteers and over 600 donors contributed to the project, which fundraised over $650,000.
It was organized by the Quinterra Group, which is comprised of family and friends of the five victims.
Its mission is to “provide a peaceful, contemplative and vibrant outdoor space for Calgarians to reflect, heal and remember,” according to the group’s website.
The finished memorial garden is located in South Glenmore Park adjacent to the Nautical Spray Park, and down the road from the sailing club.
Hong said that it was important for the families to collaborate on a project that felt so positive.
“When we started, we were in a completely different space. And this has just helped us to be together, but not always in a negative way,” Hong said.
“Just kind of imagining how our families — if they were still with us — how they would have contributed to the city of Calgary, and bringing that to life, has been really important to us.”
“We suffered quite a bit, six and a half years ago, and this is a positive thing that’s come out of it. So, I’m very happy about it,” said Patty Segura, Jordan’s mother.
“It’s very special. It’s huge. It celebrates Jordan and the other children … it takes what they gave to the community and it’s taking it forward, and I’m very, very happy about that.”
A better tribute couldn’t be imagined, said Zachariah Rathwell’s family.
“It makes my heart sing,” said Zachariah’s mother, Rhona-Lee Rathwell.
“There’s been so much pain and so much turmoil and so much trauma. And this is all good. This is all wonderful, and music and light.”