A Candiac resident experienced firsthand the first Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7. Finally returning home, the 38-year-old nurse, who was on a simple tourist trip to Tel Aviv, recounted her experience to Duty.
Geneviève Ouellette had not yet had time to adapt to the time difference in Israel when the attacks began on the morning of Saturday October 7. Around 6 a.m., unable to sleep, she goes to the beach, a few minutes’ walk from the apartment she rents for her vacation.
“I started hearing sirens. […] There were few people on the beach at that time, and people didn’t react too much,” she says on the phone.
When the first sirens sound, it is mainly confusion that reigns – but not panic. No one seems to sense any imminent risk; the few tourists on the beach continue to go about their business.
“ [Un peu plus tard], there is a beach worker who started planting black flags. He told us that we had to leave immediately,” she continues.
Back in her apartment, Geneviève struggles to understand what is really happening. Online, the news available at that time is very “vague”. “We just knew that something serious was happening,” says the Candiacoise.
It wasn’t until later in the day that she heard explosions in the distance: “That’s when I put the pieces together.” It became clear. We were being bombed. »
Left to her own devices
Taking refuge in her apartment, where there is not much cell reception, Geneviève is left to her own devices. All his neighbors are also locked up. The owners of the building she rents, her only point of contact on site, cannot help her either: they themselves have been mobilized for military service.
“With the bombs going off, it’s hard to call or try to find who to call. My initial plan was to go and hide at the airport,” she recalls.
It is ultimately Geneviève’s mother, with whom The duty spoke, who managed to find him a commercial flight back home. Without news from the Canadian government for evacuations during the first days of the attack, her mother preferred to pay the high price (around $4,000) to bring her daughter back to the country.
Without any news on a repatriation to return to Canada, a commercial flight seemed to be the best option to leave the area as quickly as possible — especially in a context where the situation seemed to be worsening. The new explosions seemed to be getting closer — so much so that they even shook the walls of his apartment.
“The evening I left, the bombings had started again. But compared to the others, I heard them closer. […] I saw a missile, it flashed then it disappeared and it made a big explosion, probably in the ocean,” she says.
After receiving a call from her mother, who had found the last available seat on a flight to Boston, she had just 30 minutes to get to the airport. After that, his memories are blurry: all that mattered was getting into the first taxi. “I don’t even know if I closed the door behind me,” she says.
Relief and Guilt
Two days after Geneviève’s return to Quebec, the Canadian government sent the first planes of the Canadian Armed Forces to begin repatriations. In retrospect, the Candiac nurse confides that, if she had known, she would have waited for reinforcements at the airport.
“But we didn’t know if there was a plan in place. […] At times, you have to be proactive. You don’t want to sit there and wait for someone to get you out of there. There are thousands of tourists there,” she laments.
Several other Canadians who were trapped in the region after several days decided to take the necessary steps themselves to return to the country.
Today, life goes on for Geneviève. Although she admits to being relieved to be back safe, she can’t help but feel a bit of guilt and empathy for those who stayed behind.
” The hostages [pris par le Hamas], it had a big impact on me. These are people who, like me, were just existing there. I have a lot of empathy for them,” she confides. The Israeli army said Monday that 199 people had been captured by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, according to an updated report.
“We are lucky to live somewhere where threats like this are not part of our daily lives. […] These people are just the beginning. It puts things into perspective,” she concludes.