MONTREAL – Students shared hugs, knelt to say prayers and wept openly at the entrance of Dawson college, where a makeshift flower-covered shrine was steadily growing as the city paused to take stock of Wednesday's school shooting.
The 25 year-old Kamveer Gill, dressed in a trench-coat and sporting a mohawk, went on a shooting rampage on the campus of 10,000 students, killing one 18 year-old girl before taking his own life when cornered by police.
Hours before the attack, Gill posted pictures of himself on the Internet with a rifle and said he was feeling "postal" and drinking whiskey.
As workers scrambled inside to get the college ready to reopen for classes next week, people left flowers and collected their thoughts in silence in various spots of the perimeter around the school.
Near the entrance where some of the shooting took place, a poster of the only student victim, Anastasia De Souza, carried the words "We miss you Anna". Another sign said "To the victims and the families, you are in our hearts."
Montreal general hospital meanwhile reported that among the eight shooting victims it had left, one person had been discharged and two people from intensive care were brought to the hospital's regular ward, leaving two in critical condition. All had suffered from bullet wounds.
Karine-Josee Igartua, director of psychiatric emergency services, said the hospital had received some 150 calls since the shooting, half of them from people in distress looking for psychological support.
She said that reports of people suffering from a variety of stress, anxiety, and insomnia, were normal given the circumstances.
"The reaction is intense but it is normal after such an abnormal event," she said. "Our sense of security has been shaken."
Igartua said drop-in centers were being opened for people seeking help and expected some students to feel apprehensive about returning to school next week.
Students have been asked to return to Dawson Monday for belongings left behind in the panic that broke out when Gill started firing indiscriminately, before classes resume Tuesday.
But as the campus sought to heal its wounds, some students indicated returning would not be easy.
"I think a lot of people aren't gonna come back on Monday," said Melody Tousignant, who shared De Souza's age. "All of my friends are saying that they can't do it ... everybody is so traumatized by what happened."
One nearby soup kitchen said it would offer free meals to students seeking to avoid Dawson's cafeteria for the next few days, where some of the shooting took place.
As flags flew at half-staff across the city, Mayor Gerald Tremblay invited people to sign a book of condolences at city hall through Sunday.