OTTAWA, Ontario – The standing ovation began even before Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers entered the Parliament chamber in his black robe, carrying the golden ceremonial mace on his right shoulder.
For more than two minutes, the lawmakers applauded and pounded their desks Thursday for the white-haired former Mountie, hailed as a hero for shooting the gunman who had stormed Canada's seat of power just a day earlier.
At first expressionless and motionless, the 58-year-old Vickers eventually responded to the ovation with a few slight nods of his head, his lips quivering with emotion.
Later in the session, Prime Minster Stephen Harper lauded Vickers.
"I would be very remiss if I did not conclude in acknowledging specifically the work of the security forces here on Parliament and the great work of our sergeant-at-arms," he said to more cheers and applause from the members.
Harper then went over to shake Vickers' hand.
"I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday's events," Vickers said in a statement.
"However, I have the support of a remarkable security team," he added. "Yesterday, during extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage. I am grateful and proud to be part of this team."
He said he would have no further immediate comment on the incident while an investigation unfolded.
The gunman who invaded Parliament, identified as petty criminal Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had been seen by witnesses minutes earlier, fatally shooting a soldier posted at the nearby National War Memorial.
As shots rang out in the Parliament building, people fled the complex by scrambling down scaffolding erected for renovations, while others took cover inside as police with rifles and body armor took up positions outside and cordoned off the normally bustling streets around Parliament.
Video broadcast Thursday showed Vickers moments after the gunfire, walking down a corridor in the Parliament building with a handgun in his right hand.
In his statement, Vickers said one of the security officers on duty with the House of Commons, Constable Samearn Son, suffered a gunshot wound to the leg but was expected to make a full recovery.
Praise for Vickers was swift and widespread.
"Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes." tweeted Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
Vickers, whose background includes providing security for visiting members of Britain's royal family, became sergeant-at-arms in the House of Commons eight years ago after a varied security career. He spent nearly 30 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, reaching the rank of chief superintendent.
Crary reported from New York.