This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of an earthquake that ripped through Haiti. Included in the estimated 300,000 people killed during the earthquake was Mark Gallagher, a police officer from New Brunswick who left a lasting impact on both the Maritimes and in Haiti.
“Mark was quite a person,” says friend and former colleague Peter Korotkov. “He would do anything for anybody.”
And it’s been very clear that Gallagher was a bright spot for Korotkov, who spent about 25 years with him both on the job with city police in Moncton and RCMP, but off the job as well.
“We had fun together and we worked together, we played hard,” Korotkov says. “We used to go downhill skiing the odd time and I think it was how fast we could go to see who could break their neck first.”
One of his favourite traits about Gallagher was his ability to share a laugh.
“Mark was quite a character and he used to play jokes on people,” Korotkov remembers. “He was kind of mischievous, he had a mischievous smile, and he would pull a few stunts. I would walk into his office on certain days and he’d give me that look like he was about to play a gag on somebody.”
Gallagher was part of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti. During his work down there, he trained other officers.
When the 2010 earthquake hit and took so many lives, it was difficult for many people in the Maritimes who knew Gallagher, including Kororkov.
“He put in a lot of hours, and so I thought he’d be out helping earthquake victims and that’s why we never heard from him,” he says. “Then we got the bad news and when we had a gathering at the office, I couldn’t even go in the room because I was so close to him at that time and it was hard to hold back the tears.”
Korotkov says Gallagher was, without a doubt, one of his best friends.
Following the tragedy, a school was built in Haiti in Gallagher’s name.
Ken Biddington, a teacher at CCNB, the francophone community college in New Brunswick, was called on to help train teachers at École Professionnelle du Sgt Mark-Gallagher, the Mark Gallagher Vocational School, in Haiti.
“It is a high-calibre school, so they have computers, internet, they have power (generator), which for us, like ‘OK, so what?’ But Haiti, almost every day, power goes down,” says Biddington.
The school provides a whole new level opportunity for students, he says.
READ MORE: Haiti marks 5th anniversary of earthquake
“The school in Haiti that they built really has a great impact when you think of people who might of not have, 10 years ago, had a hope to study where they lived because it is expensive to travel from that part to where the schools are,” Biddington says. “And now, they have a great school there.”
Meanwhile, Korotkov wishes Gallagher could see the school built in his name.
“I think he’d be full of joy and be proud and it would mean a lot to him. Because he used to help out the kids down there.”
Despite Gallagher’s passing, his legacy and impact on both the Maritimes and Haiti will continue to live on.
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