November 11, 2001

Remembrance Day 2001


November 11, 2001:

Remembrance Day; also, the two month anniversary of September 11:
The date that needs no other explanation.

In keeping with the mood of the times, this Remembrance Day seems to hold more significance than any in recent memory.

For the first time in its eighty year history, the Canadian Legion Poppy Campaign has run short of poppies to sell, exhausting an estimated seventeen million supply for a Canadian population of thirty million.
(More about the significance of the poppy in last year's entry.)

For the first time that I can remember, I watched some of the Canadian ceremonies on TV.
One channel had a documentary about World War II, narrated by an older man wearing a uniform with many medals. There were archival films and photographs, many resembling the ones I found and posted two years ago. There were also soldiers' portrait shots scrolling along the side and one of them looked exactly like my father.
It might have been; although he did not go overseas, he was a sergeant in the Canadian army, training soldiers for battle.

Other channels covered the ceremonies on Parliament Hill in Ottawa:
the ritual of the Governor General (the representative of the Queen in Canada) reviewing the guards; cannon-fire salutes; bagpipers and buglers; overflying jets in formation; flags at half mast.

What struck me the most was the close up shots of the faces of the veterans in attendance, particularly during the two minutes of silence.
These men (and a few women) were old.
Their faces were lined and wrinkled.
Their eyes told a different story as they fought back tears, every one of them.
I wondered what they were remembering but at the same time, I knew I didn't want to know.

After the silence there was another bugle call; some looked up with hope.

Is there a choice, after all?

Before I saw those faces, I thought, what good has remembering done - the world is not getting any better, we haven't learned anything and probably never will.
But the purpose of this day and others like it goes beyond honouring those who fought distant and more recent battles.
There IS a message of hope implicit in this ceremony.

After all the wars and lives lost, despite the price that had to be paid, we are still here.
There will be more wars - the nature of man isn't about to change. The veterans honouring Remembrance Days to come will no doubt be younger men, remembering the conflicts of the last half of the twentieth century and what promises to be the enduring conflict of the twenty-first.

We can - we must - take inspiration from the events of the past in order to face the future.

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