Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
Last month I was in Boston on a media tour and had the opportunity to see a touching symbol of courage.
During our visit to Fenway Park the group was shown the “Boston Strong” jersey that hung on the wall of the stadium, signed by members of the 2013 World Series Champion Red Sox following the Boston Marathon attacks.
I took a hard look at that jersey, thought back to the chaos of that day and what the people of Boston must have gone through, especially during those first terrible hours of uncertainty following the bombing. It’s one thing to watch a horrible event unfold on the news from the comfort of your home. It’s another to live through it. The city showed the world what Boston Strong meant in the face of terror during that ghastly time, and their resolve continues to inspire. Still, it’s a long and painful healing process – Boston may be a fun city with friendly and engaging people but the scars are still evident.
This was on October 22, 2014. Fearing roaming charges, my cellphone is always disconnected before I cross the border so I had no access to the Internet or television during my tour. So little did I realize that at the same time I was looking at that symbol of strength hanging within the storied walls of Fenway Park that back home, just moments before, Canada had suffered a terrorist attack in Ottawa at Parliament Hill and the murder of a soldier – the second killing of a serviceman in less than a week. It was a hideous and surreal thing to arrive at Boston’s Logan International Airport for my flight home and see Canada all over CNN, but there it was and it was real. I couldn’t stop thinking about that baseball jersey at Fenway. Boston had faced this nightmare. Now Ottawa was going to have to find the strength to face it too.
Canada faces extremism – again
By now, you know what happened: A gunman – I won’t write his name – shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, an unarmed honorary guard at the National War Memorial. The gunman then hijacked a vehicle and tried to storm Parliament Hill, where he was killed. This follows the death of another Canadian soldier named Patrice Vincent, who was murdered by an extremist in a hit and run incident in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.
A touching funeral service was held for Cirillo in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario. A private funeral for Patrice Vincent will be held last weekend in Longueuil, QC. Our deepest condolences go out to these two remarkable men and their families. They made it their life mission to protect their country from harm , and their loss is a terrible.
Many commentators have made remarks about Canada losing it’s innocence, but I don’t agree with that sentiment at all. Call Canada anything you want, but we aren’t innocent. We have dealt with terror before – at home during the October Crisis and abroad, most notably on September 11, 2001. Our country has a long and proud history of standing up to hate. If you don’t believe that, I suggest that you pack your backs and take a trip to Ottawa.
Take a stroll through the Canadian War Museum or visit the National War Memorial, where Cirillo was murdered, and you’ll see a testament to all the kids who went abroad to fight the Nazi’s in the Second World War.
On Wellington Street facing Parliament Hill is the The Peacekeeping Monument that recognizes “Canada’s role in international peacekeeping and the soldiers, both living and dead, who have participated or are currently participating in peacekeeping operations.”
When the United States, our neighbour and friend, was attacked on September 11, 2001 Canada didn’t hesitate to condemn the violence and join the international effort against extremism in Afghanistan. Between 2002 and 2011, when the combat mission ended, 158 members of the Canadian Forces were killed serving in the Afghan war. It’s hard not to appreciate what we have in this country , and it’s also not difficult to appreciate the people who have put it all on the line so that we can enjoy our freedoms.
At the beginning of this year, we mentioned Ottawa in our 20 Best Places to Travel in Canada: 2014. We wrote: “2014 is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. The city has always been an important place for Canadians to gather on Remembrance Day, and November 11, 2014 will be especially meaningful.” You can bet with recent events that have taken place this year Remembrance Day will be even more meaningful than ever to Canadians.
Military treasures aside, there are several other reasons to visit Ottawa. From award-winning restaurants to thrilling sporting events and tasty cookies (thanks President Obama), our capital has it all.
Canada is special and it’s our people – including Muslims – who have helped make it that way. It’s our values that truly define who we are, not selfish acts of violence by a handful of morally bankrupt, misguided people.
With the burial of the two soldiers now behind us and the attacks on parliament in the history books, I hope our country can heal and keep things in perspective. The television cameras have moved on – Canada isn’t mentioned on CNN anymore. This is when the real healing begins in painful, silent contemplation.
I don’t know what the future holds. I expect that as the international community continues to struggle with the scourge of extremism, so will we. I hope we will continue to travel to and visit the cities, landmarks and museums that tell our story and share our dreams. As we come to grips with these acts of hate and move forward with our lives, it’s my sincerest hope that we can take a page from the courageous people of Boston and become even more united than ever, scarred but unbroken.
I can’t think of a better way to salute our veterans this Remembrance Day. I can’t think of a better way to honour Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.