At today’s Remembrance Day ceremony at Macdonald Campus, the crowd – mostly schoolchildren from Macdonald High School and three West Island elementary schools – huddled together against a cold, wet snow.
“Imagine the conditions faced by Canadian soldiers,” one observer commented.
While most of the people present could do little but imagine the horror of war, a small group of men and women knew of it firsthand. These were the veterans who had served in conflicts around the world.
Remember, reflect and recommit
“We are here today for three Rs. Back in the day, the three Rs were ‘Reading ‘Riting and ‘Rithmatic,” said Jim Fyles, Associate Dean (Student Affairs), told the crowd. “But the three Rs for today are Remember, Reflect and Recommit. Big words, but very important.”
Fyles called upon the audience to remember everyone who has served as soldiers and peacekeepers – especially those who were killed in action. He also asked people to reflect upon the values that Canadians have fought to protect – namely freedom, justice, peace and tolerance.
This was “a set of values they fought and died for, and which have helped build the country that we now enjoy,” he said. “Without their sacrifices, our world, our country and our lives would be very different.”
Finally, Fyles implored people to recommit to those same values, domestically and abroad. “Whether in our classrooms, our offices, our playgrounds, in our communities and around the world – let us recommit to step forward when we are needed.”
As in past years, the ceremony was marked by small local touches. Disembarking from the bus, veterans were escorted arm-in-arm-arm by students from nearby Macdonald High School. They were led through a phalanx of John Abbott Police Tech students to their seats.
Members of the Mac and John Abbott community were led to the site by a piper and flag-bearing cadets, as were students and staff of Mac High.
Students from three elementary schools ringed the site, each holding a small Canadian flag. At the end of the ceremony, the students planted their flags around the permanent memorial.
One of the most touching moments of the ceremony was the reading of the iconic poem In Flanders Field, written by McGill grad Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. Veterans Hugh Rutter and Mario Gagné read the English and French versions respectively.
Veterans Ted Slaney and Martin Frechette also read the Act of Remembrance and Act de souvenir, after which the Last Post was played by a bugler and Lament was played by piper.
During the ensuing minute of silence, snow fell upon the young and old, schoolchildren and veterans, melting on contact and streaking downturned faces like tears.