I was deeply saddened and affected in a way that is difficult to put into words after learning that terrorists had recently murdered Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo. To say the least, it brought tears to my eyes and, yes, sent chills up my spine.
Vincent was killed when he was run down by a vehicle Monday, October 20th. After a brief car chase, the terrorist was shot and killed by police.
Two days later, Wednesday, October 22nd, Cirillo was murdered while standing guard at the National War Memorial outside the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. A lone radicalised gunman, who was later shot and killed by Sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, had opened fire.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of these fallen heroes. I offer my deepest sympathies and condolences.
There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from Canadians (not to mention the international support) for these heroic defenders of our country. The palpable emotion, visible grief, mourning and sadness, accompanying the enormous show of support highlights what it is to be Canadian. For the most part we are a humble people. Polite, courteous, quick to apologize and well-liked internationally. Travel to any country (there are obvious exceptions like parts of the Middle East) and you’ll see what I mean.
By nature, we are passive and don’t like making a fuss. We often prefer to keep our opinions private. But if aroused, as we were last week, we are capable of becoming a unified and potently supportive force.
Although Canada is not a Christian nation by constitional law, most of us believe in a code of ethics similar to Christianity. Always striving to see both sides of an argument, Canadians prefer tolerance and compromise to dogmatism.
Canadians don’t typically brag about how great it is to be Canadian; or how great our country is; or how proud we are to be Canadian. We just go about our business, quietly appreciating who we are. We don’t often boast about our support for our citizens: athletes, movie stars, ahem, politicians, volunteer workers at home and abroad, artists and Canadian soldiers alike. Patriotism for us is often an internal emotion, separate from such symbols as flags or national anthems. I suspect many Canadians, myself included, don’t even know all the words to our national anthem.
But when something happens that moves us deeply we come out of our igloos en masse to show our true colors.
We stand behind our fellow citizens vehemently and illustrate loud and clear how proud we are to be Canadians and how we support our citizens and soldiers. Never has this been more evident than yesterday as thousands of wounded and mourning Canadians took to the streets and Highway of Heroes to pay tribute to fallen soldier Corporal Nathan Cirillo as his body was driven via funeral procession motorcade to Hamilton, Ontario.
Many waited for hours along streets and highways for the motorcade to arrive. Some held Canadians flags, others openly wept.
“If you’re driving down Hunt Club Road in Ottawa right now and you don’t have goosebumps, you’re not Canadian,” tweeted writer and actor Neil Bedard.
As reported by The Ottawa Citizen, Steve Kirwan, along with his wife and two youg daughters, said, “This was a tragic event. Everybody should be paying their respects. The city should just be jam-packed full of stopped cars right now.”
“I’m like most Canadians in that I’m truly upset to think that someone living in our country would do what he did to that soldier,” said Fred Hobbs, a Second-World War veteran. “I think of that young man and other men like him who come into the services and wear the uniform. We are all so indebted to them.”
I have a theory. Maybe sometimes we take it for granted what it is to be Canadian, perhaps downplay or often don’t verbalize our love for Canada and our patriotism. But when something like this happens, the cap bursts off the bottled up emotions and we realize how deeply patriotic we really are. At least, that’s how I’ve processed my own emotions in the wake of the tragic events of late.
The two recent Canadian deaths hit me so hard because sometimes I take it for granted what it is to be Canadian and don’t really think about the brave people who are charged with defending our personal liberties and freedoms. I don’t think about how proud I am to be Canadian or how quick I would help fellow Canadians out of a jamb. During a recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I found myself in a few situations where Canadians were in trouble. Without thinking about the repercussions, I came to their aid. In one situation, I met a young female Canadian whose experience in the Dominican Republic was wearing thin and becoming dangerous. She had a nasty skin rash, had been robbed of money and her cell phone, and needed money for a plane ticket home. My offer to loan her money brought tears of joy to her eyes. She was quick to say she would pay me back.
We exchanged contact details, I loaned her six hundred dollars, and she flew home and out of danger. It’s been over six months and I’ve never heard a word from her since. But, I’m not focused on losing six hundred dollars. No.
The biggest gift for me was seeing her relieved expression and tears of joy, feeling her warm embrace as she hugged me tightly and thanked me profusely. She seemed like a nice person and for all I know she’s too embarrassed to contact me because she doesn’t have the money to repay me. I was just happy to be in a position to help a fellow Canadian return home safely. I don’t care about the money. Call me crazy, but I would do it all over again.
It’s what we do.
It’s who we are.
Now, let’s take a few moments of silence to express our condolences, pay our respects and remember fallen heroes Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo. They made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives, to help and protect Canadians.