November 11, 2012

Waiting for Remembrance

A year ago, I attended the Remembrance Day service at Bruce Park Cenotaph, then wrote this story for my first year creative communications journalism class.


Over 400 people are waiting on the grassy hill beside Bruce Park’s cenotaph. The sun is shining; a few drifts of snow are on the grass. Clumps of friends, young families and solitary people mix on the hill. Uniforms dot the crowd.

A woman leads a boy by the hand, saying, “You’ve got ants in your pants, so we’re taking a walk.”

In the distance, bagpipes and drums strike up a march and the crowd’s chatter stops.

Six pipers and twelve drummers, blue kilts and regalia flapping in the breeze, lead flag-bearers, a party of veterans and members of 402 Squadron Winnipeg. They march around the crowd, circle the memorial, and then halt at attention.

As the service begins, grey clouds hide the sun.

The Assiniboia Concert Band plays “O Canada” before listeners realize what’s happening. The crowd catches up, however, and quietly sings the national anthem.

Major Brian Slous prays, asking God to be near those whose lives have been affected by war, who have lost loved ones, or who suffer pain and injury due to conflict.

“What we value is preserved by a very thin line. Many standing here have stood on that line. Many have died on that line. Some bear the wounds of having stood on that line. If we gathered here fail to stand on that line... their sacrifice is in vain.”

The last post.

The piper’s lament.

Two minutes of silence are announced. Halfway through, a young boy in a suit looks around; he doesn’t break his silence, but he can’t stop himself from looking at the crowd.

Representatives lay wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph. A hymn plays, a benediction is given and “God Save the Queen” is sung. The people are still waiting.

The veterans and 402 Squadron turn for their march down Portage Avenue to the St. James Legion. Now the crowd pushes forward. Men, women and children take poppies from their coats and start adding them to the cluster of wreaths at the foot of the cenotaph, covering the green with red.

This is what they’ve been waiting for.

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