Remembrance Day, the day and the moment of silence when the clock strikes 11 am on Nov 11. Remembrance day for many people in Prince George was a time to mourn, honour and celebrate the lives of men and women who sacrificed their lives for strangers and loved ones. When I was a child my parents would get me all dressed up in my finest button shirt and slacks followed by a winter jacket to cover all my fine clothing since it was November after all. November in Prince George might as well be January but that’s nor here nor there. For myself and my parents, it required finding parking in the hustle and bustle of the poorly laid out downtown near the civic centre. Before we could pay our respects we had to respectively pay for parking which in hindsight seems ironic. The smell of fresh reefs and Chlorine exhaust from the nearby pool hung from the fog like dewdrops on freshly cut grass. The line of people entering the civic centre seemed to stretch for kilometres and all I saw from my dad’s shoulders was a sea of dark clothing and bright red poppies. People talking softly amongst themselves with conversations ranging from the recent passing of a family member overseas to neighbours reconnecting since the last time they spoke. The line moved like a caterpillar. Men, women, and children all pressed closely together awaiting their turn to enter the centre would have been enough to make Bonnie Henry lose her mind.
The auditorium that what seemed like every citizen in Prince George tried to fit into smelled of old dust and bleachers. My dad would find us some seats so that I could see the stage and the screen. As many students can relate to the satisfying feeling when a professor’s slide show ends and cuts to black this was not the case with the remembrance day slideshow. The endless slides of people I had never met before and was never going to meet which as a child I was not able to fully comprehend that idea. These images one after another meant very little me but to someone, this was a beloved father, mother, daughter, son, grandfather, grandmother and the list goes on. My ears are permanently ingrained from the sound of the song Highway of Heroes played by The Trews. A song that to this day I can only associate with remembrance day. I find myself reflecting on what remembrance day was as a child and how it is today. I feel guilty that I have not gone to the ceremony in the last few years and I guess I’m using this as my confession in hopes to be cleansed of my sins. As a self acknowledging hypocrite, I feel that my right to honour the men and women who have served and are still serving has been taken away by bans on group gatherings.
The idea to ban group gatherings from a Covid-19 transmission standpoint is valid and I accept that but the non-rational part of me feels that I’m not honouring the servicemen and women of this country properly. The ceremony for many was a way to pay their respects to a higher degree than just the moment of silence. It was a way to encourage one another to take time out of schedules to make time for those who served and are still serving. In this day and age do we truly ever have a moment of silence that isn’t interrupted by a bing, tweet or whoosh sound? I’m not sure if I would have gone to the ceremony this year or not but to have my choice revoked and deemed not acceptable has upset me. I see her point but I have a hard time justifying that a pandemic is now more important than veterans. I fear that the pandemic is starting to dissolve traditions that we have come accustomed to and ultimately only time will tell if these traditions return. Without veterans, we would likely not be here with all the freedoms we have come to know and embrace. Every one of us should thank Veterans more often not just at ceremonies because without the sacrifices from the ones who have passed and the ones who remain we would not have all the things we have today. Everything we do and own can all be attributed to the ultimate sacrifices that were made starting over a hundred years ago to now. If the world can riot about black lives and blue lives during Covid-19 why can’t we peacefully honour those that sacrificed everything for our freedoms? Does this stem from the lack of care or a lack of planning to make a ceremony Covid-19 friendly? One could say we are at a fork in the road when it comes to deciding what is important or not regarding traditions. Regardless of the stance one takes on the matter one thing is for certain, veterans should be honoured and thanked not just one day a year and that even a pandemic should not stop that.