A few thoughts about our collective loss today

by DaniGirl on October 22, 2014 · 2 comments

in Life in Ottawa

It was a warm September day in Ottawa, and I had just picked up a takeout lunch from the Ribfest on Sparks Street. I had a styrofoam box filled with beef ribs, beans and cole slaw, and I was looking for a spot in the sun to enjoy my lunch. I stepped out of the shadows of the big buildings around Sparks Street and into the bright sunshine beaming down onto the square around the War Memorial and found a spot on a bench to enjoy my way-too-heavy lunch.

As I ate, I happened to be watching the Honour Guard in front of the Canadian War Memorial. The different elements of the Canadian Forces take turns rotating through Honour Guard duty, standing guard over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and this happened to be the Navy’s time of responsibility. Two seamen stood on active guard and two others were at ease nearby, interacting with the dozen or so tourists in front of the memorial. I laughed to myself as I watched one of the tourists hand her iPad to the at-ease guard and pose with her husband while the guard obligingly took a photo of them. I wondered if the couple, obviously not from Ottawa and probably not from Canada, knew they had just asked a member of our armed military to take their photo.

Charmed, I watched the Navy reservists continue to interact with the tourists. I inched a little closer so I could hear some of the interactions, and listened to the young guard field questions not only about the War Memorial and the Honour Guard, but about Ottawa, about the Rideau Canal, and about (snicker) the nearest public washroom. The young man was unerringly polite, kind and helpful as the others guards stood at rigid attention in the blazing sun.

I thought about turning my camera on them, but I didn’t. I wish I had. As I wandered back to my office that day, a piper emerged from under the keyhole cutout at the base of Elgin Street and approached the War Memorial, and I took this photo of him.

Standing on guard for thee

How can I reconcile that beautiful sunny afternoon with what happened today in Ottawa? How many times have I paused to admire the ceremony of Changing of the Guard at the War Memorial, as I criss-cross downtown on my way to a meeting or out for lunch or just on a meander in the sunshine? My heart absolutely aches for the family of the young reservist who was killed today. How can such a brutal, cold, horrific thing happen?

As I type this, I am at home listening to news updates on the radio. I’m typing with several browser windows open, one to updates on Twitter and another on Facebook. This is my day off work, but had I been at work today, I would have been mere meters away from the chaos at the heart of our city. My friends and office mates are in lockdown. I simply cannot wrap my head around this senseless violence at the heart of my beloved city.

Remember these photos I took, just a few days ago? This peaceful, majestic Hall of Honour in our beautiful Parliament Buildings?

Peace Tower tour

This is that hallway this morning.

I’m willing to bet it’s never going to be that easy to aimlessly wander those gorgeous hallways. We’ve all lost something beautiful and innocent today.

But much as my heart aches for our city, our home, it’s the fallen soldier that I’m crying for right now. A dedicated young man who woke up to an ordinary day, and was just doing his duty – standing on guard for us.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah McCormack October 23, 2014 at 10:33 am

collective hugs & deep breaths today as we reflect.

thanks for sharing your thoughts Dani.

2 Karen J. McLean October 27, 2014 at 5:44 pm

Beautiful words and pictures. Watching that video last Wednesday was surreal. Our Parliament, the hallway beneath the Peace Tower. How does one make sense of the senseless? By focusing on the good guys.

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