The great November 11 ceremony by the War Memorial in Ottawa, a ceremony which has always drawn thousands of Canadians, will, this year, be small and quiet. In the towns, villages and hamlets of Canada, a few people plan to gather at the stone monuments and cenotaphs to speak the old, sacred words of thanks, pledging once again to remember. Then they will quickly disperse.
The majority of Canadians may, perhaps, think to pause in their day, at the 11th hour and observe a moment of silence.
Remembrance Day 2020 will hardly resemble those familiar solemn ceremonies of the past. The stresses and uncertainty of a global pandemic have, for many, supplanted the observation of Remembrance Day. After all, there seems to be far too much to be afraid of in 2020.
Yet these fears and uncertainties are perhaps the very reasons why we need to take the time to remember this November 11.
Peace and freedom have always demanded a price. Standing strong as a nation has never been easy. Yes, the world today is a scary place.
However, was it any less scary or uncertain for the soldiers, sailors and flyers on the bloody fields of World War I, or facing the vicious evils of World War II? Was it any less scary for the men, women and kids caught up in the violence and destruction? They didn’t have promises or guarantees either. There was no fixed “over by” date for them.
In the end, soldiers and civilians united to find the strength to get the job done. They found the heart and the courage to ultimately hold the line against the worst a world at war could throw at them. They supported each other through the terrible years of trial.
Maybe these are the lessons of Remembrance Day 2020. As a nation, we face a different kind of enemy – one that is implacable and uncaring. And, just like those we honour did – in places like Vimy, on the Normandy beaches, or among the sands of Afghanistan – we too must stand together.
They held the line. They didn’t give in.
Neither should we. We owe that much to those who gave up all their tomorrows to preserve our todays.
Award winning Canadian journalist Frank Underhill once wrote this about what it means to be Canadian. “A nation is a body of people who have done great things together in the past, and who expect to do great things together in the future.”
Those we honour and remember on November 11, did great things. Now it’s our turn. We’ll get through this together.