As a child, my classmates and I would dutifully practice and recite the poem ‘In Flanders Field’ for the yearly Remembrance Day ceremony put on at my school. My thoughts then were of memorization and trying not to trip up over the words of the poem while our community watched on. As ceremony continued, the senior citizens of our community would present themselves to us in uniform and polished medals and share their words on the impact of The War: what it meant to their generation, and in turn, ours. I remember looking at them, at how old they were, thinking that this war was long ago and that it meant little to me. I wondered why we had to participate in something that had nothing to do with us. I also remember their emotion, the tears in their eyes, opening their memories to us so we would see.
Time passes. I grew and began to realize that the war was not, as my child’s mind thought, so long ago. I began to see the young faces of these seniors and recognized what they endured: the bravery demonstrated by going off to war, the ultimate sacrifice they made to ensure future generations:my parents, my own, my children, would be free to have choice. What used to be a poem of recantation has now become a very emotional and real one for me. To see the source of the poem: red poppies growing over the graves of the fallen, the sheer number of the fallen. I look at my forbearers with new eyes. I wonder what they endured. What they sacrificed. How they were able to return to their ‘normal’ life. I remember because I have been taught to remember. I remember because stories teach us to remember. I remember so my children will remember.
This November 11 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War, and 96 years from its end. 888,246 British or Colonial military lost their lives and about 17 million people overall. In London this year, an installation by Paul Cummins, entitled “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” has placed a ceramic poppy in the dry moat of the tower of London. Each poppy represents a British or Colonial military fatality during the war. This spectacular, visual display emulates, very clearly the blood spilled and lives lost during this war. Let us remember those who died to give us our today. Let us remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. On Tuesday, November 11th at 11:11 a.m., the 11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour, take pause and reflect what others have sacrificed to give you the freedom you have today. Two minutes of silence is little in comparison to what has been given already.
There are events scheduled for every community in the Lower Mainland. If you’re not familiar with Remembrance Day, I encourage you to attend, observe and try to appreciate the way we honour those who have and continue to sacrifice themselves to continue our democratic freedom. Your local libraries are involved, your city is involved, and you should involve yourself. This is a Day to Remember.