In the days since Wednesday, October 22, 2014 much has been said, written, and televised about how Canada will be forever changed by the tragic murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, as he stood guard over the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This handsome twenty-four-old reservist from Hamilton has become the face of all that is good in Canada and the lightning rod for our collective grief.
Like so many others I sat glued to be television set as the unthinkable happened right before our eyes. Even with a couple of near misses?thwarted terrorist attacks?we believed (hoped) Canada was safe from the misguided crazies of the world. We didn’t have the high profile of the United States, nor the hatred that brings, to be a cause for the average Joe in the street to seriously worry.
Wednesday’s tragedy, just like the deliberate mowing down of two servicemen in a Quebec parking lot two days before, took our innocence. The RCMP and CSIS will tell us that the threat has always been real, that they were monitoring individuals and intelligence, and that it was only a matter of time before a homegrown terrorist hit us where we live. Now, we will believe.
As much as we were shocked, horrified, sickened, and scared by the day’s events most of us have since defaulted to our normal stance as Canadians: resolved, patriotic, strong.
I’m not sure if I cried more on Wednesday for the loss of life and our innocence, or in the days since with the daily examples of strength, patriotism, and grief. To see retired servicemen spontaneously begin guarding cenotaphs across the country the next day made me proud. To see our politicians who so often behave badly return to work the next day resolute, strong, and statesmanlike made me proud. To see people begin wearing poppies weeks earlier than usual makes me proud. To see the makeshift memorial and outpouring of gratitude and grief in front of the armoury in Hamilton makes me proud. To see the crowds line the Highway of Heroes in Ontario as the hearse carrying Cirillo’s body went home. To see Kevin Vickers reluctantly accept the gratitude and attention accorded the hero he’s become. To see the tributes; the spontaneous singing of O Canada; the shaken, solemn faces of the parliamentarians who lived through the nightmare attack; the editorial cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon; they all make me proud.
Of course it remains to be seen how long this heightened awareness and patriotism continues. Likewise how our access to iconic places like the parliament buildings will be altered. What backlash will be unleashed onto police agencies for not preventing it? Will the vandalism at a Cold Lake, Alberta mosque spread to others?
With Remembrance Day just weeks away, we all have renewed reasons to attend a local ceremony and say thank you in a tangible way. Not showing up would be a shame, from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites..