We must keep paying tribute to the National War Memorial

National War Memorial01On a warm morning in late May of 2008, my assistant Rhonda Ferguson and I traveled north from Cornwall, Ont. to Ottawa for a flight to Edmonton.

We had several hours before we had to be at the airport.

“Could we drive by the National War Memorial in front of the Parliament buildings?” Rhonda asked. “I’ve never seen it and would like to.”

We did. And we were both struck by the profound meaning of the memorial — honoring all Canadian veterans — right in front of the Parliament buildings where elected officials govern our country because of  the freedom we have.

Those memories scurried through my mind Wednesday morning as news came in about the shooting in Ottawa, right at the base of war memorial.

The story took a tragic turn just around 12 noon when police said the man, a soldier who was shot standing in front of the memorial, died in hospital.

Things are still developing in the story and this is not the time, nor the place, to start theories on what happened.

More importantly, though, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the fallen soldier.

He was killed in the line of duty, protecting a most precious symbol of our country’s deep, rich heritage.

The National War Memorial. It doesn’t get anymore Canadian than that.

To disrespect this the such an iconic cornerstone is disgraceful.

To be part of a horrific crime in front of the National War Memorial is unthinkable and disturbing beyond words.

Sadly, our country changed Wednesday.

Whenever such heinous attacks happen, changes take place, almost immediately.

We need to be thankful we have people and resources in place to make decisions to keep us secure. There will no doubt a review of security — not only at the National War Memorial, but also the Parliament buildings where, the gunman entered with a  gun.

All of this is, too much to comprehend.

It also comes mere weeks before Canadians converge at the war memorial to pay respect to our veterans.

Nov. 11 is a solemn day in Canada, and especially Ottawa, where a ceremony is held and broadcast throughout the country.

Wednesday’s events will make this year’s Rememberance Day ceremonies in Ottawa especially poignant.

Our hearts will be heavy as we look at the storied monument, now a riveting crime scene.

But we can’t stop visiting it.

We must keep paying homage to it and remember what it so richly respresents and how it’s a very important part of our national fabric.

It will be difficult, though. Because the National War Memorial could become a point of interest for the wrong reason because of Wednesday’s events.

If it indeed becomes a spectacle rather than a sanctuary, Canada will change much more than it already has.

(Cam  Tait is the special projects advisor at Challenge Insurance)

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