For years, my family and I have made it a tradition and commitment to attend the annual Remembrance Day service in our community.
Each year, we are moved and grateful for the reminders of the lives lost in the many wars Canadians have been involved in. We sing the hymn printed in the program, we listen to a short homily or teaching and we are reminded of local men and women who served in wars throughout history. Often, a number of veterans are present, and they are introduced and welcomed.
As a teacher, the services have given me impetus to get involved at my school to plan a service as well, and this year I was especially moved by the minute of silence at a high school, where more than 750 students were asked to pay respect for the fallen. Silence fell like a blanket over the gym, and the honour and respect were palpable in the room.
Unfortunately, I did not have the same feeling when I attended the Nov. 11 White Rock service at the cenotaph. Quite frankly, I left puzzled and disappointed from what appeared to be more of a show of placing wreaths than it did a time to remember our veterans and the many men and women who did not return from places of combat.
The group that gathered did not seem to understand this was a solemn service. Applause erupted at each portion of the service. The gathered assembly participated in the singing of O Canada, but there was no hymn or explanation for children about why we observe this day.
No veterans were acknowledged, and nothing was said about Remembrance Day itself.
Instead, the MC talked about the weather, her pride in the White Rock princesses and thanked the city for the great sound system – as though this were a concert or public show.
What was most disconcerting was the actual time of silence: the MC asked us to observe the two minutes of silence 10 minutes early, and the two minutes of silence were condensed into a mere 30 seconds. Did no one have a watch on hand?
My companions and I left, noting what was important was that many people came and paid their respect. However, we all agreed we would go elsewhere next year. We also agreed that, as citizens, it was our responsibility to voice our concerns about a service that seemed to have lost its meaning. Lest we forget.
Denise Unrau, Surrey