No matter what I’m doing on Nov. 11, I always take two minutes around 11 a.m. to stand still in silence, remembering those who fought so that the rest of us could live free of tyranny and oppression. The people who died, who suffered, and who sacrificed their lives
I remember when I worked at Tim Hortons during my university days, I asked my employer if we were going to stop and take part in two minutes of silence for Remembrance Day. He said no. I told him (not asked him) that I would be participating and walked into the back room. I stood for those two minutes, listening to The Last Post, tears welling up in my eyes. I was proud to stand there and, for a short amount of time, dedicate all my thoughts and my love to those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
As I did this, everyone else kept working. Customers ordered their coffee and sandwiches. My colleagues worked overtime to make sure they got their food in a timely manner. The phone was ringing off the hook. No one stopped. No one listened to the bugle ringing out. No one cared.
My heart broke.
This wasn’t the last time I would experience this kind of indifference to Canada’s veterans. At numerous workplaces I’ve had to ask my employer to allow me to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies, or to keep a livestream of the event running on my computer. Most of the time, the employer will agree. But no one else is interested. No one else feels the need to take initiative and say “we may have a meeting at 11 a.m., but can we make it 11:05 a.m. so that those who want to pay their respects to this country’s veterans can do so without repercussions?” And no employer was volunteering to make that change.
My father instilled in me a strong sense of respect for our veterans. My grandfather was a paratrooper during the Second World War and while I was pretty close with him during the few years he was alive, I never felt closer to him than on Remembrance Day. I would go every year, skipping class if need be, to the war memorial to pay tribute. I would meet up with friends and we would stand there and listen to the speeches and watch as the wreaths were laid by the site. And then we would stand in silence, listening as gunshots were fired. Thousands of people would be crowded on the streets, and yet there was not a pin drop to be heard. It was enough to make you cry.
One day in early 2000, my dad sent me this video. It was Terry Kelly singing a song called “A Pittance of Time,” and it perfectly summed up my feelings towards Remembrance Day. Actually, it impacted me so much that every year I search for the song on Youtube.
The song was based on Kelly’s personal experience. He was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia when an announcement came over the stores PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us. The customers, however, weren’t having it. They wanted to pay for their items and move on with their day.
Sadly, nothing has changed.
Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. There are no veterans from that war still alive. Despite these facts, less and less people show up to these Remembrance Day ceremonies to offer their respect. Less people are wearing the poppy and less people are taking those two minutes to remember.
And that’s a shame.