The True North, Strong and Free!
I had never been to Canada's capital city, so when the opportunity came to visit Ottawa, I was looking forward to the trip. My uncle, an officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, had passed away last year and we wanted to join our aunt for a traditional military ceremony in Ottawa to lay his ashes to rest. We made this trip into a 4-day get-away with our son and my brother.
The Ottawa shootings were still all over the news; and our nation had been brought to a near-standstill. Canadians looked in horror at these senseless acts of violence while media sources did their best to inform us and keep us calm. Interestingly enough, the focus in Canadian media was more on our heroes than on the misguided individuals who caused the harm. Canadian learned the facts, ignored sensational media reporting, and as a nation we chose to spend our time honoring the victims and celebrating our heroes.
Initially the two of us had doubts about our mini vacation, but it didn’t take long for my husband and me to agree that this incident was all the more reason to go to Ottawa.
My uncle’s burial ceremony was truly beautiful. I mourned for him, I felt my aunt’s loss, and while surrounded by other soldiers’ graves, I felt a sense of peace. These were the men and women that fought for the freedom we often take for granted. As we put my uncle’s ashes into the ground, I was overcome by a wave of humility and gratitude.
Later that day, we took a tour of Parliament Hill. It was business as usual in the government building where only two weeks before people were terrorized by bullets ricocheting through the halls. While waiting for our guided tour to start, I was trying to get our son to sleep in his stroller; nap time was way overdue! As I wheeled Luca around I realized I was walking right through the main area where the gunshots had been fired! I watched as kids were running around the same marble columns that police officers used as shields that day. Tours were in full swing, government officials were walking in and out of doors, and security guards were interacting with tourists.
It almost felt like nothing happened here … and yet everyone’s memory of the event must have been vivid. I remember hearing on the news how Canada prides itself in keeping our government buildings open to the public and that these acts of terror weren’t going to change that. We certainly were true to those words!
As the tour progressed and we approached the Library of Parliament, I leaned over to my husband and mentioned that we were standing on the very spot where the extremist had been shot! Yes, there we were, a legally married gay couple in Canada, with our 1-year-old son sleeping peacefully in his stroller, visiting our nation’s Parliament building, and standing in the very spot where some tortured soul miserably failed to stand in the way of our freedom. Words in "O Canada," our national anthem came to mind: "The True North, strong and free!"
Never have I felt prouder to be Canadian.