Acts of Remembrance

By Jenn Watt

Remembrance Day in Haliburton County is taken seriously. Poppies over hearts, residents not only take a moment to think of those have served, they participate in the ceremonies each year. 

On Nov. 11, crowds invariably gather around cenotaphs in the Highlands to watch as wreaths are placed, the honour roll is read, and The Last Post is played, reflecting on the horrors of war and the bravery of ordinary people.

The symbolism of the rituals and the power of a community coming together makes for a moving annual tribute. The gravity of the sacrifice is deeply felt – you can see it on the faces of the hundreds who gather on the streets. 

Typically, Remembrance Day is a full-day event, with the Legion branches holding luncheons and dinners, with additional opportunities to remember. 

In 2020, the general public is being discouraged from participating in this tradition. A few members of the Legion will be conducting a scaled-down version of the ceremony at the cenotaph, but instructions have been given that most of us stay home. 

This may be a difficult request for some, but it’s being asked to ensure the public’s safety. A crowded street creates too many potential opportunities for the coronavirus to spread. 

So we must mark the occasion in other ways. It’s not ideal, but it’s not insurmountable. 

In Ottawa, a pared down ceremony will take place with only 100 people allowed – most of them government officials and dignitaries, broadcast on TV by the major networks as well as through the Royal Canadian Legion’s Facebook page:  

Closer to home, the Haliburton Legion branch will also record the event, hoping to either live-stream it online or post it after the event. 

We can each in our own way remember, too. When we pin our poppies to our jackets, we can try to imagine what it would have been like to volunteer to fight overseas, or to say goodbye to a loved one as they left for a war from which they might never return. At the 11th hour on Nov. 11, we can observe two minutes of silence, marking the day and time when hostilities from the First World War ended in 1918. And during our own time, we can make a point to visit the cenotaph – an act recommended in a column by museum director Kate Butler – to read over the names and honour those who served.