Every year on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians pause to remember those who have volunteered, sacrificed, served, fought, and died for our freedom.
Canadians attend events in cities and towns across the country to pay tribute. They flock to their local cenotaph, students pay tribute in gymnasiums, and many will toast at Royal Legion Halls to ensure we never forget those who sacrificed so much for us. I, on the other hand, have participated in a lesser-known ceremony.
Last year, as a member of the Vancouver sailing community, I participated in the Vancouver Rowing Club (VRC) Remembrance Day race. On Remembrance Day, ten to fifteen sailboats headed out on English Bay before 11 am. Skippers expertly weaved their vessels, gauging tide and current, keeping a safe distance from each other. There were 6 people on each boat, all engaged in discussions about race strategy, the previous night’s festivities, or their kids’ new tooth.
As 11 AM approaches, the jovial conversations are interrupted as a voice is heard over the VHF radio, “5-minute warning to engines off at 11 hundred hours.” One by one, the skippers turn off their engines and the crews wrap up their conversations. Then, at 11 AM, the sound of a lone horn echoes across the water, solitary and clear.
Everyone stands in silence. Paused in Remembrance.
For two minutes, we all stand in silence. The only sound is the water gently lapping at the hull of the boat and the Canadian Air Force flying in formation overhead. We give remembrance and gratitude for the privilege and opportunity that the freedom they fought for, gives us every day.
Another horn echoes over the water breaking the reverie. Engines are turned back on and we continue with our day, our conversations, and our sailing race with gratitude and remembrance.
By Julie Robinson