I have never been more proud to be a Hamiltonian or a Canadian. I had another idea for my blog entry this month but in light of the events that took place in Ottawa over the past few weeks I felt the need to take a moment to reflect on the impact it will have on Canadians.
Training for a new job, I spent the week in Montreal. 15 minutes away from where I was staying, two Canadian Forces personnel where run down by an Islamic radical causing the death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent. Two days later, two hours from where I was staying, Corporal Nathan Cirillo of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders infantry regiment was gunned down at the National War Memorial and there was an attack on Parliament Hill. I suddenly felt very far away from home.
This was not the Canada I grew up in, this was not the Canada I called home, and it was heartbreaking to see what was happening to my country. But then, something amazing happened: we did not panic, we did not show fear, and we did not run scared. Canadians across the country banned together to show unity and solidarity in the face of tragedy. That is the Canada I grew up in and that is the Canada I call home.
Media coverage of the actual attack also made me proud to be a Canadian and a member of the media. No panic inducing, rumour following, hype chasing or speculation occurred. Peter Mansbridge stated the facts live as they came in, for 8 hours, and remained on air to help Canadians get through this together. Unlike American news coverage we saw no hype and no propaganda. There was no mention of “Disaster” “Special Report” or “Terrorism” until all details where confirmed. It was an outstanding day for Canadian media.
Corporal Nathan Crillio’s death was tragic, painful and profoundly heartbreaking, but it was not in vain. The moment the world heard of the attacks in Ottawa it unified us, angered us and made us all feel a little more Canadian. Once news reached Hamilton that Nathan was one of our own, the crushing realization became reality. Weather we knew him or not, he was our son, our brother and our friend. In these moments of sorrow, Hamilton’s heart shone through. The compassion that complete strangers have shown not only to the Cirillo family but also to other members of the Canadian forces and first responders has been truly tremendous.
I was set to return home to Hamilton on Friday, the same day as Nathan’s casket would be making the long trip down the Highway of Heroes. Driving home from the airport I was just in front of the procession. Having never met Nathan, the outpouring of love that I saw as I drove filled my eyes with tears. I can only imagine the emotion that flooded through his family as they saw the thousands of Canadians that lined the overpasses and on-ramps to pay their respects and say goodbye to Hamilton’s fallen soldier.
When the funeral procession began on Tuesday morning they city stood still. The Canadian military, first responders and city staff out did themselves. Putting on a perfectly executed full military funeral with all the pride and professionalism that Nathan deserved. Local and national media brought the funeral live to every Canadian that wanted to watch, giving them closure, peace and pride. As a member of the media, I was touched to see the level of respect and concern that has been show to respect and protect the family of our fallen soldier.
I am in no way saying that the passing of Corporal Nathan Cirillo was justified, but there is one shining positive that came out of his death. I ask you this: when was the last time you saw thousands of people lining the streets of Hamilton for something positive? Not a protest, or a demonstration, but simply an outpouring of love. When was the last time you saw a 20-something college kid write a facebook status or tweet about how truly honoured and proud they are to be a Hamiltonian? Not in my lifetime, that’s for sure. Nathan was Canada’s son, he was Hamilton’s heart, and he will be forever missed.