When the twin towers fell on September 11, 2001, the whole western world stopped and held its breath.
In the ensuing 13 years, the West has been to war twice, three times, four times and is currently on the brink of another. Civilian aircraft have crashed, been shot down, or plain just disappeared. Bombs have gone off on buses, in subways, at bus stations and even the Boston Marathon. An unbelievable number of children and youth have been killed in our schools by gun violence, in a place where they should be safest.
After all of this horror, it would be easy to understand the shooting death of a Canadian soldier simply passing us by, with Canadians desensitized and uncaring.
But when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while he stood his post as a ceremonial honour guard at Canada’s National War Memorial, we held our breath once again.
In the ensuing hours, those breaths exploded in solidarity. The hashtag #OttawaShooting topped the national trends, accompanied by a half-dozen others. An uncountable number tweets and shares poured out across the nation – even across the world as #OttawaShooting and ‘Nathan Cirillo’ ranked sixth and eight on Twitter’s global trends 10 hours after the attack.
O Canada did not play Wednesday night at the Canadian Tire Centre where the NHL game between Ottawa’s Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs had been postponed. But it did ring out for Canada in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center before the Penguins took on the Philadelphia Flyers.
Politicians of all stripes, often the bitterest of enemies, stood together and spoke words of support and unity.
On Wednesday, Canada and the world once again raised its voice against hatred, against tyranny and against terror. We stand for peace and we stand for freedom – the freedom to choose precisely how to live our lives and the peace of mind of knowing there are men and women out there defending that freedom.
Cpl. Cirillo was one of those men. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was another. He was killed in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu in another senseless act of violence on Sunday when a man inspired by the militant group ISIS ran him down with a car. Another two brave soldiers are currently in hospital, one shot in today’s attack and the other hit by the same car as Warrant Officer Vincent.
Cpl. Cirillo and Warrant Officer Vincent join the ranks of our militaries’ fallen – 158 from the Afghan conflict, 516 in the Korean War, 42,042 in World War II, between 57,000 and 67,000 in World War I and untold others pushed to suicide by the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Alongside them also lie police officers, fire fighters, paramedics and private citizens – doctors, diplomats, aid workers, journalists and more – who stood up in the face of unparalleled hate and inconceivable violence.
On Wednesday, on Sunday and for uncounted days before, O Canada, they stood on guard for thee.
On Wednesday, on Sunday and for all days beyond, O Canada, we stand with them.