Andrea Rondeau column: Writing for Remembrance Day about keeping history alive

Remembrance Day is different than it used to be when I was a kid.

Remembrance Day is different than it used to be when I was a kid. The sheer passage of time does that.

I marched in many Remembrance Day ceremonies as a child as a member of the Brownies, then the Guides. One of the things I remember most, of course, was my freezing feet (in my hazy memories it was always raining), and the hot chocolate served afterwards, on which I inevitably burned my tongue. But I also remember the ranks and ranks of veterans marching behind the colour party.

In those days, the First World War veterans came first, and there were still many of them. The Second World War veterans were still relatively spry, and there was an even greater number of these. Today, of course, there are no First World War veterans left, and all we have are whatever precious memories of theirs have been written down or pieced together over the years. There remain few Second World War veterans. It’s a new demographic now, tasked with remembrance. I know that I will always remain haunted by the faraway look in their eyes as they observed the traditional moment of silence at 11 a.m.

One of those is our very own T.W. Paterson, who always writes our Remembrance Day special sections for us. He tells me every year, as he did when he came into the office once again on Tuesday morning, that for him, writing the section is a priviledge. History, of course, is his passion. But chronicling the stories of those who served Canada in war, including his own father, is of particular significance. And so he works to keep these fading memories fresh, lest we forget.

I’m always touched by what he writes for the section. It’s a glimpse into another time, but always a window into humanity as well. This year, I marvel at the ration recipes — eggless cake anyone? I imagine how the Dobbie family must have felt when they lost not one, but two sons to the First World War. The Maitland-Dougall family also lost two brothers to the First World War. And this year T.W. has outdone himself with a very moving piece about Canada’s First Nations soldiers. In talking not only about their heroism, but about the discrimination they faced when returning to Canada, it’s a rare window into an all too often overlooked chapter of our war history.

In the newsroom Remembrance Day remains one of out most precious observances. By telling as many of these stories as we can, I like to think that we are contributing to keeping this important piece of history alive. Long may it be so.

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