Yesterday a terrible tragedy occurred in Ottawa. A gunman let loose in Canada’s capital, just minutes from where I used to live, wreaking havoc in Parliament and killing a soldier stationed at the War Memorial. It was all the more devastating to learn that the soldier was a 25-year old father of a 6-year old boy.
I’d never imagine any War Memorial to be the scene of an attack. It is in stark juxtaposition with the commemoration of those who had lost their lives, a reminder of that we currently live in the happy days of peace. Or is it more a reminder now not to take the status quo for granted?
Perhaps one of the most moving memorials I have ever visited is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, this past August. Two soldiers stand in constant guard, they never move, except to tell you to back off when noses are honing in a little too closely. I’m not sure why, but the Tomb exudes an aura of power amidst grief. Much of it probably has to do with the solemnity conveyed by its vigilant soldiers.
Those who guard these memorials are always stolid yet hyper alert. I don’t know how they do it, standing for hours, heedless of the weather and all the annoying tourists around them. Perhaps the steadfastness stems from the knowledge that they serve an intangible yet crucial purpose that transcends the daily bustle. Perhaps it just stems from gratitude.