By: Caitie McRae
The cacophonic sound of dishes clanking and students chatting was silenced the morning of Friday, Nov. 9 for the college’s Remembrance Day ceremony.
Hundreds of individuals, ranging from students to teachers, watched solemnly as a procession of war veterans, servicemen and members of Algonquin faculty filed into the cafeteria for the college’s makeshift memorial.
This year’s ceremony saw a new addition, as students of Algonquin’s paramedic and police foundations program stood shoulder to shoulder with the college’s military geographic information systems (GIS) students. They watched in stoic silence as Algonquin students’ association president David Corson, the ceremony’s MC, read a speech addressing the significance of Remembrance Day.
Following Corson’s reflections was a wreath laying ceremony, which included President Kent MacDonald laying a wreath on behalf of faculty and staff, and Dustin Cote proudly laying down the last one in honour of Aboriginal veterans.
One of the more emotional moments featured school of media and design’s John Renforth playing The Last Post, while onlookers periodically wiped away tears, followed by the traditional two minutes of silence.
The ceremony culminated in an uplifting, patriotic light when the entire crowd joined Sapper Stewart in singing the national anthem.
In a show of solidarity, members of the college’s military GIS program solemnly filed past the Wall of Honour, one by one unpinning their poppies and placing them on the table beneath the collage.
The line moved slowly past William Lloyd, 90, who was manning the poppy table set up by the Royal Canadian Legion. Lloyd, a retired corporal in the Royal Canadian Air Force, served five years during the Second World War, deployed to Newfoundland from 1943 to 1944 working in meteorology.
Reflecting on the meaning behind the college’s ceremony, Lloyd said “It would be a shame if the younger people, the younger generation, didn’t know about who we are and what we did.”
Observing the lively conversation among veterans during the post-ceremony luncheon, Lloyd spoke of the special comradery wars can evoke.
While recovering in the hospital from a four-way heart bypass in 1980, Lloyd received a get well card from the legion.
Not yet a member, Lloyd was reintroduced to the unique bond among military veterans, and joined soon after.
Nowadays, Lloyd predicts the legion may become a social organization in the future but hopes the Canadian veterans from the war in Afghanistan will take advantage of its benefits, “like the $20 all you-can-eat Friday night dinner,” he said half-jokingly.
For Trevor Knight, 35, a warrant officer in the Canadian army and instructor with Algonquin’s geomatics technician program, the ceremony inspired reflection on its intimate turn-out.
“Not everybody can make it out to the other, bigger functions to honour veterans and the fallen, so it’s important to have these smaller ceremonies,” Knight said.
Although he coordinates the event every year, its significance is never lost on Gordie Esnard, 63, assistant general manager of food services.
He hoped the same for Algonquin’s students.
“It should serve as a constant reminder,” Esnard explained. “Too many young people do not know about war and its impact—how much do we really know about our past?”
The luncheon died down—the ceremony over—and people retreated back to the laughter and humming chit-chat that is a staple of the food court.
Glancing over intermittingly from their conversations at the Remembrance Day wreaths, it was hard to tell that only a short time ago the area was a mournful scene of veterans, servicemen, teachers, students and the like standing together, the physical manifestation of the phrase “Lest we forget.”