Hearses bearing the bodies of three fallen Canadian soldiers pass through Whitby on Friday.

Thousands on hand to honour soldiers killed in Afghanistan

As hectic rush hour traffic made its way out of Toronto along Highway 401, a motorcade of black cars made its own solemn procession into the city.

A procession for Canada’s most recent fallen soldiers drew thousands of people to overpassesed along the Highway of Heroes, which runs between Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Toronto, on Friday night.

The three overpasses in Whitby (Thickson Road, Henry and Brock streets) were a rippling sea of Canadian flags blowing in the afternoon winds.

Many people left work early so they could pay their respects to three more soldiers killed while serving in Afghanistan last week. Warrant Officer Dennis Brown, Corporal Dany Fortin and Corporal Kenneth O’Quinn became the 109th, 110th and 111th casualties of the Afghan mission.

Kenny Lord was among the spectators who gathered along the overpass; he came down because he feels it is his responsibility. “They are members of our family and Canadians as a whole and we have to do whatever we can to support them while they’re over there,” he said.

The procession of hearses bringing the bodies of the fallen to Toronto has become a common sight over the last few years. Watching the hearses from overpasses has become a traditional way for people to pay tribute.  Whitby resident Case Stolk has done this before but each time is special, he said.

“A couple of times I’ve just missed it and had to stop the car (along the highway) and pay my respects,” Stolk said.

Members of the Canadian Forces were also present to pay their respects to their fallen brothers-in-arms.  Waiting atop the Brock Street overpass, Pte. Jeremy Burns stared towards the east, only breaking his gaze to shake hands when people approached and thanked him.  Burns hasn’t served in Afghanistan but said he knows everyone serving and appreciates the thoughts of the public.

“Being in my position, doing what I do,” Burns said, “it makes it worthwhile to see everyone come out here to the bridges.  The more people we can pile onto the bridges the better.”

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was also looking into an incident that a rock either crumbled off the Brock Street overpass or was thrown off.  The Toronto Observer will have an update to this story as more information becomes available.

Filed by David Nicholas