Behind Queen’s Park, veterans assemble for 21-gun salute

The left-flanking cannon at Queen's Park fires a warning round at 11 a.m., signalling two minutes of silence. Louis Pin

11:00: A warning shot fires – Queen’s Park goes silent.

11:02: Behind Ontario’s Parliament building, hundreds of people stand motionless. The sky is clear, the day calm. One man soothes a child, who shrinks from the blast but does not cry.

David Jobst stands in the crowd with his two daughters. His uncles served in the Canadian armed forces, but the person he is really there for is the daughter to his right, Master Bombardier Jaclyn Farrell-Jobst.

“Emotionally, yes – I think it could be a holiday,” said David Jobst afterwards. “But when [students] have to go to school, the school is always doing something. There’s always Remembrance Day functions.”

The prayer, moments before, demonstrates the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform: “That we might be taught to live by those who went to die.”

Pedestrians lined the paths at Queen's Park on the beautiful fall day, warmer than usual and sunny.

Pedestrians lined the paths at Queen’s Park on the warmer than usual fall day.

11:07: The sixth shot in the 21-round salute fires from a 105-mm howitzer. The gun recoils in a cloud of smoke, as bells echo ethereally in the distance. In the park, even passers-by have stopped moving.

A man in a wheelchair sits watching the ceremony. He records the salute on a small camera by his feet, while people crowd in behind him.

Major John Dean is a Battery Commander, in the 7th Toronto Regiment. He stands at attention as an officer shouts the command, and the right howitzer fires its third shot into the air.

“The crowd is a lot larger than normal,” said Dean. “It’s likely a reaction to [Nathan Cirillo]’s death – it hit so close to home, reminds people of how dangerous it is.”

Well over a thousand people crowd behind Queen's Park for the salute.

Well over a thousand people crowd behind Queen’s Park for the salute.

11:12: The crowd only grows. Later, retired veteran Frank Moore, from Enniskillen, would say it was was the largest crowd he’d ever seen. Moore drove the truck at Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s funeral, in Hamilton. It is parked to the far right of the ceremony.

“It was emotionally draining,” Moore said of the funeral. “I’ve never been so proud. It was absolutely silent – pictures can’t do it justice. They brought cards, they brought flowers, candles, teddy bears. It was ten o’clock at night, and totally silent.”

Bagpipes begin to play, cutting into the overwhelming silence. The entire park is devoid of movement; the only people in motion are the soldiers manning the cannons and howitzers.

Larry Goucher served in the Canadian Navy’s Whitby Regiment. Today, he helps load and unload the gun between rounds and stands at its side as it fires sixteenth shot into the fall sky. He was also in Hamilton for Cirillo’s funeral.

“Hamilton remembered him properly,” Goucher said later. “One of the gifts [laid beside the memorial] that I remember, was a bottle of beer, with a note attached to it. From a friend.”

Before the ceremony, some veterans took photos behind a cannon. There were over a hundred veterans at the salute.

Before the ceremony, some veterans took photos behind a cannon. There were over a hundred veterans at the salute.

11:19: The first of four remaining shots is fired. From behind the building, the sun begins to shine on the soldiers. They wear their uniforms proudly; some in navy blue, others, in Canada’s old olive uniforms.

Retired warrant officer Rob Ton served Canada from 1995 to 2013. Now finished his time, he stands in remembrance with his wife. After the ceremony, he is greeted by old friends and acquaintances from the forces.

Just north of the salute, wreaths decorated the 48th Highlanders Regimental Memorial.

Just north of the salute, wreaths decorated the 48th Highlanders Regimental Memorial.

“I lost a few friends, people in combat,” said Rob Ton, as ammunition trucks rolled by minutes after the ceremony finished. “I came for them, for people before.”

11:22: The final round is fired into the sky. A minute later, the horn section plays the Canadian National Anthem. No one moves until the final notes cease.

About this article

By: Lou Pin
Copy editor: David Kennedy
Posted: Nov 11 2014 1:00 pm
Filed under: News