“We’ll never have a future, if we don’t remember the past.” These were words whispered to me by a Second World War veteran, as we stood together on Juno Beach in Normandy.
I was interviewing him for a documentary, and I promised him I would never forget.
That promise led me to the 2010 Remembrance Day ceremony at Edmonton’s Butterdome. It was my fourth year as emcee and, while the service is always emotional, this time, for some reason, it had become overwhelming.
I started to speak, but lost myself: “To all those with us today who have lost a loved one …”
Maybe it was the skirl of the pipes or the veterans’ medals gleaming, their eyes glistening. Maybe it was the faces of our current troops, proud and young. Whatever it was, I felt it catch in my throat and bring tears to my eyes.
Stepping away from the podium, I felt 6,000 pairs of eyes on me, all waiting in silence for me to continue. I felt foolish, the heat rising in my face until I looked up and saw Lt. Governor Donald Ethell. He smiled gently to let me know it was OK. So, with a deep breath, I stepped back to the podium and finished what I started to say.
“To all of those with us today who have lost a loved one, please know this: We will remember their sacrifice and that of your family. Very few of us can comprehend what it must feel like, but we are proud of your loved ones and those who came before and after. In those hours, when you are struggling with your loss, remember the faces here today. Remember you have the support of your city and your country. We thank you.”
As I looked up, I saw others wiping away tears. At that moment and in the hours and days to come, I realized that I, too, had the support of my city, in the form of hugs, phone calls and e-mails from strangers, saying they were overcome with emotion as well.
Edmontonians are proud of our military history, the sacrifice made by decades of Canadian soldiers and their families. As all of us remembered our past and were hopeful for our future, it was a moment in my Edmonton that I will never forget.
J’lyn Nye is co-host of The Joe Show with Gary & J’lyn on JOE FM and co-author of I’d Trade Him Again: On Gretzky, Politics and the Pursuit of the Perfect Deal. She is a 2010 Top 40 Under 40 alumna.