As thousands in attendance looked on at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, it was clear there was a distinct Canadian feel in the air.
“Patriotic” is how Fillmore’s Teresa Farrell described it. She made the trip over to Europe with several students, part of a youth group that visited Vimy and watched the ceremony.
“Our breath was taken away by the monument. You can’t see it through the trees when you first drive up so walking up that was breathtaking and inspiring and just overwhelming,” Farrell said.
The group from Saskatchewan sat among the French and the English, along with fellow Canadians including a number of First Nations people, all talking and sharing stories. Sitting next to a French couple, Farrell said at one point the man – who spoke broken English – turned to her and said something she could understand.
“He looked at me and he said ‘thank you’. Just because I was Canadian he felt compelled to thank me for what my country had done.”
As she sat and watched the prime minister and other dignitaries speak, Farrell remembered her grandfather-in-law, Robert Farrell and what kind of toll the ravages of war likely took on him.
“On the back of his picture he had written ‘Luv ya Mum. From Robert’ and so just thinking about that and thinking about the relationships that were torn apart.”
Farrell’s 15-year-old son Lindon Smith joined her on the trip. He joked the day was hot and the site was overcrowded, having to stand around a lot, but the experience was something he can’t quite describe.
“You kind of have to be here to know what it’s like,” he said.
It was hard to put into words, but the experience was definitely an educational one for him.
“I learned that most of the trenches and the craters from shells haven’t changed for 100 years still. They’re protected with electric fences,” he explained.
Smith said he understands Canada’s history better now and why it’s important to remember the sacrifice made by thousands of Canadian soldiers a century ago.