Ottawa’s downtown came to a standstill on Thursday as the capital paused to remember the Parliament Hill shooting that made headlines around the world a year ago.
Soldiers, dignitaries, police officers, first responders and politicians of all parties joined members of the public to gather at the War Memorial and honour Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot three times in the back and killed by a lone gunman while on guard at the memorial. Also remembered was Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, a member of the Canadian Forces who was fatally injured in a deliberate hit-and-run incident in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., only two days prior to the Ottawa attack.
Family members of both Cirillo and Vincent made the journey to Ottawa to attend the service.
“It’s been one year. Many people said Canada changed forever last October. But I don’t think Canada changed forever. Canadians are a caring, courageous people, and that did not change, and that will not change,” said Gov. General David Johnston. “Such moments arise rarely in a nation’s history, and how we respond tells us what kind of people we are. How you responded tells us what kind of people you are, and what kind of people we are. We owe an enormous debt to everyone who pulled together one year ago with such bravery, humanity and resolve. Here we stand, and here we shall remain. Let us remember the fallen, and rededicate ourselves to all we hold dear as a people.”
As wind snapped flags lowered to half-staff near the memorial, the crowd observed two minutes of silence that were broken by the sounds of “The Last Post.”
“On this day let us also pay tribute to all the security forces, medical personnel and brave citizens who risked their safety to stop the attackers and help those injured,” said outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a written statement. “It was inspiring to see how Canadians came together in the aftermath of these attacks, offering each other support, condemning terrorism, and showing the courage and resolve that make our country great. As we remember the victims and heroes on this sombre anniversary, let us be thankful for the freedom and peace we continue to enjoy in Canada.”
Prime Minister designate Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire, also attended the ceremony, along with Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson.
In a statement released earlier today, Trudeau said, “the picture in our minds — of Canadians helping and protecting Canadians — that is how we truly are, and it is who we shall continue to be.”
And in a rare moment of unity, Harper and Trudeau joined together to lay a wreath, putting aside politics to honour the sacrifice of Vincent and Cirillo.