For all but a very small number of us, memories of war are not first-hand. Most of us have never been near a battlefield during wartime. But we still wear a poppy, and still pause on November 11th to remember. We remember something we didn’t experience and can only imagine. Just as we must.
Tom Brokaw wrote about “The Greatest Generation,” who lived through the Great Depression, fought and won the Second World War, and then came home to build an economic miracle.
It’s sometimes overlooked that those who were alive between 1918 and 1920 also endured what was known as the “Spanish flu” pandemic. It was spread around the world by soldiers returning at the end of the First World War, who unknowingly carried the virus home with them.
Then, just as today, public health authorities were empowered to take extraordinary measures to contain the spread of the influenza virus that caused the illness. People wore masks, quarantines were ordered, public gatherings were restricted, schools and some businesses were closed, the Stanley Cup playoffs were cancelled, all in an effort to save lives from an invisible, microscopic enemy.
Unlike today, there was no vaccine readily available. The virus ravaged the immune systems of young adults. Undoubtedly tens of millions died. In some respects, it was arguably worse than COVID-19.
That is not to diminish the trial our generation has suffered in the past 18 months. Instead, it should remind us that humankind has been through this before, and worse, and emerged stronger than ever before.
I want to express my thanks to the Royal Canadian Legion, for ensuring we never forget the sacrifice of those great generations that were prepared to risk all to defend others, fighting for democracy and freedom.
Their memory inspires us. They were not fearful; they volunteered. They were not complacent; they built. They did not just take; they also gave. They were not a source of hate; they loved. They did not despair; they believed.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.