It was a frigidly cold morning for those standing in between Duckworth and Water Street late Thursday morning, but that didn't stop a crowd of hundreds - including Canada's National Women's Team - from gathering to observe Remembrance Day in the heart of downtown St. John's.
The mass of people wearing poppies started to form around the National War Memorial at about 10 a.m. on November 11, the day reserved annually for remembering those who have served in past and present wars.
As 11 a.m. approached, cadets marched toward the memorial in perfect unison, the sounds of
military commands and the beating drum echoing into the streets. After a quick about-turn, cadets, flag bearers and army officers were greeted by warm and enthusiastic applause from the growing crowd.
Heads turned and hockey fans in attendance smiled in recognition as members of the National Women's Team approached the serene scene and huddled together on the sidewalk, but all eyes fixed towards the memorial as the ceremony commenced.
Not even the bitter winds of Newfoundland could distract the pensive crowd from the words spoken, songs sung and instruments played on Remembrance Day. As the coldest cold of the day came, a prayer was said and the wreath laying began. And as if the skies were listening, the clouds momentarily moved out of the way so that the warm sun could shine over the memorial. It was a telling moment, for as long as the prayer lasted, so did the warm sun shine down.
Captain Hayley Wickenheiser and assistant captains Tessa Bonhomme, Jayna Hefford and Caroline Ouellette made their way to the front of the crowd and patiently waited until they were called to lay a wreath on behalf of Team Canada. Wearing their red and white jerseys, they stood proudly in front of the National War Memorial, the emotion of the day apparent on their faces as they thought about those who have lived and died for our freedoms.
“Our hearts go out to the people who are serving our country and make sure we can enjoy the freedom that we have,” Ouellette said. “It was special for us to be there and to share it with the (members of the military) that were there today.”
Wickenheiser admitted becoming choked up as she watched a family lay a wreath in honour of a fallen soldier.
“Seeing the mother and her children bringing up the wreath for their father really brought tears to, I think, all our eyes,” she said, adding being a part of such a special ceremony “was just a very proud moment for the team and myself.”
With wreaths laid and children becoming restless, the ceremony concluded and the crowd slowly dispersed from the centre of town.
“Until next year!” someone shouted from the crowd. Lest we forget.