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PAM FRAMPTON: Two minutes’ silence

On Remembrance Day, many people observed two minutes' silence. —
On Remembrance Day, we pause to think of the sacrifices made by those who serve their country. — 123RF Stock Photo

We stood on our front step in St. John’s for two minutes’ silence on Remembrance Day.

Two minutes is not a very long time to reflect on the many sacrifices made — and still being made — by so many people on our behalf. People willing to put their lives on hold, and perhaps sacrifice them altogether, to stride directly into dangers most of us would actively avoid.

But then, times of great conflict bring out the best and worst in humanity. The best are those willing to fight for freedom and democracy, dignity and human rights. Those willing to risk their own security, whether in armed combat or by helping to save those wounded or in danger’s way.

I think of them hunkered down in bunkers, bracing themselves against the hellish fire of siege guns and field guns, shrapnel shells exploding into a killing rain.

I think of young soldiers signing up for the First World War, nervous no doubt, but perhaps excited, too, at the prospect of serving their country, performing acts of bravery, seeing a bit of the wider world.

It was a war for which the Dominion of Newfoundland issued a call for volunteers (as the Newfoundland Heritage website notes): “men between the ages of 19 and 35 who were in good health, weighed at least 120 pounds, stood at least 5 feet 4 inches tall, and were willing to ‘serve abroad for the duration of the war, but not exceeding one year’” — thinking, at the time, that a few months is all it would take.

I think of them hunkered down in bunkers, bracing themselves against the hellish fire of siege guns and field guns, shrapnel shells exploding into a killing rain. I imagine the sour taste of fear, the metallic smell of blood, the incessant noise, the excruciation of seeing their fellows cut down and falling on the battlefield. And, perhaps worse than being killed outright, lying mortally wounded in the muck surrounded by chaos and destruction and knowing no one would be able to get them out alive; remembering perhaps, in those last moments, loved ones they’d never see again; feeling their blood draining out into a soil that was not home.

And I think of the soldiers and nurses and others who served in many daring ways in the Second World War, trying to defeat the Nazis and their terrible extermination plan. I imagine the Canadian soldiers — Newfoundlanders and Labradorians among them — who fought to liberate the Netherlands in May 1945, where just nine months before, Anne Frank and her family had been pulled from their Secret Annexe and sent to concentration camps.

Anne died at age 15, just two months before the soldiers freed Holland.

Seventy-seven years ago, in November 1943, she wrote: “I see the eight of us with our ‘Secret Annexe’ as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. … I can only cry and implore: ‘Oh, if only the black circle would recede and open the way for us.’”

The black circle did not recede for Anne Frank, but thanks to the Allied soldiers of the Second World War, it did recede for many people.

Those who serve this country have pushed back the darkness in many places in many different eras — Korea, Afghanistan, Bosnia, South Africa, Rwanda.

During Wednesday’s two minutes of silence, the quiet was briefly shattered by a loud motorcycle passing by. Then we heard the plaintive sounds of “The Last Post” being played up the street by someone we could not see.

As the last haunting notes hung in the air, we turned around and went back inside, the clearly defined spot where we stand still safe.

For that, we thank you.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email [email protected] Twitter: pam_frampton


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