11-11-11: A Day of Remembrance

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

  • The Rose Bowl holds great significance to the University of Guelph

    The Rose Bowl holds great significance to the University of Guelph

  • Students pour out of War Memorial Hall after an hour of remembrance

    Students pour out of War Memorial Hall after an hour of remembrance

Written by Stephanie Rennie

Last Friday the University of Guelph campus was filled with students wearing poppies on their jacket collars as a symbol of remembrance. Thought students face difficult time constraints during the end of the semester, many took the time to attend the annual Remembrance Day ceremony.

At 10:30am students, faculty, and residents of Guelph made their way into the War Memorial Hall. Beautiful music filled the hall with a solemn, yet reflective, feeling as people entered and began taking their seats.

The focal point of the massive hall sat proudly before the stage. Amongst an arrangement of wreaths sat a single bowl that holds great significance to the University of Guelph. The Rose Bowl is a silver bowl filled with red roses that was donated by Kathleen Dowler Riter in 1915 to symbolize the memory of her friend and war victim, RAF Captain John Playford Hales. Hales was an OAC faculty member and was killed during the First World War in France in 1918.

A unique visual presentation was shown during the ceremony that paralleled black and white video footage of bleak war efforts on the right screen with colourful and happy depictions of family portraits and the U of G campus over the years. The combination of this visual juxtaposition with the beautiful melodies over powering the hall was a moving experience in itself.

Alastair Summerlee entered War Memorial Hall followed by selected staff, alumni, faculty, and student leaders. The University President spoke of the significance of Remembrance Day as an opportunity to “commemorate those who make the ultimate sacrifice” and to pay homage to the faculty, staff, students, and all others around the globe that have participated in war. Summerlee placed importance on not just remembering, but making a “commitment with peace in the future.”

As the choir began magically signing “Flanders Fields” and everyone rose to their feet, individuals walked the many symbolic wreaths to the back of War Memorial Hall. This procession was followed by several powerful and diverse readings from selected readers conveying messages of remembrance and the need for peace.

One memorable quotation that has stuck with me throughout the days was recited by CSA Academic & University Affairs Commissioner Jessica Carter. The powerful quotation stated that “we will plant olive trees where before there were thorns,” demonstrating that optimism can exist in remembering some of the bleakest moments in history.

Matthew Mak played the Last Post in the Hall that triggered a trumpeter standing on Branion Plaza to begin playing for the students on campus as a reminder of the importance of this day. One the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 2011 on the eleventh hour, silence fell over War Memorial Hall.

During the Remembrance Day ceremony, Alastair Summerlee stressed that the events of the First and Second World Wars were renowned as the “war to end all wars, [but] they were wrong.” Summerlee addressed that there is “still conflict in the word…[and] still people in peril” as he discussed the ongoing wars occurring today.

After experiencing and reflecting on the events and messages of Remembrance Day, I am constantly reminded of the unfortunate reality that war, in its many forms, still exists throughout the world today. We must not merely remember two wars that were fought in our nation’s history and instead question the ongoing conflicts occurring at this very moment.

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