October 23, 2014

The Shooting at the Canadian National War Memorial: What's Going to Last


Soldier shot ottawa national war memorial

With all the fear emanating from yesterday’s shooting spree at the Canadian Parliament and the grief for the corporal killed at Ottawa’s National War Memorial, the last thing most people are thinking about right now is the nature of monuments, sites of violence or the perpetuity of war. More than anything, however, what has been fundamentally altered as a result of yesterday’s events is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that 24-year-old Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was assign to guard and defend. According to Wikipedia, the National War Memorial behind and looming over it, erected in 1930, was built to commemorate WWI. It was rededicated in 1982 to also honor WWII and the Korean War. The Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Solder is much newer, added to the site in 2000 containing the remains of an unidentified Canadian who died defending France during WWI.

800px Unknown Soldier


If you saw these news photos, interspersed here with photos from the Wiki entry, you probably clicked through quickly. How strange, though, that the grey-and-blue protective vest and the automatic weapons seem to cascade off the platform of the tomb in continuance of the metal helmet, the sword and the branches that Cirillo must have known so well. So much has already been written about the immediate ramifications of this attack. A larger effect, I’m sure, is how the enduring purpose and meaning of this monument was altered for decades in the name of the known and the unknown.

(photo 1: ©2001 Gabriel M. O’Brien via Wikipedia under Creative Commons license. photo 2: Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen. caption: A woman gives mouth-to-mouth to a fallen soldier at the War Memorial as police respond to an apparent terrorist attack. A Canadian soldier was shot and killed as he and another soldier stood guard at the Parliament war memorial. The gunman shot a soldier, then ran into a nearby parliament building where he exchanged gunfire with police before being shot and killed inside Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. photo 3: Royalguard11, May 18, ’06 via Wikipedia Commons. photo 4: GlobalNews.ca.)

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Michael Shaw
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