Even though I’ve lived in Canada for several years now, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I was able to visit Ottawa, the capital. Tim had business meetings to attend and my flexible schedule allowed me to tag along. We made a full-fledged road trip out of it, finding out-of-the-way restaurants, roaming side streets on foot, and unwittingly wandering into the annual peace officer memorial service. The British influence on Canadian culture was evident to me in the feeling of the ceremony being held on the lawn at Parliament Hill, complete with bagpipes, cannon blasts, and the different ceremonial dress uniforms that included custodian helmets or tartans or bearskin hats.
A couple of days later while Tim attended some meetings, I took a break from writing and was able to go back to visit Parliament. I’m still learning about all the differences in the ways government works in Canada compared to what I’ve known in the States, so I was excited when the security staff confirmed that Parliament was in session and I’d be able to enter the gallery and observe. I took a tour of the buildings, photographing the beautiful architecture and thoroughly enjoying the view from the top of the Peace Tower and the noontime carillon concert. Later that day I made my way to the National War Memorial in time to see the changing of the guard, also including bagpipes, joining about 50 other tourists filling the air with the sounds of our cameras and phones snapping pictures.
I’ve traveled quite a bit and visited capital cities in many countries. I enjoyed the visit to Ottawa, comparing its characteristics and resources to the other capitals I’ve visited. I enjoyed getting to experience the city first-hand after having seen it every year on the annual Remembrance Day broadcast.
A few weeks after our trip I was working at my desk one morning when my computer lit up with news alerts about a gunman loose somewhere on Parliament Hill. With the memories of my visit to Ottawa fresh in mind, this invasion of the peace and security of the War Memorial and Parliament buildings felt personal somehow. I shared the grief and disbelief being expressed by my Canadian friends in response to the tragic death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.
Over the years that I’ve lived in Canada, there have been times when I’ve felt a bit like an imposter. I’m not Canadian. In spite of living here and being married to a Canadian, Canadians pretty quickly identify me as an American. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always felt welcomed here by my friends and neighbours, it’s just that I haven’t lost my awareness of being “other.” However, in the days after the October 22 attacks, walking with friends and neighbours through shared tragedy and loss, I am reminded again of the bonds of relationship that are built and deepened in the harsh experiences of life.