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The Meaning of 11

Story ID:3169
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:In Memory
Location:Fort lee New Jersey USA
Year:1917
Person:The men and women who fight for freedom
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In the USA it is known as Veteran's Day. In Canada it is known as Remembrance
Day and is a government holiday. The number 11 took on a new meaning after 9/11, but
it signified freedom long before that.

I had no idea what it meant. To me it was just another holiday. A day when stores
were closed and more importantly, there was no school. I knew about the war, but I was
free to play. I knew people died for our freedom, but I could sleep in. I knew my parents
had little when they were growing up because of the war, but I had food on my plate and
a day to watch TV. The real meaning of the day was distant to me.

Years later, my daughter joined the Brownies. The first year she was a member, I
set the alarm to wake us on the morning of 11/11. She had to participate in a parade.
Every Brownie, Girl Guide, Cub Scout, and Scout had to participate in the parade. It
was a day to remember those who died for our freedom.

My wife and I left our daughter with the Guide leader and proceeded to the
Canadian Legion, where we waited for her. The kids paraded a mile along the coastal
roads of Nova Scotia, carrying their flags high and proud. We waited for their arrival.
Veterans joined them - old men, long past the prime. They’d fought in the trenches and
watched their comrades die. Many came in wheelchairs. Some limped. A few still stood
strong and walked proudly to the legion. A band played, speeches were made, and on the
11th month, the 11th day, the 11th hour, the 11th minute, and the 11th second there
began two minutes of silence.

I looked at the veterans. Their sacrifices allowed us to stand there that day. They
gave us our freedom. The cold seeped through my jacket. I reached out and held my wife.
A tear trickled down my cheek. For years, I slept as those brave men marched in the cold
November air in remembrance for those who died in battle beside them. It took my
daughter to make me realize the importance of the day.

I never missed another Remembrance Day.

Years later, because of work, I was separated from my family. I was in another
city. On Remembrance Day, I heard there was going to be a service in the city square.
I was in Saint John, New Brunswick. I put on my jacket and tie, pinned a poppy to my lapel, walked the mile to the service, stood in the damp cold and watched those brave
men once again march for our freedom.

I don't know if it was because I was away from my family or the sight of those old
men still walking proudly, but the memory of that service never fades. The Veterans marched, wheeled, and limped to the city square. The mayor gave a
speech. The two minutes of silence began. At the end, a bagpipe began to play "Amazing
Grace."

After the first chorus, a second bagpipe joined in, along with a small band. On the
third chorus, more bagpipes joined and a brass band began to play. The building of
sound, the magic of the moment is something I will never forget. The tears filled my eyes
that day, as the blood must have filled the trenches in battle.

That moment burned in my mind forever.

On November 11th, please take a moment to remember those who fought for our
freedom and those that continue to fight for it.

May God bless them all.

Michael T. Smith

The poppy is special. Here is why.


A Canadian poet and medical officer, John McCrae, penned a
poem during the first world war. In Canada, everyone wears a
poppy in memory of those who died for our freedom.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrea


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.