It started with a few people, standing on bridges overlooking the busiest highway in North America. Gradually, the crowds grew and grew, braving the bitter wind and snow of winter and the scorching sun of summer. Each time the grim parade makes it's way down that stretch of highway, the crowds swell and more flags appear. Firetrucks, with lights flashing and firefighters on top, stand at attention and salute the passing motorcade.
Each time a Canadian soldier falls in the line of duty, they are flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton to be repatriated before taking a last, long ride to the Coroner's Office in downtown Toronto, 107 miles away. Most of that sad journey is along this highway. This stretch of highway has now officially been renamed "The Highway of Heroes".
The MacDonald - Cartier Freeway runs from the outskirts of Montreal to Windsor Ontario, straight through the heart of Toronto. Locally know (somewhat affectionately) as the "Four-Oh-One", it is the busiest highway in North America and the busiest trucking route in the world, surpassing even the Santa Monica Freeway in L.A.
At first, the City of Toronto government tried to discourage the practice, but like trying to stems the tides in the Bay of Fundy, they were powerless to stop the flow and gave in, eventually even officially endorsing the tribute. Politics is like that, I guess.
I have lived on both sides of the US/Canada border. I often envied the Americans for their willingness to show their patriotism - flags waving from many homes all year around. We Canadians are often said to be a more reserved people, and from my experience, I believe that to be true. We don't wear our patriotism "on our sleeves". Maybe that is starting to change. I hope so, if only for our fallen heroes. They deserve it.
Recently, songs have been written and more recently, a US news service featured the Highway of Heroes. Below are links to those songs and videos.
Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the United States. To our men and women, all around the world, who risk their lives for us - thank you. I pray that if you ever travel this Highway of Heroes, it is to go into T.O. for some afternoon shopping or to catch dinner and a show.
With sincerest thanks and gratitude............