It was a relatively quiet town except for the echoing blasts of mortars and howitzers. Added to this raw symphony of eerie sounds was the roar of the Hercules arrowing skywards from the Military runway. We had arrived in Petawawa amidst the cacophony of army training. This was a town of routine. Cars left their laneways before 7:30 de rigour. Our men and women in uniform had to be fit. Their lives and the safety of missions depended on it. PT as it was called started early, often bringing the corps down to the beach area where structures were set up to test and strengthen the physicality of our fighting soldiers. I had a hidden sense of pride in their sense of commitment, not being part of a military family directly nor marrying into one. It was inspiring to hear the “hup one two three four” echoing through the woodsy training area near the beach. Something that made one feel just a little bit more secure, perhaps somewhat falsely in this era of high tech bombs but nevertheless we got to see and hear the people behind the scenes, the ones that made the decisions, carried out the commands. Uncles in uniform in our families were in old photographs. The war locked away in a past that was not ours. One winter’s day, driving my station wagon down the beach road to show our children the frozen waves, a wheel slipped down into soft snow. We were stuck. We started up the hill to the Club, my son in my arms, my daughter beside me. Then the unbelievable sound of human voice came through the rhythm of our belaboured footsteps. Male voices. A command. They were near. I expect seeing a red faced young woman on a mission through this deserted area, two children in hand, was not usual but then I think like a Civilian. ”Can we help”? I explained my dilemma. “No problem ma’am, Where’s your vehicle…we’ll lift it out and bring it to you, your keys please.” It wasn’t a question. I felt displaced. It wasn’t in my comprehension that a group of men lifted station wagons. I felt my arms relax . All would be alright again. And then that year it all changed. The year of 9/11. Jeeps were stationed along old highway 17 right through our town. Men stood at a spread-legged stance with heavy artillery at the ready. A remembrance of Ottawa and FLQ days. Close but not this close. Petawawa saw its base entrance fronted with new heavy barbed wire fencing. Traffic slowed going through, ID thoroughly screened. ..in case. Indeed our town had changed, but more than the physicality of it, our town had changed in its perceptions. The war was no longer in the past. Strength and Fear were united in a pervasive scent that overlaid what was once our daily lives and predictable routines. That too has become the past… for now.
by Wayne Chan | May 3rd 11:55 am
My daily commute is like a small gear of mechanical time, of epicycles upon epicycles, where days turn to months and to years, and the seasons cycle through. The rhythms of time are constant, but the changes they bring are not.
by george ilsley | May 3rd 1:44 pm
The neighborhood of Broma in Vancouver (around Broadway and Main) used to have salmon streams and a temperate rainforest. Now it has hipsters.
by Brendan Harrison | Apr 12th 12:54 pm
When white supremacists moved into my neighbourhood, I was forced to reconsider what community meant to me.
by Monica Meneghetti | May 2nd 11:45 pm
Queer Banffites come in every stripe but, like other wildlife, most of us are well-camouflaged.
by Christin Geall | May 3rd 10:16 pm
In my neighborhood, houses float out to sea. They’re jacked up from their foundations, lifted onto trucks, and barged away.
by Brenda McCourt-pulham | May 3rd 6:21 pm
A civilian mom finds friends in a military town and learns first hand that Canada's soldiers serve us in many ways. The friendly but regimented air of Petawawa transforms suddenly on September 11, 2001.