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This year, instead of celebrating the start of a war, let us celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe, and the beginning of peace. WWII was a horrifying and devastating war which took the lives of millions and millions of people, both military and civilians. A war which left thousands upon thousands more permanently damaged, whether physically or mentally. A war which changed the lives of millions. And a war which changed many countries, perhaps even the world.
On May 7, 1945, the papers were signed and the great news went out across the airwaves. Not yet in my teens, I remember the day well – a warm, sunny day in the small town of Uxbridge. A few friends and I ran spontaneously to the town Fire Hall which housed the large fire alarm bell, grabbed the rope hanging within reach, and joyously pulled the rope to ring the bell again and again and again. Although not touched personally by the tragedies of the war, I had lived half my life knowing and learning about it and being part of many experiences connected with the war. Helping ring the bell was an expression of the happiness I felt that it was now over.
I asked a veteran what he remembers feeling on hearing the good news. He thought a moment and then answered, "I felt a huge sense of relief – relief that all the killing in Europe was ended." There aren't many veterans from that war left, but no doubt they too were much relieved that day. Although we remember them as our heroes, brave and courageous men and women who gave their all for their country, from what I have read and heard, they remember the war as a terrible, frightening, excruciatingly horrible experience; many never wanted to think about it again, let alone talk about it.
For our young people today, yes, they need to learn about the World Wars as part of history and part of what has shaped our country, but they also need to know the terrors and suffering entailed, and why the end of WWII, and the belief in peace to follow, was such a happy event. Now, seventy years later, the end of such a terrible war is worthy of celebrating in hopes that such a war never, ever happens again.
May 7th, the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe, is a day to joyfully celebrate, a day to give heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all those who helped the end come and to the survivors who helped rebuild our country. It is a day to renew our commitment to peace.

Margaret Gaviller,
On behalf of Peace and Justice Grey Bruce.

 

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