October 28, 2014
Written by Rob Evans
Oct. 29, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Oh Canada, our national anthem. I have to admit, in recent years, any time I’ve been at a sporting event, I stood and shuffled from foot to foot, mouthing the words. Last week was very different. I think I sung the anthem at least a half dozen times in my car, at work, at home.

Last week’s tragic events did not instil fear into the hearts of Canadians. It reminded us all what it means to be Canadian and that nobody can take that away from any of us. In the days and weeks to come police will try to piece together events that led to the fatal hit and run that took WO Patrice Vincent and the horrible shooting that cut down Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Canadians will move on but we will never forget. Etched in our minds will be the pictures of fellow soldiers and a nurse and lawyer valiantly trying to save Cirillo next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Soldiers show their respect at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa in September. Photo by Rob Evans

Just over a month ago, while attending Fire-Rescue Canada 2014, I stood at that very spot, taking pictures of the War Memorial and taking time to reflect. I passed the memorial a few times as I walked back and forth to Parliament Hill during my breaks and free time. Free time – it’s because of the men and women the memorial celebrates that I was able to sit there and think. And it’s because of them that I will do it again in February when I am in Ottawa for another Government Relations Week with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

A key agenda item during Fire-Rescue Canada in September was responder mental health. The not-so-subtle message was to talk, to get help. Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke in the House of Commons the day after the shooting and one of the first things he told MPs and staffers was to take time if they need it. We know that the City of Ottawa will look after its own. That was quite evident during the conference and the messages being delivered by Fire Chief John deHooge.

For the rest of us, the message is the same. Look after yourselves, your friends, your families, and your co-workers. Sadly, this is a new reality that Canada will now have to face but we will do it the only way we know how – with our heads held high letting the world know that we are the True North, Strong and Free.

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
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