Today was spent at Parliament Hill. It’s very strange to visit a place you’ve only seen on TV, on film, etc. especially when it’s filled with such iconic things.
I arrived at the Visitor Centre, and before the tour, I went up the Peace Tower. At the base of the elevator up to the top of the tower, though, was a powerful and moving room: The Memorial Chamber.
The room has a number of cases containing books. The books in each of the cases contain the names of the people lost in each conflict. The central book, the first one in the Chamber, lists the names of the First World War dead. Since the book contains over 60,000 names, each day there is a ceremony held – at 11:00 am, the time of the signing of the WWI armistice – in which one page of the book is turned. That way every name is seen for one full day every year.
The central book case is reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant, which is probably not accidental. The rest of the room is equally reverential, moving, and astounding – and all in a room probably 50 feet on each side.
It’s testament to the impact that the first modern war had on those who lived through it; how clearly different in magnitude it had been from anything before it, and how earnestly they wanted to remember that magnitude, perhaps to prevent it happening again. All the more poignant in that more conflicts were to come – and more dead to remember.
The top of the Tower has a spectacular view.
I also took some video of the tour, and hope to post an edited version when I get back. The only part we didn’t see was the House of Commons, since Parliament is in session.
I could have come back later to see if I could get into Question Period, but it would have meant going back through the airport-level security to get back in the building. Besides, there were other treasures waiting outside – the statuary.
I spent the afternoon running a few errands – a second camera battery, for one – and narrowing down my choices for my two remaining days in Ottawa. After some hard deliberating, it’s the Canadian Museum of Civilization tomorrow (open until 8), and the National Art Gallery. The others will have to wait for another time!