Remembrance Day: A Collective Experience

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Remembrance Day on the SMUS campus is marked with special ceremonies, traditions and this year, a first.

As you may have seen on the livestream of the Junior School ceremony, kids read, sang and painted to express their feelings about war and remembering.

At the Richmond campus, traditions like “the Last Post,” Captain Harvey’s letter and candles for fallen alumni are honoured. In a nod to the future, Grade 11 student Puroshini Pather’s composition “Hour Glass” premiered.

A tradition we have begun on the SMUS Review is printing Reverend Fletcher’s speech, given at the Richmond campus ceremony. He helps put days like this in perspective and reminds us of the wider community.

Below, Puroshini talks about her inspiration for the piece and Reverend Fletcher shares his speech on war as a collective experience.

Listen To: “Hour Glass” by Grade 11 student Puroshini Pather (live) HourGlass_RemDayCer_Web

Remembrance Day
by Keven Fletcher, Chaplain

Names are important to us.

When we walk into our chapel, three of the walls are banked by oak plaques that name every student who has graduated since 1907. Alumni drift through the doors on a regular basis, each picking out his or her own name; often pointing out their friends.

Although every person listed represents a fully formed individual, the very nature of the endeavour underscores that all those named are tied together by a collective experience, a shared community. It takes but a moment to see how much the names have in common.

Let’s take for example the very first name on the very first plaque: Walter J. Pearce. Walter was a boarder who excelled in studies, sport and friendship. You probably have more than a few buddies who could easily fit that description. After graduating, he attended McGill University where he made a name for himself in tennis and distance running, along with being elected to student governance positions, and, yes, finding himself at the top of his academic class.

You can probably imagine a few current SMUS classmates with that kind of future in the works. Perhaps you feel equally laudable, though perhaps a different path lies before you. Good.

To top it off, in 1911 Walter was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. You get the picture. You might say that Walter was a triple threat: a person of intellectual, physical and emotional intelligence. An individual like ourselves and so many others with whom we rub shoulders in these halls.

Sadly, his name is not only on that first plaque, but on another list. The one we read out today. Walter J. Pearce was killed in action during the First World War, 1917.

So many names will be read today that you might miss his. That’s okay. You don’t need to hear his as if he were different from the rest. Instead, know that each of them, in their own way, had a compelling story and represents a staggering and unnecessary loss.

The same is true when we read the letter from RV Harvey, one of our founders. The same is true when we glimpse the experience of Anne Frank and her companions, through the drama selection.

This morning there will be no talk of sides or victories. There is only the remembering of the dead: the names from our school represent the millions upon millions of others who died.

Photos from our Remembrance Day service are available in the photo gallery.

Take a look at our archive of Remembrance Day Ceremonies since 2007.

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