Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial sees light of day

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, North Hat­ley

Thereis no greater sac­ri­fice than to put one’s life on the line for the safety and se­cu­rity of oth­ers. And now, there is a mag­nif­i­cent and cap­ti­vat­ing mon­u­ment at the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, just a kilo­me­ter west of Par­lia­ment, to hon­our a spe­cial group of in­di­vid­u­als who made that sac­ri­fice: Cana­dian fire­fight­ers who have died ei­ther

in the line of duty or from work-re­lated ill­nesses.

The Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial was un­veiled on Septem­ber 9th, dur­ing the an­nual Fallen Fire­fight­ers Cer­e­mony, in front of a crowd of sev­eral thou­sand that in­cluded about one thou­sand fire­fight­ers from across Canada and across the United States, and many from our own re­gion.

A bronze fire­fighter, six­teen feet tall and af­fec­tion­ately known as ‘Fire Guy’, tow­ers at the land­scaped site and points com­pellingly to a one hun­dred foot long gran­ite wall. On the wall are etched the names of over 1100 fire­fight­ers no longer with us. The fit­ting memo­rial was de­signed by Cana­dian artist Dou­glas Cou­p­land and ar­chi­tect Mary Tre­main.

Mike McKenna, the firechief of Ayer’s Cliff, North Hat­ley and Hat­ley Town­ship, played an im­por­tant role in the re­al­iza­tion of the Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial and he spoke with the Stanstead Jour­nal about the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I was in­vited to take part as a pre­sen­ter in the Fallen Fire­fight­ers Cer­e­mony in 2007. A few months later the pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Fallen Fire­fight­ers Foun­da­tion (CFFF), Robert Kirk­patrick, called and asked if I could be on the Board of Di­rec­tors as the Quebec rep­re­sen­ta­tive,” ex­plained Mr. McKenna in an in­ter­view at the North Hat­ley fire hall. “I ac­cepted and at first it was about six hours a week. Then we started work­ing on the mon­u­ment and the hours in­creased,” said McKenna who soon af­ter was asked to take the po­si­tion of 2nd vice-pres­i­dent of the CFFF.

This lo­cal firechief was in­volved in all as­pects of the project, in­clud­ing the choos­ing of the de­sign, over­see­ing the plan­ning and con­struc­tion of the mon­u­ment, and, be­fore all that, the fundrais­ing. “We were each given a chal­lenge to raise money in our own de­part­ments.” The vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments of Stanstead, Ayer’s Cliff and North Hat­ley each gen­er­ously do­nated $500 to­wards the $4.5 mil­lion dol­lar project. The Min­is­ter of Her­itage an­nounced a $2.56 mil­lion grant for the memo­rial in 2010, as­sur­ing its com­ple­tion.

Choos­ing the de­sign of the mon­u­ment was a lengthy and ar­du­ous task for the com­mit­tee in charge which in­cluded Mike McKenna and the pres­i­dent of the CFFF. “About sixty artists sub­mit­ted projects; the fi­nal­ists made pre­sen­ta­tions with scale mod­els and pow­erpoints. We con­sulted with firechiefs from across the coun­try for their opin­ion. We dis­cussed the sym­bol­ism, the artistry and the longevity of the de­sign pro­pos­als. We didn’t want to fundraise again in twenty years for its main­te­nance.”

There were dif­fer­ent opin­ions when it came to choos­ing the stone for the twelve foot tall, one hun­dred foot long wall of names. “They wanted to use a stone called ‘Elite Blue’ for the face, but we wanted a stone that met engi­neer­ing stan­dards so we set­tled with stone from a Quebec quarry for the face and the re­main­der of the gran­ite came from a quarry in On­tario. We used the Elite Blue just on the top.”

An­other chal­lenge was get­ting the six­teen foot tall, 2,400 pound bronze statue, cast all in one piece, de­liv­ered from Red Deer, Al­berta, to Ot­tawa. The statue ar­rived in good shape, along with the artist and his wife but no helpers. “We took off our good clothes, rolled up our sleeves and went to work. My con­struc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence came in handy!”

Look­ing as if he just slid down from the heav­ens for his im­por­tant role, the ‘Fire Guy’ stands be­side a sixty foot tall fire pole. “That pole was the last piece de­liv­ered, ar­riv­ing in late Au­gust. We hired an en­gi­neer to study the ef­fects of wind on the pole, not just struc­turally, but for sound and vi­bra­tions, ‘vor­tex-shed­ding’, which would even­tu­ally de­stroy the mounts. Inside the pole there are all kinds of chains to re­duce the vi­bra­tions and there is light­ning pro­tec­tion built in, too.”

The in­stal­la­tion of the mon­u­ment and the land­scap­ing of the site were com­pleted just in time for the an­nual Cana­dian Fallen Fire­fight­ers Cer­e­mony, held on the sec­ond Sun­day of Septem­ber, in Ot­tawa. “There are the names of 1111 fire­fight­ers on that wall; close to 250 from Quebec. Next year, two fire­fight­ers from Quebec will be hon­oured in that cer­e­mony,” said the firechief.

The week­end of the un­veil­ing was a busy one. “A Chapel Ser­vice for the fam­i­lies was held on Fri­day

din­ner. We gave out plaques, made by Pic­ture This on Gran­ite, as to­kens of ap­pre­ci­a­tion to peo­ple like the artist Dou­glas Cou­p­land, and the ar­chi­tect, Mary Tre­main,” said Mr. McKenna who was the em­cee for that event.

The names of all the Fallen Fire­fight­ers were read in a spe­cial cer­e­mony held on Satur­day at the mon­u­ment with only the fam­i­lies present. “That cer­e­mony was or­ga­nized in­for­mally; we agreed it should be done be­fore the un­veil­ing. It was rain­ing side­ways dur­ing that – we thought the light­ning sys­tem on the pole was go­ing to be tested. That storm ta­pered off as soon as we were done read­ing the names.”

Also on Satur­day, Mr. McKenna was awarded a Queen El­iz­a­beth Di­a­mond Ju­bilee Medal for his in­volve­ment in the build­ing of the mon­u­ment. “That was a re­ally hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ence; my folks were in at­ten­dance, my wife, too.”

The of­fi­cial in­au­gu­ra­tion on Sun­day be­gan at 10:30 in the morn­ing with the un­veil­ing of the mon­u­ment by Gover­nor Gen­eral David John­son. Not only was Mr. McKenna the em­cee for that event, his wife, Karen McKenna, sang the Na­tional An­them.

Asked what the Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial means to the fam­i­lies of the fallen, the firechief an­swered: “Judg­ing by the let­ters of ap­pre­ci­a­tion we’ve re­ceived over the last month, I’d say they’re very happy their fam­ily mem­bers are not for­got­ten and there’s a phys­i­cal record of their sac­ri­fice.”

“I’m very proud of the work our team did, and I’m glad it’s over. I must have made a dozen trips to Ot­tawa in the last twelve months. When you get caught up in a project like this, per­sonal things get put aside. I have a house three quar­ters fin­ished that I started a few years ago so I’ll get back to work­ing on that.”

The an­nual Cana­dian Fallen Fire­fight­ers cer­e­mony takes place on the sec­ond Sun­day of Septem­ber at the Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial lo­cated on Le Bre­ton Flats, in Ot­tawa. For more pho­tos of the beau­ti­ful memo­rial and its in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony, visit the web­site of the CFFF.

p. 12

Mike McKenna is seen here in front of the gran­ite wall of the Memo­rial with his wife, Karen, and their sons, Adam and Ian.

Firechief Mike McKenna (at left) at the un­veil­ing of the Cana­dian Fire­fight­ers Memo­rial. The guest of hon­our, His Ex­cel­lency the Right Honourable David John­son, Gover­nor Gen­eral, is sec­ond from the right.

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