Young writer in­spired by dad

Car­bon­ear’s Cas­san­dra Slade wins trip to France in Legion con­test


Cas­san­dra Slade of Car­bon­ear was 12 when her fa­ther died sud­denly. As a cop­ing mech­a­nism, Cas­san­dra be­gan writ­ing.

Now 17, Cas­san­dra re­flects on the events in her life that led to her re­cently win­ning the provin­cial Royal Cana­dian Legion es­say con­test and earn­ing a trip to Beau­mont Hamel in France for Me­mo­rial Day, July 1. It all be­gan with her fa­ther. On Dec. 21, 2008, Cas­san­dra got word her dad had taken a fall down the stairs and broke his neck. He was liv­ing in On­tario, while she and her mom lived in Car­bon­ear.

“He was sup­posed to come home the 25th,” she ex­plains dur­ing a sit­down in­ter­view with The Com­pass Feb. 18.

It was hard for Cas­san­dra to process. She says her emo­tions were all over the place and she had trou­ble cop­ing with the loss, un­til her mom Lynette sug­gested she put her thoughts to paper.

“That was when I be­gan writ­ing,” she re­calls. “So since then, I put my heart and ev­ery­thing I have into writ­ing.”

Cas­san­dra be­lieves that’s when she found her call­ing.

“I have a ‘ dear dad’ in­stead of a ‘dear diary’ and ex­press all my feel­ings that way,” she says.

Now, in Level III at Car­bon­ear Col­le­giate, she writes for fun.

Her English teacher, Des­mond Fillier, en­cour­aged her to sub­mit her Re­mem­brance Day es­say for the con­test. She never ex­pected to win.

And the win­ner is …

An awards cer­e­mony took place at the Royal Cana­dian Legion in Car­bon­ear Feb. 13, where some 40 stu­dents from Car­bon­ear to Bay de Verde were hon­oured with first, sec­ond and third place lo­cal awards in four cat­e­gories of com­pe­ti­tion.

The cat­e­gories in­cluded colour poster, black and white poster, poem and es­say in three cat­e­gories, ju­nior, intermediate and se­nior. There were also pri­mary school cat­e­gories for colour poster and black and white poster con­tests. There were some 1,000 en­tries in to­tal.

Lo­cally, Cas­san­dra won third place in the se­nior es­say con­test. The lo­cal win­ners were then judged provin­cially.

When they an­nounced her name as the re­cip­i­ent of the first place provin­cial award and the trip to Beau­mont Hamel, it was an emo- tional mo­ment filled with sur­prise and hap­pi­ness.

“My mom started to cry be­fore they had the first three letters of my name said,” she laughs, adding that she also shed a few tears.

Cas­san­dra and two oth­ers — Cas­san­dra Ho­gan from Cabot Academy and Madi­son Sparkes from Tri­con El­e­men­tary — will have their first place provin­cial win­ning en­tries sub­mit­ted to the na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, along with the win­ners from other prov­inces.

Story be­hind her es­say

There may have been a tragedy be­hind her writ­ing, but Cas­san­dra has more pleas­ant mem­o­ries be­hind her es­say.

In her es­say, she wrote, “Grow­ing up in a fam­ily of men who served in the Blue Put­tees, The Royal New­found­land Reg­i­ment, The Bri­tish Navy and The Cana­dian Army made me re­al­ize why so many people sac­ri­ficed their own lives.”

She had the op­por­tu­nity to meet two of her fam­ily mem­bers who served in wars — her great-grand­fa­ther, the late Wal­ter Rus­sell, who served with the Bri­tish Navy dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, and her great-un­cle Lewis Jones, who fought in the Korean War with the Cana­dian Army.

Her great-grand­fa­ther, she learned, was aboard the H.M.S Avenger, an aux­il­iary air­craft car­rier when it was sunk by a Ger­man U-boat in 1942. It was car­ry­ing 526 men at the time it was hit. Only 12 men sur­vived; Rus­sell was the only New­found­lan­der.

Cas­san­dra had vis­ited him in Gan­der when she was younger and has fond mem­o­ries of him that she re­layed through her es­say.

“I’m proud to re­flect on the mem­o­ries I was so lucky to be able to cre­ate with him,” she wrote.

The vis­its were of­ten well planned out be­cause Rus­sell still suf­fered from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD).

Cas­san­dra ex­plained the “shell shock” af­fected his life. When she or her fa­ther would knock on the door, he would some­times hear it as guns or bombs go­ing off.

She says she will al­ways cher­ish the time they had to­gether, and re­mem­ber the sto­ries he ex­pe­ri­enced from the war.

Her great-un­cle Lew, as Cas­san­dra calls him, is a proud vet­eran. She first met him a year ago.

Some­times, she ex­plains, a con­ver­sa­tion would be tak­ing place, and Lew would say some­thing about Korea. But then, he would just go back to the con­ver­sa­tion. She is proud to be his great-niece.

“Be­cause of be­ing lucky enough to meet these two men, I dis­cov­ered the true mean­ing of a hero,” her es­say ex­plained.

She tells The Com­pass a hero is not al­ways some­one who wears a cape or fights crime. They are reg­u­lar people who have done ex­tra­or­di­nary things. People like “Un­cle Lew” and “great-pop Wal­ter” who fought for free­dom de­serve to be rec­og­nized.

“My he­roes are two small town men from Gan­der, New­found­land. Be­cause of these two men I’ve learned a lot about life, war, why to re­mem­ber and why people sac­ri­fice their lives. But most im­por­tantly, I’ve learned the true def­i­ni­tion of a hero,” her es­say con­cludes.

Edi­tor’s note: for a com­plete list of awards win­ners, visit the fol­low­ing link:http://www.cb­n­com­­cal/2014-02-21/ar­ti­cle3624249/Legion-Re­mem­brance-Day-con­test­win­ners/1

Sub­mit­ted pho­tos

Cas­san­dra Slade of Car­bon­ear has earned her­self a trip to Beau­mont Hamel for Me­mo­rial Day, July 1 by plac­ing first in the provin­cial Royal Cana­dian Legion Re­mem­brance Day es­say con­test.

The par­tic­i­pants from Car­bon­ear to Bay de Verde that were hon­oured with awards for their sub­mis­sions to the Royal Cana­dian Legion Re­mem­brance Day Con­tests in all cat­e­gories were (in no par­tic­u­lar or­der) Paul Tiz­zard, Jenna Hop­kins, Madi­son Sparkes, Cas­san­dra Ho­gan, Emily But­ton, Christina King, Bri­anne Scott and Cas­san­dra Slade.

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