Sunday, November 20, 2011

Remembrance Day in Corner Brook

Remembrance Day is observed on November 11th in cities and towns across Canada. Each act of remembrance, however, takes on its own character in each locale. The ceremony in Corner Brook is no exception. The mill whistle, which normally marks the start and end of the work day, sounds to mark the customary two minutes of silence observed at 11am.

There is an irony here. While silence falls across communities throughout Canada to remember those who fought in wars, soundwaves spread out across Corner Brook and neighbouring communities to honour those lost and the veterans who remain.

In the past, the mill whistle would sound for 15 seconds at 11am to mark the start of the two minutes of silence and then sound for another 15 seconds after the silent reflection. This November I made a trip home to Corner Brook to confirm whether this was still the case. Would the mill whistle still sound?

As it turns out, the whistle does still sound on Remembrance Day. However, this year things were done a little bit differently (and I'm not sure what motivated the change). At about 10:55am at the cenotaph, the "Last Post" was played on trumpet to begin the two minutes of silence. The silence was broken by the "Rouse." Then about a minute later, at 11am, the mill whistle filled the air. It was the longest I've ever heard the whistle sound -- more than a minute. When it ended, the ceremony continued as expected, with wreath-laying.

Now perhaps I am simply a homesick Corner Brooker, and certainly there is a special place in my heart for the mill whistle, having grown up hearing it daily, but it was the whistle sounding at 11am that moved me to tears more than anything else.

Here's a recording that I made of the mill whistle on November 11, 2011 at 11am. The quality isn't great due to the weather. It was a very windy day, with gusts into the 80s (km/hr). I was standing under a tree, so you can hear the wind rushing through the leaves. At times it was too much for the recorder to handle, so there's some distortion, but it gives a feel for what that moment was like.

Do you know why the mill whistle changed from two short blasts marking off two minutes of silence to one long blast at 11am this year? Email

More photos from the Remembrance Day parade and ceremony can be found at