THE BLOG

A Hero In Our Eyes

11/02/2014 09:35 EST | Updated 01/02/2015 05:59 EST

At a time when the nation is in mourning and a little boy has lost his father so tragically, I refuse to squabble over the semantics of what constitutes a hero.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo is a hero in my eyes and in my heart. He is a hero in the eyes of the people of Hamilton and in the eyes of ordinary Canadians across this great country.

True, the details of his death may not fit some textbook definition of a heroic act.

His murder was swift and it robbed Cpl. Cirillo of the opportunity to react or respond in some dramatic fashion.

But Cpl. Cirillo woke up that fateful morning, donned his uniform proudly and stood in position - vulnerable and unarmed - hours after Ottawa had raised the threat warning level and days after ISIS called on supporters to attack and kill Canadians.

Just two days earlier, a pair of Canadian soldiers were injured, one fatally, following a terrorist attack in Quebec.

It does not take a rocket scientist to know that all Canadian soldiers and honour guards would have felt an elevated sense of risk and danger. Those that were stationed in high profile targets, such as Parliament Hill, would have felt even more unease.

So while Cpl. Nathan Cirillo may not have charged into active combat with gun blazing, it does not mean he is undeserving of the title "hero."

When a soldier accidentally steps on a land mine, do we deny him the honor of being called a hero simply because his sacrifice was swift and somewhat unexpected?

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo stands out as a selfless and honourable man in so many ways.

As an animal lover, he took in rescue dogs. He showed these animals love and affection and gave them a second chance in life.

Even more valiant is the fact that the young corporal was raising his son on his own. Talk about heroic.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was an unarmed soldier, standing guard over one of the most obvious targets on Canadian soil.

So yes, I believe he died a hero.

I believe the men and women who rushed to his side, without regard for their own safety, are also heroes. The compassion they showed during Cpl. Cirillo's final moments and the unmitigated bravery they displayed to put themselves in harm's way rather than running for cover is both astonishing and humbling.

Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was also a hero that day. His calm and quick reaction no doubt saved countless lives.

And there is one more hero in this whole bloody mess that deserves to be mentioned.

Kathy Cirillo, the mother of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

She is a hero in my eyes because despite the depth and breadth of her sacrifice and sorrow, I have no doubt that she will pick herself up off the floor in order to comfort her young grandson, Marcus.

Despite the hurt, the anger and the utter despair, I know that Kathy Cirillo will be a source of love and joy to little Marcus. She will smile for him even when she feels like crying. She will hug him tightly, even when she feels like falling apart. She will live for him, even if she feels like giving up.

Heroes come in many forms.

They come in the courageous, steady hand of a Sergeant-at-Arms.

They come in the persistent dedication of a stranger, administering mouth-to-mouth.

And they come in the never-ending love of a mother, who will temper her heartache in the years and decades to come, so that her grandson will know peace and joy and love.

Thank you Canada. Thank you Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.