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30 Seconds On The Great Escape
Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal
Most of the 2011 recipients are veterans. Ted Barris, a civilian, also received the commendation.
About Ted Barris
I’ve been thinking about a mythical, historical Christmas dinner lately. It’s the one that featured a cooked goose, hissing gravy, mashed potatoes, the gush of stuffing, two small children gorged in sage and onion to the eyebrows, and a pudding regarded as the greatest success achieved by the housewife since the beginning of her marriage. But it’s the Christmas toast proposed by the man of the house, I’ve remembered this week. “I’ll give you Mr. Scrooge,” announced Bob Cratchit in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “the founder of the feast.”
The morning the world changed, I had tumbled from my warm bed, found a cup of coffee to help me on my way and driven from the countryside to the old CBC Radio building on Jarvis Street, next to CBC corporate head offices in downtown Toronto. By 5 a.m. I had cleared my head and my throat to deliver one of my first newscasts for the CBC Network that morning. Little did I know within the first hours of my shift, I would be part of something momentous.
“Here is the CBC News,” I said at the top of each hour that morning to begin the five-minute hourly newscast. But that day I also got the chance to announce repeatedly as the top story, “Nelson Mandela, the black African leader imprisoned for treason since 1963, has this morning left notorious Robben Island prison, a free man.”
As I drove up the ramp onto Hwy. 401 near Kingston, following a talk I’d given last Saturday night, I thought I’d call my wife (on a hands-free device) and let her know I was en route home. I phoned once at 10 p.m. I tried again at 10:30 and every half hour after that. But there was no answer. I stopped calling around midnight, figuring she might have gone to bed. But when I got home, she was up. Or, actually she was down… in the basement.
“A pipe broke and has been leaking water down there all day,” she told me. “We had several inches of water in the basement.”
All evening long, I kept hearing the warnings. I had driven as far southwest on Highway 401 as it goes – in fact, I think I got to Kilometre Number 1 – in Windsor. I knew when the event at which I was speaking, on the Windsor side of the Detroit River, wrapped up, I faced the four-hour drive home to Uxbridge. At 10 p.m. I got in my car, started the engine and heard the weather forecast.
“Environment Canada has issued a weather statement,” the announcer said. “Wet snow or blowing snow will make driving conditions treacherous.”
I’m sure my teachers taught it during a day I was absent from high school. But somewhere in there I missed that important life lesson that came from physics class. “For every action in the universe,” Isaac Newton said around 1687, “there is an equal and opposite reaction.”