It’s Christmas day and all the presents have been opened. The turkey dinner is a few hours away and the kids are restless already. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Thunder Bay where we’re visiting relatives but, with the windchill, the temperature is a frigid -23 C (-9 F). Too cold for the kids to play outside – definitely not good for tobogganing – and the stores are closed. So what can we do? Although Thunder Bay doesn’t have a lot to offer commercially, I’ve always admired it for its scenery. I love to take drives along the railroad tracks to see the massive grain elevators and paper mills, or down to the harbour that offers a gorgeous view of Lake Superior, or up to High Street to look out over the roof tops of Port Arthur. Further afield there is boundless natural beauty from Mount MacKay in the South to Sibley Park in the Northeast, and Kakabeka Falls in the West. Over the years of visiting here, the kids have seen all these places (often more than once) and enjoyed them. But there is one important stop we have never made – to the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout.
I was 11 when I first heard about Terry Fox. He started his Marathon of Hope shortly after my birthday in 1980. It didn’t take me long to become completely enthralled in learning about the man and his mission. In fact, I still have the scrapbook I filled with every newspaper article and photograph I could get my hands on. I followed radio and television news reports and interviews and wrote a school project on my new Canadian hero. I couldn’t believe the struggle he went through every day and his determination to push on as far as he could for the benefit of all Canadians, and cancer victims of the world. I was crushed when I wasn’t able to see him run through my home town. I don’t remember the reason why I couldn’t go, just the indescribable disappointment of not being able to see my hero and losing the chance to possibly thank him in person. When he ended his journey on September 1st in Thunder Bay due to the discovery that his cancer had returned, I think there was a huge dark cloud of sadness that enveloped all of Canada. He had run for 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi).1
I remember the day Terry died, June 28th, 1981. I was in Muskoka with my grandparents. Everyone had hoped Terry would overcome the cancer but it was not to be. I also remember my Grandfather crying. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already sick with cancer himself. In Terry’s remembrance and to raise money for cancer, every year Terry Fox Runs are held all over Canada and throughout the world. My children have been involved in the run at school for the last 5 years. Before the run, they are educated in who Terry was and what he stood for. This year my son, who is 9, seemed to really take the experience to heart. He remembered, on his own, his Grandmother who died from cancer when he was only 2. When he came home and I saw his running bib, I was filled with pride and emotion. Later he told me everything he had learned about Terry in school and that his desire was, when he grew up, to complete Terry’s run. At that moment, I thought that it would be meaningful for him to see the memorial the next time we were in Thunder Bay.
I was right.
The monument has a powerful presence. Although it is difficult to see it from Highway 17, the view from the memorial is stunning. It overlooks the highway where Terry ran, Lake Superior, and the Sleeping Giant near the horizon. It is quiet and peaceful…especially on a cold Christmas day…and is surrounded by the beauty of nature. My son and I made sure to discover and read every part of the memorial. We looked up at the statue of Terry a long time. The sculptor had caught the intense difficulty, perhaps even pain, of Terry’s daily run but also his incredible physical strength, determination and amazing courage. As we walked away, back to the car, I turned and looked one last time. I realized that he was positioned forever facing West…immortalized in his quest to reach his home in British Columbia and to fulfill his mission and his dream.
Although my purpose of writing this post was merely to impart to you my experiences, I will include a link below if any of you wish to donate to the Terry Fox foundation.