The Paramedic Memorial Bell, which honours medics that have died in the line of duty throughout Canada, stopped in Norfolk County at the end of June.
The bell was built in 2015 by Ottawa paramedic Michael Dunlop. Since the creation, a bike tour from Toronto to Ottawa has been held for all medics to participate in before the ceremony of reading the names takes place.
This year, due to COVID-19, the large ceremony with all of the paramedics in Ottawa was not going to be possible. Instead the bell left the capital and is travelling to each of the 50 paramedic services in Ontario.
The bell was delivered by Ornge air ambulance to Norfolk County paramedics, who then transferred it to the Oxford County unit.
“Each service was in charge of creating their own service and tour,” said Norfolk County paramedic Sarah Graham. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this isn’t going to happen again.”
Wineries, bike trails, farm fields, and the Coast Guard station in Port Dover were among the stops the bell made while in Norfolk.
The 50 names inscribed on the bell were each read aloud near the Coast Guard station followed by a ring for each individual.
“At the end there’s a moment to acknowledge all of the paramedics that have committed suicide to PTSD and other psychological issues from the job,” Graham said. “There’s a blank space on the bell that’s dedicated to all of those medics that suffered in silence.”
Graham said the memorial service created some moist eyes in the group as the names were read, regardless of if they had known the individuals personally or not.
“This was a very special day for us, most of us had never seen the bell, to be able to hold it and have it with us was so special. All of the medics were charged by that,” said Graham. “It was a very emotional day. It made it very real, some of the names on the bell are known to us and it was a lot to see that.
“It was also very special to see that names that we didn’t know, and to know that we are such a diverse group of people but we are all very much united in honouring our members.”
A video of the bell’s tour through Norfolk County is being created and will eventually be posted to the Norfolk County Paramedic Services social media accounts. A separate video of the bell’s entire tour across Ontario will be posted to the Paramedic Memorial Bell Facebook page once it has returned to Ottawa.