McGuinty said he'll listen to recommendations that Highway 401 be renamed the "Highway of Heroes."
The highway's overpasses have become the scene of impromptu gatherings in recent months, as people wave flags while motorcades pass by bearing the remains of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
An online petition has been started asking the province's Transportation Ministry to make the name change.
The online petition can found here: http://www.petitiononline.com/401Hero/petition.html
(thank you to an annonymous reader for submitting the website)
Highway of Heroes: Let’s Make it Official
By Pete Fisher
What began quietly, spontaneously in Northumberland County has now extended along the 172 kilometres, or 107 miles, of Highway 401 travelled by repatriated Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. People standing on bridges has become a powerful expression of support by fellow Canadians for the troops and their families.
We all pray there will be no need to come together again on a bridge to honour our fallen but, with the war in Afghanistan continuing, it’s naive to think there won’t be more casualties. Starting from the first procession for Sgt. Marc D. Leger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Pte. Richard Green, and Pte. Nathan Smith, who were killed in April, 2002, people have stood on bridges in Northumberland County. I remember in 2002 there were approximately 30 people, including two police officers, saluting on the Cranberry Road overpass in Port Hope as four hearses passed underneath. People had been watching the live coverage of the repatriation service at CFB Trenton on television and saw the hearses leave the base. Wanting to show their support, they spontaneously went to the bridge to await the procession. Once a funeral procession leaves CFB Trenton, it heads west along Highway 401 to Toronto, then goes south on the Don Valley Parkway, ending at the Centre for Forensic Sciences on Grenville Street. To date, 66 fallen heroes have made the journey. (As of Aug. 23, the number is now 69 fatalties). Since then, on various bridges along the Highway 401 route, there have been people on bridges, sometimes less and, of late, more — many more. Every person who stands on a bridge will tell you it’s a feeling like no other. As you wait, you talk with people who have been there before, who you’ve come to know. People smile, share feelings, talk about how many times they’ve stood on various bridges. It’s a mix of pride and sadness. When the convoy of vehicles is seen approaching, murmurs in the crowd can be heard: “Here they come.” There’s silence as people get ready. Then, there’s a sudden sea of arms waving Canadian flags, wanting to let family members in the procession know we are there for them, that we share their pain and are proud to be Canadian. It’s not unusual to see a soldier’s hand waving a beret from a hearse, or a family member waving from a limousine, to acknowledge the people on the bridge. Those waves are simple gestures, but more than enough for everyone on a bridge to know in that split second that everyone has made a connection to the people in those vehicles. Five years after the first procession went through Northumberland County, hundreds of people — farmers, business people, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, Legion members,kids — pay tribute to the husbands, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who have given their lives for their country. People have lined bridges on cold winter evenings, rainy nights and evenings when the sun is setting. People have stood for hours waiting on the bridges with their flags, with their homemade signs, some with red Support The Troops shirts. Everyone by now knows someone, or someone with a relation, who has been or is in Afghanistan. Canadians are not trying to conquer a country. They are trying to help the people of Afghanistan. Talking to soldiers, they say we are there for the right reasons. Soldiers give first-hand accounts of the good Canada is doing. And, out of tragic times come good things. In the June 25, 2007 Toronto Sun, columnist Joe Warmington described people standing on Highway 401 bridges from Trenton to Toronto as a “Highway of Heroes” phenomena. Since then, the title has taken on a life of its own. On July 10, I received an e-mail from Cramahe Township volunteer firefighter Ken Awender. Like so many, he said how beautiful it is that scores of people come out to pay tribute. Then he said something that was so simple, I wondered why it hadn’t been thought of before. He suggested a petition should be started to rename the stretch of Highway 401 from Trenton to Toronto as “The Highway of Heroes.” He’s right. The section of highway is 172 kilometres/107 miles long. Already unofficially known as the Highway of Heroes, it’s time we find a way to make it official. It would be a fitting tribute to all the people who stand on the bridges, for all the families who have lost loved ones. Most of all, it will honour our soldiers who die so others can live a better life.