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Cpl. Nathan Cirillo honoured at Hamilton funeral

Casket carrying Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton on Oct. 28, 2014. 680NEWS/Momin Qureshi

Thousands of people lined the streets of Hamilton on Tuesday to pay respects to an unarmed soldier gunned down as he stood ceremonial guard in Ottawa in what the prime minister called a terrorist attack.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s coffin, carried atop a gun carriage to Christ’s Church Cathedral, was accompanied by members of his regiment as well as scores of soldiers and police officers marching to the sounds of muffled drums.

In a homily, Rev. Canon Rob Fead called Cirillo “Canada’s son” and said the tragedy of his death helped bring the country together.

“We gather this day in faith and in hope,” Fead told mourners. “His bravery, his sacrifice, is not in vain.”

In a message to Cirillo’s regiment, the Queen expressed sorrow at his death under such “grievous” circumstances.

“I send my deepest sympathy to all those affected by this tragedy, in particular to members of Cpl. Cirillo’s own family,” the Queen, the regiment’s colonel-in-chief, said in her note.

Near the church, people lined up four deep to watch the procession, many of them holding Canadian flags and balloons emblazoned with the Maple Leaf. At one point on the route, a group of young women sang the national anthem, drawing cheers and applause from the crowd.

However, as the casket went by, silence befell the street save for the mournful strains of bagpipes or drumming.

Hundreds of bouquets and wreaths were piled on the steps Lt.-Col. John Weir Foote armoury, along with written tributes to Cirillo.

“Reservist Cpl, Nathan Cirillo — we will never forget your sacrifice,” one read.

Others left toys and treats for Cirillo’s dog.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen were among family, friends and a host of dignitaries bidding a final farewell to Cirillo, 24, at the full regimental funeral.

Because only invited guests were allowed into the funeral service, proceedings were broadcast on screens at a sporting arena in the city.

Ron Weinberger, whose son Ryan was a close friend of Cirillo’s, said he believed something positive had come out of the tragedy of Cirillo’s death.

“It really seemed to unite the country,” Weinberger said as he walked to the church.

“That unity, that strength — that’s what Nathan has done.”

Cirillo, the father of a five-year-old son, is to be buried in a field of honour at a Hamilton cemetery.

An honorary flypast by the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s B-25 Mitchell, a twin-engined bomber, was also planned.

Cirillo was standing guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa last Wednesday when a gunman shot him in the back before rushing into the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, where security staff felled him in a hail of bullets.

His death came two days after another soldier, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, was run down and killed in an attack south of Montreal.

A fundraising effort for their families has raised $550,000.

On Monday, a steady stream of mourners filed into a funeral home to pay their respects at his open coffin.

Cirillo lay in his formal uniform, his white-gloved hands crossed on his chest, as two members of his regiment stood guard on either side of the coffin.

The sight drew tears from many mourners, a number of whom didn’t know him personally but felt compelled to pay tribute to him.

“You feel like you know him. And because of the type of work he was doing, for the whole country, you felt like you had to be there,” said Patricia Fitzgerald, who had travelled from Mississauga to pay her respects.

“I hope his family will get some solace from the outpouring of grief that they’ve seen.”

Cirillo’s son Marcus attended a private visitation for his father on Sunday wearing the hat worn by those in the soldier’s regiment.

Wreaths, bouquets and signs of support have been laid outside Cirillo’s family home and outside the funeral home where his visitations were held.

Thousands of people also expressed their grief and paid tribute along the Highway of Heroes, from Ottawa to Hamilton, as Cirillo’s body was brought home on Friday.

Cirillo’s family issued a statement Friday evening thanking Canadians for their support.

Here’s a feed of Twitter posts by CityNews and 680News reporters during the funeral.


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The funeral program is below, or click here for a mobile-friendly version.