CORNWALL ONTARIO – It was a day of celebration for Cornwall residents today as the Olympic flame was carried through the town, en route to the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The festivities started at 10:00am and continued until 1:00 pm with the torch making its way to Lamoureux Park shortly before noon.
There were many torch bearers who participated in bringing the torch down the 138 from Ottawa; the one who will be forever imprinted in the memories of all observers will be the final torch bearer, Rik Saaltink.
Rik Saaltink and his Wife Brenda lost their daughter Heather last December in a tragic car accident on the 138, while returning home from Christmas shopping in Ottawa. Heather was an honour student in her last year of the philosophy program at Lakehead University and also an accomplished athlete.
The sudden loss of such a young and promising woman was felt immediately as it rippled through the community. After her death Heather was chosen as a torch bearer and her father took her place in her honour.
As Mr. Saaltink made his way down the steps from the clock tower and towards the stage, the thousands of people who came to see the flame erupted with cheers. The cheers were for both the historic moment that the crowd was witnessing but also for Heather and her family.
Mr. Saaltrink ran down the corridor that was taped off for him and gave high fives to people in the crowd as he jumped around with his hands, torch and head held high. The spirit of Cornwall was out today in full force and it seemed to thrust Mr. Saaltink to the stage where he lit the cauldron triumphantly, as the crowd continued to cheer.
Mrs. Saaltink joined her husband on stage as mixed tears of joy and sorrow streamed down her face. After the lighting of the cauldron Mr. Saaltink while embracing his Wife, approached the microphone. In his address to the crowds, Mr. Saaltink cried, “it is such an overwhelming feeling to have been given this honour and support from the community. This is such a great way to honour Heather. This is a celebration!”
After being presented with a commemorative plaque, Mayor Bob Kilger had a few words to say to the Saaltink family. He approached the two and said, “I would like to thank Rik and his Wife for sharing Heather with us. She truly embodied the idea of the Olympics.”
Just before the arrival of the flame, local celebrity Graham Greer sang a song from his new CD entitled “Bring me Fire”. As Greer shouted out “bring me fire, and bring me flame” moments before the flame was in view, Mr. Saaltink fueled by the crowd and memory of this daughter, emerged from the crowd and answered his call.
(photos courtesy of Markus Noé)
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