March 11, 2020 was the day we gathered in the Ottawa Public Library auditorium and enjoyed what we did not know would be the HSO’s final in-person ’Speaker Series’ presentation of 2020.
Little did we suspect that March 11, 2020 was destined to go down in history as ’The Day That Changed Everything’.
At 10:59 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified before the U.S. Congress that the nation’s 647 COVID-19 cases were only the beginning.
At 12:26 p.m. the World Health Organization declared COVID a global pandemic.
At 9:31 p.m. the NBA announced that it was suspending its season.
Earlier in the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had announced the first $1 billion to be spent in response to the pandemic and re-assured Canadians that “we will get through this together”. By the end of the week most Ontarians had cancelled their March Break travel plans.
Ironically, the topic of our fascinating HSO presentation that day had been Élisabeth Bruyère’s Grey Nuns and their courageous battle against Bytown’s deadly 1847 typhus epidemic.
The next day the HSO was among the first in Ottawa to announce the suspension of our remaining Spring 2020 events.
Our Society was founded in 1898 and we have endured two World Wars, the 1918 flu and the Great Depression. Over the decades we have, out of necessity, adapted and evolved continuously.
We were established 122 years ago to honour our history. Over that time our Society has itself come to play an integral part in Ottawa’s history.
As have our sister organizations, the HSO discovered the wonder of virtual presentations — now drawing enthusiastic audiences even larger than we had accommodated in the OPL auditorium. Walking tours have been socially distanced, and publications have been shared electronically.
For better or for worse, all of us have been extraordinary witnesses to history this past year.
Photo: Historical Society of Ottawa’s early members in front of the Bytown Museum. Photo: © Historical Society of Ottawa.