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Cpl. Nathan Cirillo remembered at sunset ceremony in Hamilton

With a ceremonial beam of light streaming into the dusk sky, the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo stood with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Hamilton Wednesday to remember a son, brother and father who was shot and killed in Ottawa one year ago.

Cirillo was shot and killed while standing guard at National War Memorial on Oct. 22, 2014

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      With a ceremonial beam of light streaming into the dusk sky, the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo stood with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Hamilton Wednesday to remember a son, brother and father who was shot and killed in Ottawa one year ago.

      Surrounded by military officials and hundreds of supporters, Cirillo's sister, Nicole, told the crowd at Hamilton's Bayfront Park that his death has made life "unrecognizable" for her family.

      "There is sorrow and pain, there are expectations and demands, and all we want to do is go back to the world we once knew," she said. "The world that involved Nathan. The world we understood."

      Cirillo, 24, was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Oct. 22, 2014, when a gunman approached from behind and fatally shot him. The attack happened two days after another soldier, Warrant officer Patrice Vincent was killed in a targeted hit and run in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

      Wednesday night's ceremony was the precursor to a second memorial event being held in Ottawa Thursday.

      After members of Cirillo's unit marched into Hamilton's Bayfront Park, Rev. Robert Fead, the regimental chaplain, read from the Old Testament and asked the crowd to let the reservist's life and death inspire them to "work for greater peace."

      "The emptiness and sense of grief we feel is meant to keep us connected," he said. "Those bonds of love cannot be broken — even by death."

      Finding a new normal

      The ceremony featured military manoeuvres from the Argylls and a powerful spotlight meant to represent Cirillo's life that was shone into the night sky. A very sombre crowd watched the light during a moment of silence, punctuated by the sounds of crying throughout the crowd.

      Master Cpl. Jesse Hall told CBC News the unit has come together in the aftermath of Cirillo's death and is doing everything possible to support each other.

      "You have to try to find your new normal, to fill the hole where a person used to be," Hall said. "The people you turn to for strength are the people to your left and right, your fellow soldiers."

      Though it has been a year since Cirillo's shooting, the shock of the violent act still hasn't totally worn off, Hall said.

      "When you're in a war zone, you prepare for the reality that you'll lose people. But there's a sense of safety in Canada. It was just unreal."

      'Most of all, Nathan loved'

      When Cirillo's fellow soldiers speak about him, the same traits keep popping up. They talk about a well-known, well-liked father of a young son who was shifting into a leadership role in his unit and mentoring new soldiers.

      His sister said Cirillo was a proud soldier and a kid at heart who loved animals.

      "He loved adventure and risk, but most of all, Nathan loved," she said. "He loved his family and friends. And anyone that knew him knows how much love was behind that perfect smile."

      Now, the Cirillos need to learn to move forward while keeping Nathan in their hearts and minds, she said.

      "One thing I know for sure that has never changed in our lives is the amount of love that we have in our family."

      adam.carter@cbc.ca

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