Remembrance Day is upon us and each year, Today’s Northumberland tries to share a special story.
This year, it’s from the mother of a 23-year-old Sub-Lieutenant who was one of six people killed in a helicopter crash off the coast of Greece when the CH-148 Cyclone helicopter plummeted into international waters between Greece and Italy on April 29, 2020.
Capt. Kevin Hagen, Sub-Lt. Abbigail Cowbrough, Capt. Brenden Ian MacDonald, Master Cpl. Matthew Cousins, Sub-Lt. Matthew Pyke and Capt. Maxime Miron-Morin were killed in the crash.
A military investigation found that an autopilot issued played a role in the deadly crash.
Today’s Northumberland asked if Tanya Cowbrough would like to write a column about her daughter.
Below is the column in her words.
Both my grand fathers served in the Second World War along with my great uncles and my great aunts who specifically drove trucks for the military.
This comes from a long line of women in my family that have learned to fight for what they need, want, and what’s right.
My daughter Abbigail was tied closely to a belief in God and her Country.
I remember a morning my grandfathers frail body danced a three week old Abbigail around the room singing Waltzing Matilda.
He looked up at me and said ‘she’ll be the president one day’.
We all giggled and said ‘oh grandpa, Canadians don’t have a president.’
Many times I wondered about my grandfathers service. We asked questions, but they never spoke about it. Only when I had my daughter did either of my grandfathers feel the need to tell some stories, show pictures of their training in Shearwater and Halifax, and give me a small idea of their sacrifice.
My kids grew up in a wonderful open family setting. Each of my friends have four children. Each one apart from each other. Those women come in very handy later in my story.
I had to move my children into a shelter for certain reasons the winter of 2009. That Fall with carpets on our windows Abbigail joined the Peterborough Air Cadets.
A week or so later she joined the band. Even though none of my family is musically inclined, Abbagail picked the flute.
She was very aware of what little work she could do with the most impact.
Abbigail looked at how she could make her life better the easiest way possible.
By Remembrance Day 2009 Abbigail was begging Bob Stewart of the Hasty P’s to teach her the bag pipes. He was sooo reluctant to do it. Ugh, a child playing his precious bag pipes.
But with Abbigail’s love she started to have others interested in breathing life into a band that was brewing to make the region alive again.
My daughter started highland dancing her way into the hearts of others, however her piping was what made eyes weep.
Abbigail thrived under her Hasty P Regiment. She grew in ways I would never have been able to guide her.
Abbigail’s journey continued through Cadet Camp yearly. Rising through those ranks to Pipe Major in her last year.
Abbi applied to the Forces and then her step dad followed suit.
When we were posted to Nova Scotia with her step father. Abbigail told me she was going to take the year off from Cadets.
That lasted three weeks.
I heard her one afternoon crying which is something I didn’t hear often.
Abbi was the kind of girl that ran fast, fell, jumped up, spit on her hands and rubbed her knees, so the sound of her tears threw me. She came to me and asked for my car. Thirty-five minutes later she arrived home bouncing through the door. That smile of hers always did things to my soul nothing else could do.
She shouted at the top of her lungs that she was the new piper for the Magnificent Navy Cadets. That graduation year there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Abbigail lead the band into the room as they played Highland Cathedral.
Abbigail, my daughter was one of a kind.
She was the kind of person that loved what she did and the people she served.
Abbi was given three scholarships but waited for her greatest honour – Royal Military College..
She struggled during her time at RMC.
Abbi found out she was not the honour student she thought she was.
While Abbigail was at RMC she lost five school mates in tragedies. It was a tough place to be at that time.
God bless those that lost their lives.
Abbi struggled with, depression, fear, adventure, but most of all, she loved her military family.
It is what made her the woman she was.
When Abbigail graduated RMC my fingers were crossed – I needed her where I was in Nova Scotia.
The we found out she was posted to Halifax. She settled in wonderfully and it was perfect.
She loved her Shearwater Pipes and Drums band along with the Union Fire Hall Pipes and Drums.
A wonderful man Bruce Grandy was a pillar of strength for her.
Abbigail was a second mother/aunt to a number of her friends babies. She was a sister of three boys and three girls, cousin to eight, aunt to three babies one of witch she is named after.
She was proud to have played in three Nova Scotia Tattoos, the Edinburg Tattoo, and the bag pipe worlds in Scotland.
At the age of 23, she bought her first home, furnished it, had a car, a motorcycle and all the hopes and dreams of those that loved her.
Just days before Abbigail left for her deployment, she held my crying face in her hands and told me I’d be ok till she got back.
Abbigail was a person you trusted, you believed in. You knew what she said was true and I never doubted that. You followed her into what ever adventure she was on. You would believe anything she said. Maybe this is why God needed her home with him.
After the shootings in Truro where we lost Heidi Stevenson and before the Snowbird accident with the loss of Jen Casey, Abbigail stood on the ship and played Amazing Grace for us all.
This small moment my daughter gave for us led to the only way I was able to cope with her loss.
The moment the pipes start up, we all take an extra breath preparing ourselves for the tears about to flow.
I often wonder what a beautiful leader Abbigail would have made. However, on Abbigail’s deployment with the HMCS Fredricton, she took her last call to duty.
Along with five other military officers that lost their lives serving our country. These people give us hope, they give us freedom. As we remember them and all their brothers in arms, I repeat what I wrote in her obituary.
When Abbigail’s body was repatriated to at CFB Trenton, we were blessed by the many people that lined the roads from Trenton to Toronto to deliver Abbigail’s body to the coroners office. On
Abbigail’s death the women that helped me raise my daughter, rallied together and contacted the Highway of Heroes. This organization gave me a lasting memorial and legacy. Something I was not capable of doing myself.
I never imagined the support I would be given by the people of Ontario let alone those in Nova Scotia.
On April29th, 2022, the Highway of Heroes honoured me with the planting of a tree at Regal Road Public School that spun the web of magnificence to honour my girl.
The people that stood on the side of the road, the young children saluting with thier little toes and polished shoes.
Thank you to those families that took a moment to honour those that followed.
Thank you to the farmer in the field his tractor decorated with Canadian flags.
I was able to preserve my makeup as the tears wept down the cheeks of those along the highway. Those that held flags.
Those that stood on fire trucks and as we entered Toronto.
Those that saluted as TTC members respecting Abbigail’s father Pino Pittarelli.
The motorcycles hounouring John Collins, Abbi’s biological father.
I have never looked forward more to a Remembrance service.
This is my time to be grateful for all those that have served and all those that will.
We have one death to spend, and who would not want to pass with brothers in arms.
Abbigail did not die for her God, Country, or family, she lived for them.