I'm not especially proud of my one clear memory of the October Crisis.

I was riding the 165 bus north on Cote des Neiges on my way home at the end of the day, after the War Measures Act had been passed. These were still the old style bug-like brown buses labouring up the hill with difficulty even when it wasn't winter.

I believe the soldiers got on at the Montreal General--but I can't swear to that. There were four or five of them, in khaki, guns slung over their shoulders. They stood in a clump at the front, their bearing erect, their faces stern. They were very young, maybe even younger than me.

Outside it was pouring. The boys brought with them an eery silence broken only by the rhythmic thud of the windshield wipers.

My heart thumped along in unison. By their presence, the soldiers underlined the danger we were in. Yet they were there to pull us back from some historical precipice.

I was on familiar terms with history. I worked at an historical research centre called the Centre d'Étude du Québec at Sir George Williams University. We were compiling a parliamentary record for the 1840s before such reporting was standard. Important members of the legislative assembly had participated in the rebellions of 1837 and I sympathized with their cause.

I wasn't yet 23 when the October Crisis began but I'd also lived through some history myself. As a child, exactly 14 years earlier in 1956, I had watched Soviet soldiers in tanks rolling through my Budapest neighbourhood. They were the enemy. Hungarian Freedom fighters firing at them from close range positioned themselves by my house. In the basement shelter I quaked at each deafening blast of the cannon. At night I wet my pants.

Now all over again we were being plunged into history. This was history as it was in '56, not in books or on microfilm. Two prominent hostages. Manifestos read on radio, printed in newspapers. The prime minister declaring a state of apprehended insurrection.

My other memories of the October crisis are fuzzy--shadowy images culled from the media, and, anyway, where does memory end and the mind's embellishments begin? Did I see Pierre Laporte's body stuffed into the trunk of a car on television or in the papers? The gold chain with the religious medallion used to strangle him--I couldn't possibly have laid eyes on it--yet that's a detail I recall.

But this part is crystal clear: I was awfully glad to see those soldiers at the front of the bus. They were there to protect me and the way of life my family had come to Canada for. And what do I feel now?

With hindsight, regret.

I wish I'd been braver and smarter. I wish I'd at least asked myself whether bringing in the army might be overkill. I wish I'd been more troubled by potential abuses. At the time, I was a card-carrying member of the NDP, yet I believed that David Lewis and Tommy Douglas, who opposed the War Measures Act, were wrong. They weren't going through what Montrealers were in 1970. They didn't feel the pounding of my heart.