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Saturday, 27 February 2010

Sights of London: Remembrance Day at Westminster Abbey

Note 1: High resolution images of some of the following photos are available. These photos are marked with [HiRes] tags in their captions. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

Note 2: Various facts obtained from Wikipedia. All external text-links lead to the related Wikipedia articles.

The Remembrance Day is "a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War".

11th November, 2009. 11am. I was in the school library. It was quite noisy, for a library it is. The tapping of buttons on keyboards. Shuffling of busy footsteps. Thumping of shutting doors. Beeping of entrance barrier.

Until an announcement was made -- two minutes of silence was to be observed.

And all of a sudden, time came to a halt. I stopped in my tracks, along with dozen others. The poorly hushed whispers were gone. I could hear my heart thumping loudly. It was bizarre. Everybody was staring at their feet silently -- everybody was serious, not a single smile to be seen. The same solemn expression was mirrored across every face. Even the occasional ring of phones were missing -- the two-minute silence is observed in unison throughout UK.

For the first time, I could hear the computer's fans whirring away from the computer room.

Two Chinese girls came out of the bathroom, saw the situation and exchanged looks, wondering what happened. Boy, was I glad I wasn't one of them.

And then...

"Thank you."

And just like that, time resumed.

Mere seconds later, the library returned to its noisy state. The fans were inaudible again. It was as if nothing happened.

While Remembrance Day is strictly a one-day event, activities leading up to it (or around it) can last for weeks. Collections of donation, for example, and sales of paper poppies (the flower frequently associated with Remembrance Day) were seen since early October. Advertisements were even put up to raise awareness of the event.

That following weekend happened to be the weekend I went to London. I was greeted with thousands of small wooden memorials at the front yard of Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey
[HiRes] Façade of Westminster Abbey.

Those memorials represented donations from members of the public, I think (I may be wrong). Any one could "buy" a small cross, sign their name on it, and the cross would be put up prior to Remembrance Day. One could then look up on a list of crosses put up on notice boards and try to locate their cross.

Poppies 1
The many wooden memorials at Westminster Abbey. Visitors who have donated will usually try to "reunite" with their memorial for a short photo-shooting session and perhaps a small prayer.

Interestingly, some of the crosses were blank. I guess they put up memorials that weren't sold out by Remembrance Day as well.

Poppies 5
[HiRes] Close up of the crosses. The words "In Remembrance" were printed, but note the different handwriting on different memorials.

Some organisations went great lengths to decorate their memorials.

Poppies 2
[HiRes] Poppies on a memorial cross.

While the Malaysian Army is rarely involved in deadly wars these few decades, things are different in UK. I have lost track of the number of British soldiers who have died in the Afghan War since I arrived.

Poppies 4

This is not taken lightly in the UK. The death of every single soldier is published in newspapers nationwide and announced repeatedly on radio stations. However boring they may be, I can't help but be disturbed by how we human resort to violence to solve problems.

Mourning for Heroes
[HiRes] Mourner.

Especially when the soldiers who died were all around my age. They bravely sacrificed their lives (literally) for their country while I screamed at the sight of a cockroach.

Poppies 3


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