Tribolum.com Making Light of Things

Our 1968 Moment

We stood at the sides of the road, waiting for LKY’s cortege to pass by, many hoping to catch one last glimpse before his funeral and cremation. The rain started pelting down in full force on the crowd equipped with umbrellas and ponchos. People trying hard to shelter other people, some passing out spare ponchos that they had brought along with them. Vertically-challenged latecomers were welcomed to squeeze to the front of the crowd so everyone could have a view, however small.

It was a moment where the laws of scarcity were temporarily suspended, and generosity and the people’s largeness of heart manifested itself.

When we found out that the cortege would be travelling on the other side of the road, some expressed their disappointment, but it became clear that we were witnessing something more significant than the passing of a great man.

As we heard the howitzers start their 21-gun salute, we knew that the cortege was round the corner and would soon be coming up the Esplanade bridge.

“Ok, umbrellas down!” someone shouted. There was no expressed resistance as everyone folded up their umbrellas. We stood in the pouring rain, waiting for that split second to bid a final farewell to the chiefest of our pioneers.

No sign of the cortege. I silently wondered if we put down our umbrellas a tad early.

I looked around. This was what I had come to witness and be part of: man, woman and child, all standing silently in the rain, from all walks of life and ethnicity. And that is the sheer beauty of Singapore! The display of resilience and unity — a small symbol no doubt — gives hope that we do have what it takes to march onward together in the years ahead.