By: The Editorial
They came by the thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Under the hot sun they patiently stood in what would certainly be the longest queue ever seen anywhere this century. Some 5 kilometres long. Maybe more. On a Wednesday. A working day. Just to bid farewell to someone who would have wanted them to work instead. And work hard.
But they didn’t care. And more will not care in the days to come. By the end of the mourning period, a few millions would have trudged the hallowed roads surrounding the famous river that had brought life to this country, and that is now a witness to the passing of a great man; cradling the lifeless body of its greatest son for the world to weep upon.
And as the day wore on, more people came. One queue became two. And then three. Snaking kilometres long, from all corners towards the place of his rest.
And just when the situation was about to turn to chaos, we showed the world what Singapore is truly made off. Well-rehearsed plans were quickly abandoned and new ones made on the spot. Roads and streets were quickly closed to traffic. Queues reformed. Bottles of drinking water were distributed. Free. Just like how Singaporeans love it. And some free food too from the coffee-shops and restaurants that lined the streets. While companies and shops provided chairs and benches for those in the queue to sit and rest their tired legs.
Ushers in sombre black and white uniforms were quickly mobilised to bring the elderly folks, the sick and the young to the front of the queue. No one complained.
And what was supposed to end at 8pm each night, was made to never end at all. And the trains were made to run non-stop for 24 hours.
Even in grief, we were efficient. In grief we remained united.
And at the end of an 8-hour of queueing, you will enter a nondescript place. The foyer of the spartan, zen-like parliament building. Unpretentious. Unbefitting of a legend.
And in the middle of it all, lies an unremarkable coffin draped with the National Flag.
And then you will silently pray for him. And think of him. And suddenly it will become abundantly clear to you.
It is not that the foyer is spartan. It is not that the coffin is unremarkable. It is not that the atmosphere lacks the sad splendour befitting of a great man.
It is that, the man whom we are paying our respect to, exuded an aura of such immensity that it makes everything else seems so austere.
He is after all. LEE KUAN YEW.