Remembrance Day always gets to me here in London. Literally, the whole city (and country) comes to a standstill for 2 minutes of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and it’s a sight to behold. Today I was in Sainsbury’s doing a quick shop when literally every shopping trolley, every till, nearly every customer, all the employees came to a halt, bowed heads, and remembered. Always gives me the chills.
It’s not just Sainsbury’s. It’s the fact that the whole country, collectively, on a busy Saturday morning, stops its every day activities for 2 minutes and observes, remembers, reflects on those who died fighting for their country and our freedom during World War I. One year I came up out of the Tube at Sloane Square and the the whole square was motionless, like a mass mannekin challenge that had yet to be invented. The busses, the taxis, the people, the movement literally ceased. Engines turned off. Conversations stopped. All was still and silent. Absolutely beautiful.
I don’t think we can do this in the U.S. because of the time-zones, perhaps? Or because just too many people? My thought is that we Americans have a tendency to put weight, focus, thought, energy towards the future a little too much rather than reflecting on the past. I think the Brits lean just the opposite (I’m sure there’s a happy middle somewhere), but in this case, they are very good at giving due reverence to history — perhaps because it was so close and so tangible and right here on Europe’s doorstep. They also have the poppy lapels out in force for about 2 weeks leading up to November 11th. They sell them for a pound outside grocery stores, at schools, in offices. You see them in all your meetings, on the telly with all the news anchors and presenters. A few years ago, there was a wonderful display of poppies at the Tower of London. If you ever have a chance to be in England in the beginning of November, don’t miss this moving and emotional commemoration of Armistice Day.