Yesterday's National Day Parade (NDP) marked not just the nation's Golden Jubilee, but also its first parade without Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
The absence of the nation's founding father was keenly felt when cameras panned to his empty seat and the orchids that took his place.
The Aranda Lee Kuan Yew, a bright golden yellow orchid with a green tinge, was named after Mr Lee following his death in March.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong wrote in a Facebook post: "He was not there but his presence was palpable. I imagined Mr Lee Kuan Yew feeling nostalgic, joyful, proud and confident about Singapore's future.
"This is his last parade."
A sombre three-minute film tribute to Mr Lee brought many in the audience, including politicians, to tears. "I was crying so much during the tribute," said private tutor Sherley Williams-Servos, 44.
"He's the main architect of Singapore's success. It's the least we can do for him."
Dr Lily Neo, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, where Mr Lee served as MP, was also in tears. "I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with emotion," she said. "I am so thankful to Mr Lee for his whole life's dedication to ensure Singapore's success and I miss him dearly."
Fellow Tanjong Pagar GRC MP, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, said: "I think no-one was left untouched by the tribute."
The parade's multimedia director, film-maker Boo Junfeng, said the tribute was strung together from different documentaries.
It was set against NDP creative director Dick Lee's stripped-down rendition of this year's National Day song, Our Singapore.
"The key challenge was in differentiating the tribute at NDP from the films that have already been seen many times during the mourning period," said Mr Boo, 31.
"(It) is meant for everyone at the Padang to say that we miss him."
The tribute to Mr Lee also took to the skies, in the form of a "Five Stars" fly-past salute by the Republic of Singapore Air Force's aerobatics team, the Black Knights.
The five F-16s represented Singapore's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. It was a fitting salute, especially given that the Black Knights were unable to honour Mr Lee with their "Missing Man" formation on his funeral day due to rainy weather.
Referring to clips of Mr Lee speaking, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam said: "Mr Lee Kuan Yew's words always move.
"They went to the heart of why Singapore came to be, why it is special 50 years on and what we have to keep reminding ourselves of as we make our future."
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who was Mr Lee's principal private secretary from 1997 to 2000, said he was moved that Mr Lee's fellow pioneer leaders - Mr Othman Wok, Mr Jek Yeun Thong and Mr Ong Pang Boon - joined the parade. "If Mr Lee saw the parade, I think he would have had a deep sense of satisfaction at our progress and said, 'Well done, our people can achieve great things when we work together.'
"Then he would say, 'Life goes on, let's get back to our work of keeping Singapore and Singaporeans safe, stable and happy'," he added.
"The best tribute we can pay to Mr Lee, and our pioneers who gave us the first 50 years, is to stay united and commit ourselves to do our best for Singapore."
Retiree Tan Bee Leng, 64, said: "The fact that we are here celebrating 50 years is something to be happy about. Rather than feel sad that (Mr Lee) is not here, we should remember what he has done for us."
This article was first published on August 10, 2015.
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