Mr Lee Kuan Yew
1923 - 2015
SAYING GOODBYE: PARLIAMENT HOUSE, PADANG
It is the place that has witnessed it all in the last few days, from snaking queues of tens of thousands of people, to yesterday's 21- gun salute in honour of the nation's first Prime Minister.
As Singapore mourned the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Padang was also the place where Singaporeans showed the best of themselves.
As Mr Lee lay in state at Parliament House from last Wednesday to Saturday, more than 450,000 people turned up to pay their respects. Never mind the queues of up to 10 hours through the Padang, or the scorching sun. Not a complaint was heard.
In fact, everyday folk turned up to give out food, water and umbrellas, and even spray cooling mist and collect rubbish from the crowd, just to make the wait a little more pleasant.
As thousands turned up again yesterday, this time to say one last goodbye to Mr Lee as the funeral procession passed by, it was no different.
For instance, business owner Amy Lee, 43, and 15 members of her extended family, including her 82-year-old father-in-law Chia Tong Fong, were out distributing miniature Singapore flags at the main entrance of Raffles City shopping mall at 8.30am yesterday. They had bought 10,000 of the flags, and gave them all out in under three hours.
Said Madam Lee: "We wanted everyone here to be able to wave the Singapore flag during the funeral procession and show how much they love this country, and thank Mr Lee for everything he had done for us."
When torrential rain blanketed the city centre an hour before the cortege left Parliament House, many were caught by surprise.
But as retiree Rejina Tan, 61, found out, others jumped in to help. "It's the first time that I've seen so many Singaporeans being so kind and caring to each other... Strangers were helping each other to wear the ponchos and were sharing umbrellas," she said.
Mr Jason Lin, 27, who works in an IT company, was surprised at how orderly and patient the crowd was. "You could really feel that sense of unity... volunteers were patient and helpful, and the crowd were understanding and never complained," he said. "That's what being Singaporean means and, hopefully, it will continue even after this."
Many were also appreciative that the Urban Redevelopment Authority decided to open The Jubilee Bridge - which links Merlion Park to the promenade in front of the Esplanade - yesterday, a month earlier than planned. This meant more had a good vantage point to watch the procession.
Said housewife Audrey Koh, 48: "I think we have proven those doubters wrong. We don't need to be showy but we will come together when it matters."
ITE graduate Yuma Amalinapasha, 20, believes the spirit will live on. "We saw people of different races and ages coming together," she said. "Perhaps we need to do this more often, and not just in sad times."
This article was first published on Mar 30, 2015.
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