Centenary at the Cenotaph
November 11, 2018, was quite possibly the most memorable day of my experience so far in London. Sundays are usually quiet, but this Sunday was particularly special, as it marked the 100th year since the end of World War I. Understanding it was a huge milestone— especially in the United Kingdom— I decided to take a trip to the Cenotaph in the heart of London to pay my respects.
Remembrance Day, or Veteran’s Day in the States, is symbolized by the poppy. As far as I know, there are at least three poppy colors: red, white, and purple. Each have a special meaning: Red historically memorializes those killed in World War I, but white and purple poppies also have become remembrance colors.
The poppy can be found almost everywhere: People wear them throughout the day, and they cover the trains in the tubes as well. With my poppy on, I arrived at the Cenotaph about a half hour before the 11th hour, only to be met with the largest crowd of people I’ve ever seen. As I searched for a place to get some good pictures near the monument, I found a spot atop a metallic lion in Trafalgar Square, which had a great view of the street the Cenotaph is on.
The spot was small, but manageable. It attracted some attention, as I took a few pictures on a woman’s phone and helped two children on the ledge next to me. I soon realized, however, that no picture could describe to you or my future self the feelings in the air at 11:00.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day, a nationwide two minutes of silence took place. It began with a gun salute on horseback and Big Ben ringing 11 times. The entire section of this city went quiet as soon as the noises were heard. Cars, coaches, and every single person went completely silent; it was truly remarkable. Following the end of the two minutes, most people left, as it was basically impossible to see far enough down the street to where the service was.
After reading about this moment of time in history books, it was surreal to finally see it happen. I am so grateful to have been among thousands of people from different walks of life gathered on a few small London streets to commemorate The Great War. It truly was an experience I will never forget.