I have often observed the two minutes silence at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month in memory of the fallen in World War One, and of all wars since – and I often think back to the Boer War too as veterans of that ended up in the trenches of WWI. I also think of those who came back; of all they saw and suffered, the comrades they lost and the scars they bore, both visible and deep inside. I think of the thousands of people of all nations suffering from PTSD who have tried to keep us safe.
I say I have “often” observed the silence because if I was working on that day, who knew when the phone might ring or a colleague ask for advice? And unless I have the radio on at home, I might miss the exact time, but when I realise this I always pause for a moment alone, and reflect. Remember.
Last Friday I was shopping for food in Morrisons Supermarket. I try to avoid Friday shopping as it is always busier with people stocking up for the weekend, the car parks were fuller than usual and the aisles crowded. They announced over the tannoy that they would be observing the two minutes silence and I thought “good luck,” how would they stop busy people in a hurry from shopping? But then, at 11, just after I had unloaded my shopping onto the check-out conveyor, everything stopped.
I have never experienced anything like it. A whole shop full of pushing and anxious or grumpy people moments before became silent. Those in the restaurant sat and looked at their food as it cooled, several people there stood up. A few children could be heard, and of course one self-checkout machine that had no idea what had happened. I was near tears in a way I have never been at a war memorial silence; there people have gone out of their way to honour the fallen, here people stopped whatever they were doing and they remembered.
Of course, I have no way of knowing what was in people’s hearts or minds, some may have stood silent from peer pressure, some may have been fuming at the delay, but that wasn’t the feeling I got. And in a week when World politics have been utterly terrifying and hate has seemed to be increasing, it was a moment that gave me hope.
Thank you to all who have sacrificed so much so that others can live in freedom. Please let us learn from their loss.