Like everyone else in Singapore, I woke up to the heartbreaking news that Singapore’s beloved Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has passed away, and with a somber weight I dragged myself to school in the morning.
Everyone in school was talking about Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing. My lecturer took a minute of silence before class, which just made the reality of the matter sink in deeper for all of us. Right after the morning class, I left the National University of Singapore campus at 12 noon and rushed down to Dhoby Ghaut, in hopes to at least catch a glimpse of the commotion at the Istana.
Scrolling through various social media channels while on the MRT, I could tell that the atmosphere of the place was already set. It was that of extreme solemn and grief… But little did I know, what I saw on my phone was just a fraction of reality. Nothing could compare to actually being at the site.
I was greeted by hundreds of people, both Singaporeans and foreigners, decked in a standardised monochrome black and white while crowding around the gates of the Istana. Quite a number of them had flowers in their hands, while most of them were glued to their smartphones (most probably for documenting purposes).
It was clear that most of the crowd was made up of senior citizens, and I daresay this is evident of how the older generations are the ones who have a greater weight in mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew during this period.
Expectedly, reporters were everywhere. It was as if every media station in Singapore was represented on site, eager to get comments from the public, but at the same time also respecting the individuals’ privacy at this sensitive time. They were gentle at approaching the public for thoughts and comments, of which I thought was professional and definitely appreciated.
At around 1pm, the mourners took several steps forward and pressed themselves against the barricades, only to witness the highlight of their afternoon. The hearse carrying Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s body, surrounded by tons of security vehicles, was driving past us into the Istana.
The gloom silence was then pierced by the shouts of “Thank you Mr. Lee!” and hopeless cries of “Lee Kuan Yew…” as the hearse drove past the crowd. These emotions and genuine wailings will be something I will never forget. It was only for a few seconds, but the crowd clapped and cheered as one when the hearse passed the Istana gates. As one of the many who broke down in this intense moment, a middle-aged woman in front of me burst into tears and wept uncontrollably when she saw the coffin, which can be heard in the Instagram video below:
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[please watch this video with sound] Skipped school for couple of hours to witness this historical moment of the hearse carrying Mr Lee Kuan Yew into the Istana. Was so close to tears when my friend (@changcyy) from a local radio station interviewed me on site, where I found myself spilling these words: "I've never met the man, but all my life as a Singaporean, in these 20 years, Lee Kuan Yew has been a grandfather to me." #RIPLeeKuanYew, may the Lord bless you and keep you.
Above all the mourning and cries of the people, I will always remember this afternoon as one of extreme sincerity and gratitude – definitely a priceless event to witness as a Singaporean.
To many, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore.
– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his public eulogy for his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew, my generation might not have witnessed the ways in which you have fearlessly built up Singapore, but we have the wonders of our little country today that will always serve as a monument of your legacy. Rest in peace.–
Cover Photo: Reuters
A private family wake will be held from Monday to Tuesday at Sri Temasek.
Those who wish to pay their last respects at Parliament House can do so from 10am to 8pm daily from Wednesday to Saturday.
A State Funeral Service will be held at 2pm on Sunday at the University Cultural Centre, National University of Singapore.