The Silence

The bell tolls. Eleven. The man in front of me takes off his hat and bows his head. One of a crowd of hundreds, not thousands.  It’s a small town.  Here we stand, ordinary people in the open air, like millions across the country,  all over the world.

The roads nearby are closed, blocked by a few police cars, to keep the traffic at bay.

A brass band’s led the usual procession through the streets: dignitaries in robes and chains of office, veterans with medals and badges and troops of scouts and cadets carrying flags, marching out of step….   All assembled now –  in a public garden with a memorial monument. It’s cold, but clear and bright, as it so often is on Remembrance Sunday.

A bugle is blown. We are gathered together in the morning for the simplest of devotions – a pause to honour the lost of wars without end. No one looks at anyone else. Our hearts start to slow, as they do when at rest. A dog barks in the distance, deepening the Silence, already warm and full.

It’s nothing like the waiting for a message that refuses to arrive or the watching of a phone that just will not ring.  It’s only the faintest echo of the one that engulfed the Fallen and a far cry from the oblivion over the unmarked graves that no one can visit, where no birds sing. We know when it will end and that it will be the same next year.  Two minutes – no time at all.

Another bugle blown,  then the mayor lays the first of many wreaths of poppies on the steps of the memorial.

The crowd starts to drift away in different directions, across the bridge near the garden, past the park, down the main street.  A metal barrier is moved aside. The roads are open again.  Three policemen approach their cars.  You can tell from the shapes of their uniforms and the way they move,  that two of them are armed.

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