Remembering today

It’s 11 November 2020. Yesterday, it was announced that a COVID-19

vaccine with a success rate of over 90% had been developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

It has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries, with no safety concerns raised, and offers immunity in a couple of jabs,

the first of which are predicted to take place before Christmas this year. It’s 11 November 2020. On this day, 102 years ago, hostilities ceased along the Western Front.

 My English set, convening at 10.45am, resolves to leave the classroom at 11am to observe two minutes’ silence.

We stand outside Coach House, some fidgeting, blazerless, from foot to foot, while the rest hover awkwardly, untethered from our books. It’s still. It’s quite chilly.

A distant, faintly muffled explosion, emblematic of a gun salute, sounds from the direction of SciTec,

while two complementary renditions of the Last Post spiral through the autumn air from opposite corners of the School.

One pupil, hurrying from a music lesson, catches sight of our small group

and halts, suddenly, as the music of Remembrance rings out. Today is a strange day.

 As the pandemic gathered strength, we were quick to anticipate the inevitable impact on our celebratory customs: our Easters, our birthdays, our Christmases.

We united in the opinion that the sense of togetherness was what made these occasions truly joyous.

We lamented the division of families, the prohibition of large gatherings, the impossibility of live events.

Memories of past holidays spent in the blissful company of others rose dimly before our eyes. We forgot, perhaps, that such togetherness is also the crucial element in our more sombre traditions.

The immense global grief of over a century ago left an impression so deep that, even today, we can only really experience it as one.

Of course, it is possible to grieve privately but the loss of 40 million of the world’s inhabitants – aside from the current context of the virus’ horrific trail of destruction – can never truly be conceived by a lone individual.

‘We will remember them’: in fact, we need each other to remember them. Now, more than ever.

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