Queuing is a very Singaporean trait these days. We like things to be done orderly, and queuing is the fairest way to take turns. You’ll see Singaporeans queuing at food stalls, at the cashier, for buses, etc.
But from 25 to 28 March 2015, Singaporeans queued like they had never queued before! You’ll see a picture of how we queued on page 64 of The Little Singapore Book.
A few days before, on 23 March 2015, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister and founding father, passed away at 91 years old. Everyone in Singapore was very sad and lots and lots of people wanted to pay their respects to this man whom people knew as the “Father of Modern Singapore”. When his body lay in state at the Parliament House, massive queues of people formed on the first day, as tens of thousands of people waited to see him one last time. The line snaked all around the business district of Shenton Way, along the historic Singapore river, in front of shophouses and office buildings, until it reached the Parliament House. The queue was eight hours long, and whether in rain or under the hot sun, Singaporeans were willing to wait in line.
For four days, volunteers, policemen and army soldiers helped to organise the queue which now wound its way many times around the Padang, to the floating platform at Marina Square, and back again. The queue went on non-stop day and night for four days, with people often waiting for as long as eight hours. The only time the queue was closed was when the crowds grew too large and the organisers needed to clear those who were waiting.
Old people, pregnant women, the handicapped and little children had an ‘express queue’ which was a little shorter. For that, they still had to wait for over an hour.
During this national week of mourning, Singaporeans of all shapes, sizes, colours and ages came together to help each other, handing out food and water and umbrellas for those patiently waiting. It was an amazing sight. It also showed how much people respected Mr Lee, the country’s first Prime Minister, who took us from Independence to First World success in 50 short years.
By the time the queue was closed on 28th March 8pm to prepare for the State Funeral, over 415,000 people from all walks of life had queued to say farewell to Mr Lee.