Today was ANZAC day, which commemorates the start of the battle of Gallipoli in WWI, when the first set of Australian troops who fought as Australians (instead of just adding to the ranks of Englad) went into battle. The raid commenced at dawn, and so they remember the event with dawn ceremonies across Australia. The past two weeks I knew ANZAC day was approaching, and last year I was in San Francisco working when the rest of my colleagues were enjoying a holiday, so I didn’t really know anything about it. Tuesday afternoon Kelvin asked me if I wanted to come to the Cenopath ceremony at Martin Place at 4:30 AM. Kelvin is a known practical joker and so once I googled the ceremony and confirmed that it was legit, I was in.
It wasn’t easy rolling out of bed at 3;45 AM on a holiday. I hopped on my bike and rode in the dark morning chill up William Street towards Martin place where the ceremony would begin. I smiled thinking that getting up early and being a little chilly was 1000 times easier than being 18 years old, half way around the world away from home, and about to charge into enemy territory knowing that the chances of you ever seeing home again weren’t high.
While I have my issues with a lot of Australia, they honor their military and their veterans with a reverence that is humbling. Cenotaph means empty tomb, a memorial to all those who are buried away from their homeland as a part of giving their life for their country. On one side is the words “OUR GLORIOUS DEAD” and on the other side “LEST WE FORGET”. We have seen a lot of WWI and WWII monuments around Australia. I had never witnessed the personal connection between Australians and their veterans.
The ceremony was still and quiet. Not a person of the thousands packing the streets all around Martin place made a sound. The honor guards marched in, along with local politicians and representatives of veterans groups all around, with active military bands and soldiers moving it. The speaker’s words were soft and yet each one hit you with a great deal of impact. I was deeply moved by how solemn the event was – perhaps its the British heritage that lends Australians their serious streak, but I’ve never experienced something like this in the states. I’ve felt incredibly patriotic, grateful, and humbled by what the U.S Armed Forces has given all of us, but this ceremony is not something I’ve seen before.
Later on Lisa and I went hiking in the Royal National Park. Just a short hike, but the morning made me realize how lucky we all are.
Tomorrow, back to running.