Thinking of the Dead

On May 4th people all over the Netherlands participated in 2 minutes of silence at exactly 8pm to remember and think of the dead fallen in wars, especially WWII.  Every year at the Dam there is a ceremony, lead by the Queen and Prince Willem-Alexander.  People gather to of course see the Queen and other invited guests, but also to participate in the event.  I decided that, since I was in town anyway for SnB night, I would also go to the Dam to see the Queen and participate.  I had seen this event on tv many times and always thought it a bit of a shame to live in Amsterdam and not be there.  Now that I live in Haarlem, I decide to go.  

I did my best to get there in time for a good spot, but I was a bit too late for that.  I got there around 6:30 and was stuck 4 deep behind the barriers.  Ah well, I had a little triangle, if I stood on my toes, to get a split second view.

Given the events of Thursday, you can imagine the tight security.  There were police, in uniform and plain clothes, everywhere.  All the streets were well blocked off and they were searching pedestrians’ bags as they came streaming in.  Here are some photos of the surrounds.  

In this next photo there’s a quiz….. can you spot the sharp shooters?

Maybe this photo will help….

The crowd was pretty bored with all the waiting so we played “spot the sharp shooters”.  There were many.  Finally around 7:15 the Queen and her family and entourage arrived and went into the Nieuwekerk for the short service there.  We could follow the service via the big screens set up outside in the Dam and over speakers.  The choir music I liked very much.  It was very modern and not at all what I expected.  I think the whole thing can be seen from here (play the video on the left side of the screen) if you are interested.

All the people who filled the church then filed outside, walked (or were wheeled) the length of the Dam to the ceremony area in front of the war monument.  There were many war veterans of an ancient age wearing their medals proudly.  There were some younger people openly crying and I’m guessing they had recently lost loved ones in some military conflict or another.  

Finally, at precisely 7:50pm, the Queen and her family walked this route and I got my good look at her and them.  I guess when you are born a Royal, you learn how to BE Royal, as they were certainly regal.  Willem-Alexander and also Maxima are both very tall and stately and they really look like people you could accept as ceremonial leaders of your country.  They are very popular (except if you are a crazy man in a little car).  

Next came speeches and laying of wreaths by various groups.  I didn’t take any photos after the event began partly because I figured there would be loads of photos on the internet better than I could have taken from my cramped spot.  Besides I wanted to SEE things instead of letting my camera see things.  If you want to see photos and read about this event you can follow this google search link.

I then made my way through the throngs of people to de Jaren to meet up with my stitching buddies.  It was another (far too short) great meet-up with them.  I always feel when I leave a SnB night that I just don’t see these people often enough!

I left there and headed back to the Central Station to get my train back home.  Security was STILL everywhere.  No trams were running yet so I had to walk the entire way.  When I got to the Dam I saw that the wreaths were still standing, police were still guarding them, some people were taking photos, the military were busy tearing down the bleachers and barriers, and the Scouts were still hanging around making sure everything was looking good.  I took some photos of this scene, which I like a lot.  I like the scenes after the big events are over.  I’m always curious about what happens AFTER….

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to mention.  When the Mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, gave his short speech, he first thanked the Queen for being there.  Suddenly there was a sound like a low flying small plane.  Everyone looked up and around.  In a split second we realized it was clapping, echoing around the square, first starting quietly somewhere and then growing and spreading over the crowd.  Everyone was clapping that the Queen was not afraid to show up.  Clapping has never happened before at this ceremony.  People want their Queen, and the Royal Family to be present, as they always have been.  I don’t think she will hide, even when threatened.  Good for you Trixie.

2 thoughts on “Thinking of the Dead

  1. Cybèle May 6, 2009 / 15:21

    I read somewhere that she received another applause the day after, when she arrived for the Liberation Day concert. It must be a very strange time for the Netherlands.

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