Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK, a day to commemorate all of those lost in the two World Wars. It is always on the Sunday closest to November 11, Armistice Day, when WWI officially ended. In the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, people all over the UK pin red (usually, paper) poppies on their lapels and jackets. Almost every village of any size has a war memorial at its center, and wreaths of red poppies are laid at the feet of these memorial crosses. Poppies supposedly bloomed all over the battlefields in Flanders, and their bright red color came to represent the blood spilt by fallen soldiers.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, and the Tower of London had a special art installation placed in its moat for three months to commemorate this event. Starting in August, volunteers placed poppies in the moat every day until Armistice Day, when the last of the ceramic poppies was “planted.” In total, there were 888,246 flowers, one for each British soldier killed in the war.
The installation was quite moving. 888,246 obviously sounds enormous, but it is hard to wrap your head around how big of a number that really is. Seeing all of the flowers spread out in a great sea along the moat, the terrible human cost of the war was strikingly and terribly apparent. Each causality was a person; a parent, friend, sibling, or child to someone. As they say, everyone is somebody’s someone. The exhibit drew huge crowds, with thousands of people coming every day to contemplate the millions of people who had their lives irrevocably changed forever in the the course of a few years and honor their sacrifice.
I’ve been seeing red poppies springing up on coats for the last couple of weeks, and I thought it would be a shame if I never posted about such a moving exhibit, even if it is a year old.