Armistice Day: An Encounter at the Cenotaph

On a chilly October day, the Cenotaph stands on an island in the middle of a bustling London thoroughfare; black cabs and double-decker buses whisk by in either direction, black Mercedes loiter in the median while their high profile passengers jaw-jaw inside the government office buildings of Whitehall. Bureaucrats and tourists alike amble past, hardly casting a glance at the unassuming monument. Its simple aesthetic and white Portland stone all but blends into the stately Victorian buildings surrounding it. Once every year, though, at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, this teeming street comes to an absolute standstill for two minutes. The solemn, empty tomb is transformed into the centerpiece for a ritual of collective mourning that has spanned the former British Empire for nearly a century.

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