The grassy moat surrounding the Tower of London is usually plain. Once it may have served as a deterrent for attack or escape, now is a growing sea of ceramic red poppies. What began as a modest planting of red poppies in early August, quickly grew into a swelling of a red sea of poppies. A total of 888,246 are now in place, creating a solid field of red flowing throughout the moat. It’s quite striking and a beautiful sight.
The poppies were planted to honor Armistice Day in the United Kingdom. In times of billionaires or millionaires, or when viewed in terms of budget, this is not that large a number. This is not an artistic show of vanity, or what I would consider a waste of time and money. 888,236 is a highly significant number, full of meaning.
While we celebrate Veterans Day on November 11, 2014, European nations will instead celebrate Armistice Day. In the eleventh month, on the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour, World War 1 came to an end. Referred to as “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars” in this time period, this war was brutal and bloody. Approximately 8 to 10 million people who served were killed in action. Fighting styles and strategies were outdated against forces fielding modern weaponry. The staggering loss of life was unheard of and unprecedented. Success was not calculated in miles of territory, but rather, yards. Full scale attacks, costing thousands of lives, may only yield such a small amount of gain.
The field of red poppies on display at the Tower of London is not simply a bunch of flowers to make it look nice, but each one is a life. When looking at the sea of red, each point represented a loss of a life. Not simply casualties, but someone who gave their all. These soldiers had dreams and goals. They wanted to love and be loved. They wanted to have a family and someone special. Perhaps they wanted to go to school, or to start a business. They wanted to leave a legacy, perhaps being the old patriarch of a large family, seeing their grandchildren and great grandchildren follow. Some were husbands and fathers. Wives lost their husband, children lost their fathers. Parents lamented the loss of their son. Families were broken apart.
Simply seeing numbers on a sheet of paper does not really demonstrate the staggering numbers. Seeing the field of red poppies can bring it home. Sometimes fighting may be necessary, but should never be the first go-to response. Hopefully people will meditate and think about the poppies on these photos and really contemplate the meaning of suffering and sacrifice. Those who decide to fight rarely have to sacrifice so much.
Honor the veterans, and memorialize the dead. Hate war, but love the troops. Let’s not add to the sea of red in our respective countries, unless there is no other choice