This article appeared in the September 16, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Reporter on the job: Britons wait (many) hours to pay respects to their queen

Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
People line up near Tower Bridge to pay their respects following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, in London, Sept. 16, 2022.

On the banks of the Thames, the ancient, snakelike river that has witnessed many kings and queens, Britons are doing what they do best: queuing. Some in couples, others in groups. Our national obsession to queue in orderly fashion seems to have reached its epitome. The queue is a social equalizer, rooted in a desire for order. Its pace, slow yet steady, mimics the river’s flow. 

Those at the back are told that the wait to see the queen lying in state is now approximately 11 hours. No bother. There is a somewhat convivial, even joyous atmosphere. Friendships quickly form ahead of the long wait (which as of Friday night had grown to more than 24 hours). 

London has always been a global city. Now, it seems the whole world has flocked here. French, Dutch, Canadian, and Japanese voices float in the air, mixed in with varying regional British accents. 

They’ll all take in London’s most famous landmarks: St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Tate Modern, and the Houses of Parliament, to name a few. That is expected. What isn’t expected are sights usually reserved for scrapbooks: Army generals in camouflage file past. Older men sporting war medals on their blazers solemnly wait. Some are in their finest clothes, including one woman with headgear usually seen at the horse races. Almost everyone has chosen to wear black. 

Toward the endpoint at Westminster Hall, the atmosphere immediately changes. Despite the hordes of people, only a pin drop can be heard. Politicians casually walk by. International media line the square. (I inadvertently walk through a CNN news anchor’s piece.)

As the leaves fall, there is now a dawning realization that we are witnessing the end of an era. And just like the constantly changing autumnal weather, more uncertainty lies ahead.

This article appeared in the September 16, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 09/16 edition
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