Saturday, October 01, 2005

Happy National Day!

What are you doing today to celebrate this country's greatness?

I started my day at 4.00 this morning when I went with friends to catch a cab to Tiananmen Square. There were too many of us to fit in one, so we split up. I knew that was going to mean that we wouldn't see the others at the square. Donny, Sam, and I arrived somewhere between 4.40 and 5.00. Cars were not allowed on huge sections of the street, so our driver had to drop us off. We walked from there to the square.

I could not believe how many people were walking to the square. I'm beginning to get a better understanding of the population density of this country now. Throngs of people coursed through the area, but in a very orderly fashion. There were guards everywhere to assure that an outbreak of mass chaos didn't occur. We followed the huge group under the street to get to the square.

a small sampling of the crowd at tiananmen

Once in the square, we only got about fifty feet in before we hit the saturation point of people. It was foggy, so I couldn't even make out the building where Mao's picture hangs. However, the reason I was there today was to see how people acted, not for the flag raising itself. And because I went for that reason, I can say that this trip to Tiananmen was absolutely amazing for me.

child on national day

As we were standing, a grumble started to come from the crowd. It grew more and more, and whenever that happens in a huge crowd, you always know that something is about to happen. I felt hands on my back and elbows in my sides. My feet came off the ground a little. There was a huge rush of people moving forward, and we were helpless to resist it. As our wave of the crowd kept moving forward, I saw a line of guards form a human chain to stop the rest of the people from moving ahead. They tried to catch our line, but we got pushed through anyway. People scrambled on the ground between the legs of the soldiers, and others ran into their arms to break through. Screams behind us were audible as people were crushing each other and slamming against the guards.

restraining nationalism

Finally, another human chain of guards formed in front of our group. They choked us off and kept us from moving anymore. They stood in a line holding hands or linking arms, depending on the mood of the crowd, for the whole rest of the time we were there. Had someone else broken through the line, the chaos that would have ensued would have also resulted in the trampling of alot of people. But China has crowd control down, and our wave eventually calmed down and stopped trying to get through.

facing the line

What everyone had come to see today was just the routine flag raising. Music was played, the army marched, and the flag was raised. It was nothing out of the ordinary except for the mass of people there. This was an amazing experience for me, though. After so much study of the demonstrations at Tiananmen, I was finally able to be in a crowd there with absolutely no space and thousands of people. I felt the rush of a crowd and got pushed through the arms of guards. People were screaming, and I was enthralled. The videos of the demonstrations at Tiananmen in 1989 give you no sense of what a huge crowd there is like. You can't see anything around you except for people. I even lifted my camera in the air to take a picture, and even then, it just looked like a sea of people. It was so amazing.

chinese soldier

I'm really happy to have gotten to experience that. Happy National Day, everyone.


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