One of us is fortunate enough to work for a company that allows for some paid leave for charity work, and an opportunity arose to head to the Tower of London to participate in the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red exhibit. This is an impressive display of public art where the moat of the Tower is covered with red ceramic poppies, each representing a British death during World War I, which comes to 888,246 – a number so large that it is difficult to comprehend. And again, that is solely the British fallen.
We arrived on a foggy, humid Friday morning and were escorted through a side entrance to the Tower, through the wall, and into the moat area (normally inaccessible). The first task was assembling the rods on which the poppies are mounted, hammering the rods into the soil, and finally placing the poppy on top.
There were about 75 people volunteering in our shift, some remembering direct family members who fell during the war, students, members of the armed forces, and a smattering of others who flew in from faraway places specifically to take part. In short: people who wanted to make an effort to remember those who have allowed us to live the lives we lead today.
The installation itself is beautiful, and sombre – and it won’t last long: the flowers will be collected and sent out to those who purchased one (with net proceeds going to charity, of course). This is supposed to happen on November 11, which is also about the day the plantings are expected to be finished. So, the full installation will only last a day. If you have not been by, it is a truly impressive sight.
We are fortunate to have been able to take part.