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Mourning for General unites all

Update: October, 17/2013 - 09:46

by Thu Huong Le

HA NOI (VNS) — Amid tears, there's hope. Amid sadness, people unite.

This past weekend in the capital and around the country, we have seen that the loss of one man can unite a nation and bring out the best in everyone, from all walks of life and any social strata.

Vo Nguyen Giap, the first general of the People's Army of Viet Nam, died on October 4, at the age of 103. He was the last person of an era that saw the defeat of the French and Americans.

But millions of Vietnamese mourn him not only because of his military achievements, but also because of the spirit and devotion he embodied for decades; the spirit of putting the country first and doing what's best for the people.

In that respect, people mourned him in an unprecedented fashion, which according to historians, was a reminder of Uncle Ho's passing 44 years ago.

Putting aside all the chaos and the business of daily life, the capital suddenly became quieter. Street-life of beer shops and cafes was brought to a halt. Entertainment establishments stopped all activities. TV stations delayed all entertainment programming. Half-mast flags were seen everywhere.

It seemed throughout the week and during his two-day state funeral, people put aside their daily worries of making enough money, keeping their jobs and coping with price increases.

Can we call it nationalism? Perhaps, the students and youngsters who queued up in the lines from early morning to late night, under the sun, for several kilometres leading to General Giap's house on Hoang Dieu Street, carrying flowers and his portraits, might not have that definition in mind.

They just felt the need to be there with the rest of the nation; with war veterans in wheelchairs wearing their uniforms pinned with medals, the rural women who stopped their daily task of working the fields, street vendors who drove for hours to the downtown area, the villagers who took night trains to get there on time.

Kindness flourished. A coffee shop owner said she did not mind having the lines of people on the sidewalks. Instead, free water bottles and bread were delivered to those in line to sustain the wait. Student volunteers in their usual deep-blue shirts provided assistance to the elderly. Images of a student carrying an elderly war veteran made headlines and covered front pages and news sites – touching the hearts of many.

For General Giap's two-day funeral, hundreds of thousands of people also waited to pay their respects at the state funeral house. People lined the streets from early dawn on the day his body was flown to the hometown in central Quang Binh Province, and stretched along the highways to Noi Bai International Airport. In Quang Binh, residents also waited along the way from Dong Hoi Airport to his final resting place.

People were everywhere for his last journey home.

Blogs, social media and news sites covered the events, capturing people's heartlful and genuine reactions to the nation's loss.

But the question is, can we maintain that spirit and that sense of respect and togetherness in our daily lives?

During the days of mourning, the quiet and orderly queues were different to those we see at hospitals, shops or in front of the red traffic lights. No one was impatient.

For those people who complained about students and youngsters crying over K-pop idols and being crazy fans or their low marks on history exams, they couldn't have been more hopeful seeing their actions on those days of mourning. Young people care when their sense of duties are awakened.

We can maintain that spirit of unity in dealing with our problems; such as when we rebuild the lives of storm victims in the Central region or make sure the lives of victims of recent accidents in Phu Tho don't go in vain.

Perhaps when we talk about economic growth and ambitions of becoming an industrial nation, embodying that same spirit of unity is equally important.

General Giap is gone but his spirit lives on. A spirit that can unite a nation. — VNS

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