About five minutes before today’s three minutes of silence, my colleague Tom and I ventured across Jinling Lu to the park surrounding the Shanghai Concert Hall. From there, we were able to see the giant screen on the side of the Lansheng Theater building, which usually broadcasts ads for BMWs and the 2010 Expo, but which today was given over completely to earthquake coverage. A small crowd had gathered in the area leading up to the concert hall and we quietly joined them.
At 2:28, traffic came to a stop at the usually bustling corner of Jinling Lu and Xizang Lu. The crowd fell silent as car horns, and police, fire and air raid sirens across the city sounded. I admit that as I stood there, I wondered whether drivers would drain their batteries by leaning on their horns for three minutes – but the overall effect was astonishing. A few skateboarders who had been practicing tricks on the steps up to the concert hall in the minutes before 2:28 sat silently on their boards as the wailing began.
On the big screen, CCTV broadcast scenes from around the country where similar crowds had gathered outside for the three minutes, interspersed with scenes from the earthquake zone.
It was hard not to be moved by the display. I had doubted that cars in Shanghai would actually heed the call to stop for three minutes, but aside from a few errant motor scooters, traffic was completely still.
On the China Vortex blog (h/t to Imagethief), Paul Delinger has written an excellent post on the three-day mourning period, in which he notes that for the first time in history, China has had a national mourning period for ordinary civilians. If the three minutes of silence was not impressive, then that fact certainly is.