I queued for 10 hours to see the Queen lying in state. It was cold, boring, and exhausting, but a deeply moving reminder of the power of the monarchy.
The four-mile row from the Palace of Westminster to Southwark Park in the south-east of London is a monumental feat of Britishism.
Throughout the state period, the government has provided regular updates on the length and duration of the line so that well-wishers and mourners know what they are up to before joining.
I joined my sister in line at Southwark Park at around 7:15 p.m. Thursday. As soon as we arrived, a government Twitter account asked us to wait for about nine hours.
For the first few hours, the queue was not really a queue, but a slightly different walking tour of East London.
For a mile or so, we followed the instructions of the marshals, who pointed us at several roads leading west toward the iconic Tower Bridge, moving at a leisurely but deliberate pace.
The queue began appropriately at Potter Fields – a park between Tower Bridge and City Hall, the seat of the Mayor of London.
I was given a pink wristband in the park. It was confirmation that I was, indeed, in line, and not just a regular who was walking along the Thames late at night.
Having a wristband means I can step out of the queue and re-join the queue to do things like use the toilet or get coffee or beer.
By the time I put my wristband on, it was about 8:45, and I was in line for over an hour and a half. I didn’t know I was only 15% of the way.
Leaving Tower Bridge behind, we made steady progress along the south bank of the River Thames to London Bridge – about half a mile further up the river – just 20 minutes later. Tributes to the queen littered the road.
By 9:40, less than an hour after crossing Tower Bridge, I had arrived at another London icon, The Globe, a modern recreation of the original theatre, where William Shakespeare played a part of Western history. Many famous plays were started.
After waiting in the queue for about three hours, some people started getting tired. An old woman in front of me looked unsteady on her feet, but was being driven through. Many were traveling using sticks or crutches but were determined to pay respects.
The queue was almost over! Only one thing remained: security.
After a 10-hour queue, it seemed almost unrealistic that we had reached our goal, and as we were processed at the entrance to Westminster Hall on the side of the Palace of Westminster, where the Queen’s body lay in state, the crowd But there was a strange silence.
Seeing someone I know and love to be so deeply involved in a profound moment in British history made an already moving experience even more so.