I am…you are…Anzac Day 2001

We gathered in the darkness before dawn.

I’d love to say we arrived silently, barely disturbing the stillness of mountains and ocean. Instead we roared in. Buses and cars a choking snarl of steel.
We gathered in the darkness. Fifteen thousand people on a pilgrimage to a single ancient battleground.
Anzac Cove
Anzac Day
As dawn broke over the Dardenelles, striking the mountains and beaches of the Gallipoli Pensinsula, those of us who had travelled from across Europe and across the world repeated an 86 year old tradition of commemoration and prayer.
As the flags of Australia, Turkey and New Zealand fluttered in the morning breeze against the brilliance of a clear blue sky, and the strains of The Last Post echoed and then dissipated, I heard the single amazing sound of my life.
The silence of 15,000 people.
Not one rustle, one whisper disturbed the air. The gentle wash of the ocean against a once-bloodied beach the only sound.
At Lone Pine later in the day, where a single Pine tree still sways in the spring breeze, there was an air of celebration and spontaneous joy. The day was hot and bright and blue and we sat in the cemetary among the graves of Aussies and Kiwis and Turks and sang for the dead and for the living.
It’s unusual to see a group of Australians displaying nationalism in an overt way. Yet that is what we saw on that hill as diggers made their way through a crowd 10,000 strong and received a spontaneous standing ovation. Old men from an old war with tears streaming down their lined faces, their medals proudly displayed on their upright chests.
The New Zealand Memorial Service was no less moving. Chunuk Bair, where the Kiwis hovered on the edge of victory before the English were defeated by Ataturk, is one of the few places on this Earth where a memorial to two opposing forces stand facing each other.
As the crowd finished singing the bi-lingual Kiwi National Anthem, a spontaneous Haka by NZ forces was greeted with cheers. It was an amazing day of celebration, commemoration, sadness, joy and an overwhelming call for peace.
Anzac is not and never should be a glorification of war. That we choose to commemorate Anzac Day and a battle of defeat and skilled evacuation does not just serve as an indication of who we are, of our heart and spirit. The celebration has also shaped us over the past 86 years. And the commemoration has shaped and continues to shape what we think, what we feel about what it means to be an Australian. And as the numbers attending Anzac Day increase the impact it has on our psyche will also grow.
In the end, Anzac Day is less about a battle and more about what it means to be Australian. The Turkish people believe the Gallipoli campaigns gave them their nation, their freedom and their identity because it gave them their father: Mustafa Kemal known lovingly as Ataturk. In the same way, Gallipoli gave us our freedom and our independence by giving us our first sense of nationhood.
And as we stand on the beach and up at The Lone Pine this is what we gain and what becomes strengthened. Many query the journey. Even those involved find it difficult to explain what draws them to this place in greater numbers as each years passes. For me, and I believe for many others, the answers lie in that open applause for the diggers.
I am
You are
We are

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