A Silent Minute

Yesterday we marked the 10 year anniversary of the 7th July terrorist attacks on London with a minute of silence. I was delivering a session on storytelling and presentations at the time. We arranged the workshop so we had a natural break to allow people to pay their respects.

As I was staring out of the window of the meeting room in London Bridge the voices slowly fell into silence and people began to recognise the moment. People paused and contemplated. It was refreshing to have the pause. To stop and be given permission to put the breaks on the day. And to remember lives lost and be thankful for what we, the loving, still have. As my mind began to wander I start to think about the ‘drawback’ of controlled silence.

I understand it’s a respectful moment, but the way into that moment was staggered and almost awkward. When does it begin, when should we stop being silent and talk again (I know – a minute, but it rarely works like that). What if I miss it? It occurred to me that maybe the more powerful thing to do would be to have a minute of unified sound instead. Something that couldn’t be ignored. That demanded attention to break us away from our routine and regular headspace.

In 2012 to mark the start of the Olympics the country (or those who were interested) stopped to ring bells in celebration. Big Ben rang out 40 times and bells of all shape and tone chimed in. I have a vivid memory of the sound. My walk to work used to take my through Westminster. That morning I made sure I was on the corner Westminster Bridge and Whitehall to hear the large bell and the assembled others. It was a sound you couldn’t ignore. It was a sound of celebration. Others not involved stopped and turned their attention to the noise – to the moment of shared cacophony.

Maybe this is just the sort of thing we should use to mark a significant moment in time. Maybe we should offer some alternatives for moving into silence to mark remembrance – something that is easy to ignore (or forget). Instead maybe we should be shouting and screaming (or ringing bells) together to mark a moment. Something undeniable. Something to really stop us in our tracks. Something to really disrupt and to remember…