I was three days out of high school, and China was an imaginary place a world away. I remember grainy television footage, not unlike that which constantly flashed across the 6 o’clock news with images of war between the Soviets and the Afghans. I had no idea who I was, nor could I have understood these students on the other side of the planet.
What I did know, however, is that they were incredibly brave: who stares down four tanks in the middle of an abandoned street?
In retrospect, I understand why they died. And, more importantly, I understand why we must remember.
Throngs of men, women and children gathered at a park here on Thursday evening for an enormous, somber candlelight vigil to mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square killings.
The organizers said that 150,000 people joined the vigil, tying the record set by the first anniversary vigil in 1990 and dwarfing every vigil held since then. The police estimated the crowd at 62,800, their largest estimate for any vigil except in 1990, which they put at 80,000.
The peaceful assemblage spilled out into nearby streets, shutting down traffic. Inside Victoria Park, thousands listened to songs and speakers who recounted the events on the night of the crackdown. A half-hour into the vigil, the lights in the park were extinguished and the attendees lit a forest of white candles in inverted conical paper shields.