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This National Day will be one for the history books. Photos: Instagram/@purplelightvisuals (Padang), @dc_ah (tank), @pandajoyce (family), and @thesingaporemermaid

NDP2020: Stately Parade, Military Might, SG Spirit, Fireworks And... A Mermaid?

Unbeknown to the majority, yesterday's celebration of Singapore's 55th birthday began with a cry.

At 12.44am, Mr and Mrs Tay welcomed their baby boy, Colin, into the world - making him Singapore General Hospital's first National Day 2020 baby.

Why start small when you can go big?

At 9am, those near Sengkang General Hospital and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital were treated to a spectacle usually reserved for the Padang or the Marina Bay floating platform: at each location, a sextet of Red Lions made their descent at open fields next to the two hospitals, and ended their jump with a salute to healthcare workers.

PM Lee's message

This was followed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Message at 10am, which highlighted the need to stay united and prevail over challenges as a nation.

"Every National Day, we remind ourselves that Singapore is a nation whose story is worth celebrating, whose history is worth cherishing, and whose future is worth building," said PM Lee.

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Every 9 August since independence, rain or shine, in good years and difficult ones, we have come together for the National Day Parade, to celebrate the birth of our nation, and renew our commitment to Singapore. This year, despite COVID-19, we are still holding the Parade — as a symbol of our solidarity, and also to salute those on our frontline, fighting the pandemic. We need our unity and resilience now more than ever. As we have seen in other countries, the danger of a resurgence of cases is ever present. We also need to be resilient in the face of the severe economic downturn. Let us brace ourselves for the trials ahead, so that many years from now, when our grandchildren celebrate National Day, they will look back and say that this generation stood together, sacrificed for one another, and built Singapore together. Let us show the world that whatever the challenges, Singaporeans will stay united, and prevail once more. I wish all Singaporeans a very happy National Day! \ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddec You can watch the my National Day Message in all four languages on the PMO Youtube channel (click on the link in my profile). – LHL

A post shared by Lee Hsien Loong (@leehsienloong) on

In his message, PM Lee likened our battle against COVID-19 to the way "the Pioneer and Merdeka Generations were tempered by Separation and Independence, and economic crises in our early years as a nation".

He said: "Our experience fighting COVID-19, grim and hard as it has been, has brought us closer together. The shared ordeal will toughen a whole population, and bond us together as one united people."

And as one united people, we - well, most of us - celebrated National Day from our homes and watched the day's events unfold on a live broacast, even as F-15SG fighter jets roared in the skies overhead.

Smaller but still stately parade

At 10am, we observed the noticeably downsized Parade and Ceremony segment at the Padang, which saw the participation of marching contingents comprising the State Colours; Guard of Honour contingents formed by the Singapore Army, the Republic of Singapore Navy, the Republic of Singapore Air Force, and the Singapore Police Force (SPF); and a combined band from the Singapore Armed Forces and the SPF.

In an Instagram post, President Halimah Yacob thanked all those involved in the Morning Parade "for working hard to put together a meaningful celebration for our milestone year". 

She added: "Your determination and teamwork to reinvent the Parade and make it a reality amidst this difficult times mirrors Singaporeans’ fighting spirit, ingenuity and solidarity."

All rise for the National Anthem

At 10.30am, as the National Anthem was played from The Padang, special flag-raising ceremonies took place concurrently in eight locations across the island in what was dubbed an Anthem Moment.

Each location was chosen to symbolise a key national sector in Singapore, and was presided over by a Cabinet Minister and specially invited guests (including frontliners).

While this took place, the comforting sight of the Chinook carrying the gigantic State Flag and accompanied by two Apache helicopters appeared in the sky at the Padang and on our screens.

This trio then took an Eastern route and started making its way along the southeastern and northeastern coastlines of Singapore.

At the same time, a duplicate threesome of helicopters took a Western route beginning at the southern end of Singapore at 10.30am, and flew along the southwestern coastline and then the western areas of Singapore.

But the skies - and our eardrums - trembled with the roar of another set of jets: the F-15SG fighter aircraft.

At 10.45am, the sextet of jets made their appearance at the Padang before making their way around the island, passing by the heartlands and hospitals, in a tribute to healthcare and essential workers.

Roll of the machines - on land, at sea

But let's backtrack a little: Because as the Parade and Ceremony segment began, so too did the NDP Mobile Column start its journey on five routes around Singapore: North, Northeast, South, Southeast and West.

An impressive convoy of military vehicles - including the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tanks, the Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicles, the Hunter Armoured Fighting Vehicle, and the Singapore Police Force's new Next-generation Fast Resoponse Car - literally stopped traffic in heartland locations all over Singapore, from Braddell to Bukit Batok, Khatib to Queenstown.

What was different this year: the Mobile Column brought frontliners along for the ride and rode alongside military personnel in the monstrous vehicles.

Out at sea, a Maritime Sailpast was taking place. Because they are out of sight, we often take our navy for granted, and the live broadcast of this sailpast was a reminder that many of our creature comforts are shipped to Singapore and therefore it is Imperative that our Sea Lines of Communication are safeguarded, and our waters are kept safe to ensure maritime supply chains are kept open even during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said the Republic of Singapore Navy in an Instagram post: "For the first time since 2000, we are bringing the vessels from the national maritime agencies that do this 24/7 to NDP. Together as one united maritime frontline, we will work tirelessly to defend our waters, and to defend your everyday."

Celebrating safely

While most enjoyed the live broadcast from their homes, some ventured out - safely, of course - to witness the SAF's arsenal first-hand.

And then we all took an afternoon siesta, dreamed of our next holiday destinations, and, perhaps, even entered the realm of fantasy:

Evening falls, curtains rise

Before long, the Evening Show began, featuring appearances by singer-songwriters Dick Lee and Shabir, rappers Abang Sapau and Shigga Shay, entertainer Hossan Leong, and singing sensations Nathan Hartono, Stefanie Sun and a virtually-present JJ Lin, among others. (Read about how the show came together at the eleventh hour.)

Peppered with songs and inspiring videos of everyday heroes who rose up to the challenge of COVID-19, the show was meaningful and reflective.

Ending with more than a few bangs

And what's a National Day Parade without fireworks to close the show? 10 locations were carefully chosen across the island to launch the fireworks and to maximise viewership of the display.

NDP2020 Fireworks Across Singapore

What a spectacular and joyful way to end the NDP2020 celebrations! HAPPY NATIONAL DAY! Stay safe, everyone! #NDPeeps #NDP2020 #sgunited Share your NDP2020 fireworks videos with us in the comments section below

Posted by SGWonderwall on Sunday, 9 August 2020

"This year, National Day falls amidst COVID-19. We are not able to celebrate in our usual way, but we are determined still to hold the Parade as a symbol of our unity as a nation, like we have done every year since independence," said PM Lee in his National Day Message.

What a year 2020 has turned out to be, and, in that light, this is all the assurance we need to keep calm, stay strong, and carry on.

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