Singapore National Day: Country pays tribute to healthcare workers, front-line fighters


  • Singapore
  • Sunday, 09 Aug 2020

Republic of Singapore Air Force F-15SG fighter jets fly in formation over the Marina Bay Sands skypark to mark the 55th National Day celebrations in Singapore on Sunday, August 9, 2020. - AFP

SINGAPORE, Aug 9 (The Straits Times/ANN): Nine-month-old Chloe Swah turned to the skies, her attention drawn by the roar of six F-15 fighter jets that soared overhead above her home in Kovan.

Her father, 26-year-old Lieutenant Shidan Swah Yepeng, was one of the pilots, the youngest in the formation for this year's National Day Parade (NDP) fighter jet fly-past, titled the Roar Of Unity.

Baby Chloe, like millions of other Singaporeans, watched from home on Sunday (Aug 9) as the National Day celebrations were brought to the heartland amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The F-15s, which usually fly over only the main show venues like the Padang or The Float @ Marina Bay, looped across the country in a 30-minute segment that began at 10.45am.

The jets, flying in a Delta formation shaped like an arrowhead, also flew past eight local hospitals in a tribute to healthcare workers tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

These include Lt Swah's parents - Dr Swah Teck Sin, 58, and Madam Kwek Puay Ee, 58, who have been stalwarts in the healthcare sector for more than 30 years.

Dr Swah, a senior consultant at a polyclinic, said: "This gesture will inspire and motivate those in healthcare to continue to do their best in the fight against Covid-19."

Madam Kwek, who is seconded from the National Healthcare Group to the Singapore Nursing Board as an executive secretary, added: "Every National Day our family will watch NDP together. I always thought maybe one day my son can participate - now this year I can watch my son fly past, it's a dream come true."

The Swahs - including family patriarch Swah Joo Hock, 99, Lt Swah's wife Pearlene Quek, 27, his sister Shirin Swah, 28, and her husband Sean Quek, 30, and the family's helper Myrna Lameyra, 50 - watched with pride from the roof of their terrace house.

Two Chinook helicopters, each carrying the Singapore flag 1,000ft in the air, flew across the country on two separate routes in the east and the west of the island. - The Straits Times/ANNTwo Chinook helicopters, each carrying the Singapore flag 1,000ft in the air, flew across the country on two separate routes in the east and the west of the island. - The Straits Times/ANN

Many of those watching from home also witnessed the state flag fly-past, as two Chinook helicopters, each carrying the Singapore flag 1,000ft in the air, flew across the country on two separate routes in the east and the west of the island.

With the pandemic casting its shadow over this year's NDP, celebrations were decentralised, spread throughout the day and across the island given the safe distancing measures in place.

Earlier on Sunday morning, the fan favourite Red Lions landed gracefully on grass fields near Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH) and Sengkang General Hospital (SKH).

The 12 parachutists - six at each location - were met with loud cheers and clapping while shutterbugs snapped away furiously.

Recognising the contributions of healthcare workers and front-line fighters, the Red Lions also saluted them at the nearby hospitals after landing.

Siti Aisyah Samsudin, 31, specialist outpatient clinics service team leader at NTFGH said that watching the Red Lions live in the heartland was a "whole new, exciting experience".

"I feel incredibly grateful that Singaporeans appreciate the efforts of those of us in healthcare. It has been challenging yet fulfilling. Let's continue to stay safe and care for one another in these trying times," she added.

The mobile column also made its way into the heartland for the second year in a row - showcasing 22 types of equipment over five routes covering a record 200km.

Armoured personnel saluted healthcare workers as they rolled past several key locations like Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, SKH, NTFGH and the community care facility at Singapore Expo.

Singaporeans lined the streets to catch an up-close glimpse of the equipment, such as the crowd favourite Leopard 2SG main battle tank.

Dr Annitha Annathurai, 46, head of the emergency medicine department at SKH said that being saluted by the mobile column was humbling: "We are just doing what we have been trained for and this special recognition will motivate us further to continue to provide the best care, always.

"This tribute gives us the strength to persist and continue on."

The mobile column passing the junction of Sengkang East Road towards Sengkang General Hospital. - The Straits Times/Asian News NetworkThe mobile column passing the junction of Sengkang East Road towards Sengkang General Hospital. - The Straits Times/Asian News Network

Dr Lee Ying Shan, 39, who was at Changi with her husband and two children aged five and eight, managed to catch a glimpse of the mobile column, F-15 jets as well as the helicopters with the state flag from her viewpoint.

Her son's favourite tank is the Leopard 2SG main battle tank, a highlight of the display, she said.

While the family usually celebrates National Day by watching the parade on television and revisiting old National Day songs, this year's version of celebrations has its merits too.

"It's less crowded and everyone can enjoy a bit of the displays," said Dr Lee.

Over at Marina Bay, some Singaporeans also gathered to watch the maritime sail-past, which returned to this year's NDP after a 20-year hiatus.

Thirteen vessels glided in formation past the Marina Bay skyline and sounded their ship horns for 15 seconds towards the end of the sail-past.

Fatema Begum, 36, her husband Amir Ali, 38, and 10-year-old daughter Zafreen braved the heat at Marina Barrage to catch the sail-past.

"Everyone is wearing a mask but we still come here to celebrate. At least it's still something we can do to mark National Day," said Ms Fatema, who works as a chef coordinator at a hotel.

This year's NDP celebrations also include a scaled-down parade at the Padang in the morning, and an evening concert show at The Star Performing Arts Centre. - The Straits Times/Asian News Network

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