A sight to behold
It was the most special National Day for one woman, simply because she could see the celebrations.
Madam Lim Gay Hua, 65, attended her first ever National Day Parade yesterday. A thrill in itself, but especially so because until February, she was almost blind.
Madam Lim's eyesight was so bad that she could make out only shadow and light.
The condition, which was later diagnosed as a severe case of cataracts, made it tough for her to run her newspaper kiosk.
Some people even cheated her by walking off without paying or by using Malaysian coins. When her story was first told two years ago, The New Paper readers reached out to help.
Among them was Dr Leo Seo Wei, 41. The ophthalmologist in private practice performed two operations on Madam Lim to have the cataracts removed.
It is a different story now. She was thrilled to be in the stands at The Float at Marina Bay with her daughter and three grandchildren to celebrate the nation's birthday.
She cheered alongside the 27,000-strong crowd as the parade kicked off with an impressive aerial display by nine Red Lions parachuting onto the parade ground. The segment had been called off last year due to poor weather, but yesterday, the performance went without a hitch.
The Red Lions were greeted on the ground by Junior Red Lions - Primary 4 and 5 pupils specially selected through a contest to be part of this year's parade.
The crowd was also awed by the spectacle of a massive national flag flown past by three helicopters in one of the parade's memorable moments.
The cheers grew louder when President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, ministers and MPs, including former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, arrived.
But for Madam Lim, the highlight was the fireworks.
"It was wonderful," she said in Mandarin, flashing a grin.
"The fireworks were loud and powerful. I never thought I could ever see such things."
Another spectator, 63-year-old Eddie Chen, said that for him, the high point of the event was the arrival of Mr Lee, 90.
The former prime minister was given a standing ovation as he was helped to his seat, and many spectators rushed to the stairway to get pictures of him.
"Many of us were wondering if he would turn up," said Mr Chen, a civil engineer.
"Even though Mr Lee looked a little frail, it was great to see him at the parade," he said with a smile.
National Day Awards
Mr Chua Thian Poh, president of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, heads the list of recipients of this year's National Day Awards, with the Distinguished Service Order.
Six others receive the Meritorious Service Medal. They are:
- Mr Lam Chuan Leong, chairman of the Competition Commission of Singapore;
- Mrs Theresa Foo-Yo Mie Yoen, chairman of Esplanade;
- Professor Satkunanantham Kandiah, former director of medical services at the Ministry of Health;
- Mr Lee Tzu Yang, member of the Legal Service Commission;
- Ms Jennie Chua, former chairman of the Community Chest and chairman of Alexandra Health System;
- Mr Po'ad Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar, member of the Council of Presidential Advisers.
Among more than 3,300 others honoured are 10 Home Team frontline officers who were among the first to respond to the Little India riot last December.