They were there to say goodbye
Singaporeans from all walks of life as well as foreign dignitaries pay their last respects to former president S R Nathan at Parliament House
It was a sombre morning yesterdayas a private hearse carrying Mr S R Nathan's coffin arrived at 9am at Parliament House.
The hearse was received by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob and transferred onto the bier for the Lying In State by the Coffin Bearer Party.
Mr Nathan, Singapore's sixth and longest-serving president, died peacefully on Monday. He was 92.
In the presence of his family, Mr Nathan was also given the highest honour accorded to a leader: The Singapore flag draped over the casket.
Vigil guards, comprising four uniformed officers, stood at the corners of the casket with their heads bowed, backs turned away and ceremonial sword inverted - a special mark of respect.
Early birds, some of whom had started queueing as early as 6.30am, entered the hall in groups to spend a few quiet moments with and pay homage to the former president.
One of them was busker Lee Kian Chuan, 67. He had taken the bus and arrived at 7am to say "goodbye to a humble leader".
Another was Madam Rohani Dukiran, 48, who postponed her dialysis treatment to the afternoon "so that I can pay respects to a man who was genuinely concerned for ordinary Singaporeans like my children and me".
Madam Rohani, who suffers from kidney failure, said she met Mr Nathan twice.
The first meeting was in 2004, when her children, who were in the West View Primary School brass band, won gold at the Singapore Youth Festival and were invited to play at the Istana.
The next and last meeting was in 2009, when Mr Nathan helped cook briyani at the Charity Briyani Project at the President's Challenge.
A BOW AND A PRAYER
In the main hall yesterday, people from all walks of life shuffled through, stopping to bow and say a prayer. A family even fell to their knees.
The 20,000-plus people who bade farewell to the former president yesterday included nurses, doctors, schoolchildren, teachers, unionists and footballers.
Political differences were cast aside as members of the ruling and opposition parties paid their last respects to the one many call a "true son of Singapore".
A frail Chiam See Tong, the 81-year-old veteran opposition politician, was in a wheelchair, but insisted on standing to pay his respects.
Madam Yeo Kheng Neo, 94, who was in a wheelchair, also took the effort to stand.
She said she had never met Mr Nathan but needed to stand " as a mark of respect".
Her son, Mr Tay Kheng Hee, 62, told The Straits Times: "I asked myself, 'Does he make me feel proud to be a Singaporean?' I felt the pride, so I came."
Foreign dignitaries included Johor Prince Idris Iskandar and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The prince was accompanied by Acting Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
Mr Abe, who made a stopover in Singapore en route to a conference in Kenya, was accompanied by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching.
Mr Abe said in a condolence note that Mr Nathan, who was fluent in Japanese, played a significant role in furthering the friendship between Japan and Singapore.
Many remembered and had personal stories to tell about Mr Nathan.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said: "His fierce loyalty to family, to friends and to Singapore are the memories of Mr Nathan that will last throughout my lifetime."