Remembering May 13

Filed in Memories, Personal

I was there. My grandfather’s Chinese herbal shop was on the street where it all started. I still remember all the other shops were already closed, but ours wasn’t. My dad and his older brother refused to close the shop, instead waiting at the entrance and it was only when they saw a group approaching from the opposite side of the roundabout that they decided to pull the metal shutters and lock up. Till today, I still shudder at what would’ve happened if one of them had stumbled and they were a moment too late.

I remember sitting at the round marble table upstairs doing my Malay homework, and thinking “No school tomorrow!”

I remember we took turns peeping out from the middle window in my parents’ bedroom to see the burning on the street below. It wasn’t easy – the windows were the old-fashioned wooden-slat type and we had to physically open the window for a slit wide enough to peep through.

I remember seeing the photo shop burning across the road. It had a huge glass display window, some framed photos inside surrounded by yards of decorative fabric. The window got smashed and the wooden photo frames and fabric used for burning.

For many years, there were different versions of what happened, why it happened and who was involved. For many years, these different versions of May 13 conflicted with mine, but the recent publication of May 13 by Dr Kua Kia Soong has verified that what I remember of that night is true.