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Students attend Professor Stephen Hawking’s Interment at Westminster Abbey

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Four City boys recently attended Professor Stephen Hawking’s Interment at Westminster Abbey. One of those was Second Former, Joseph, who has written about how he was one of the lucky few able to attend.

“A few weeks ago, I saw on the BBC news website an article saying that some members of the public would be able to go to Professor Stephen Hawking’s interment at Westminster Abbey. I was excited by the thought of being able to pay my respects to one of the greatest physicists ever, but I could only go to the internment as part of a school group. Therefore, I emailed our Head, Mr Bird and asked if he could apply for tickets for the school. I was shocked when I checked my emails the next day to find that he had replied within twelve minutes, having already submitted an application for tickets! However, I did not let my hopes get too high, as 25,000 people applied for under 1000 places in the abbey. Because the odds made getting a ticket so unlikely, I was ecstatic when Mr Bird told me that the school had managed to secure tickets and that one of them was for me!

On the day of Stephen Hawking’s interment, the sky was a brilliant blue. Miss Stanley took four boys to Westminster Abbey: Oliver, Naval, Oscar and me (all from the Junior Sixth apart from me). As I walked into the abbey, I felt a sense of sadness that Stephen Hawking had died, but I also felt honoured that I would be able to pay my respects in the same place as his family and friends. The mood inside the abbey was one of awe and reflection on everything Stephen Hawking had done, and how he had overcome such adversity.

As we continued to wait for the start of the service, I looked around at the masterful architecture of Westminster Abbey. The majority of the building is over 750 years old, making it one of the oldest buildings in the UK which is still in use. It had an extremely high vaulted ceiling, but it was also very narrow and long, almost cavernous. Even though Stephen Hawking was an atheist, he was to be buried in one of the most deeply Christian places in the country, showing Westminster Abbey’s special place in national history.

All this time the organist was playing, the pipes of the huge organ filling the cathedral with sound. The last piece he played was Venus, the bringer of peace, from Holst’s the Planets - fittingly for a cosmologist. The service itself now began, and we were able to catch a glimpse of the clergy and choir processing down the length of the Abbey. We could also see the proceedings through screens on the pillars. The service was interspersed with well-known hymns and readings, which reflected on Stephen Hawking’s great life and set the reflective tone of the service. I felt moved to think of everything he had achieved, and just how much he had struggled. He was a great and inspiring person in many ways. Perhaps that is why his family had wanted to invite so many young people from schools, to inspire learning in their lives. Towards the end of the service, Professor Hawking’s ashes were respectfully lowered into their place next to Sir Isaac Newton, allowing the two great physicists to rest together forever.

As we left the abbey there were large crowds outside, which reminded me of how lucky I was to be able to attend. There were some school children being interviewed nearby, highlighting the importance of the interment to people of all nationalities and ages.

As I travelled back to school, I was humbled by having been to such an extraordinary occasion. Stephen Hawking’s words were beamed to the nearest black hole during the service. He triumphed against seemingly insurmountable challenges to become probably the greatest physicist of his generation. However, as he said, ‘there is still so much more to discover’.

May he rest in peace." 

There were some school children being interviewed nearby, highlighting the importance of the interment to people of all nationalities and ages
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