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After Big Ben Rings Out, the Sound of Silence in London

For all of the hand-wringing, this is not the first time Big Ben has been silenced, which perhaps explained the less sentimental approach taken by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labor Party. “It’s not a national disaster or catastrophe,” he said.

In fact, there is nothing wrong with the main bell. (It has several cracks, but those are what give it its distinctive sound, and officials have issued assurances that it will be left alone.)

It is the tower, officially known as the Elizabeth Tower and commonly referred to as Big Ben, and the clock mechanism and faces that are showing signs of aging, like the rest of the crumbling Palace of Westminster. Paint is flaking, the masonry is cracking, the roof is leaking and the metalwork is rusting. All need to be addressed to keep the tower from disintegrating.

Those who gathered outside Parliament for the final bell — admittedly, a self-selecting audience — said the bongs would be sorely missed. David Dummigan, from Cumbria, in the north of England, said he had experienced “a lump” in his throat when he heard the last chime for four years.

“It’s our heritage,” he said. “People come from all over the world to look at it and listen to it. It’s part of British history.”

“It’s a shame it is going to be silenced for four years,” added Sue-Ann Samuel, who lives in London. “It is very dear to a lot of our hearts.”

Source: NYT > World

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