Gallipoli journey opens eyes for Ballina students
AS dawn broke over the Gallipoli peninsular on April 25, four students from Ballina Emmanuel Anglican College sat in silence on the same ground that our diggers fought and died on 100 years earlier.
Jake Davis, Liam Marchant, Ella Web and ErinAmy Smekel were among the 100 students selected from 25 schools around the state to attend the Anzac Day centenary service at Gallipoli.
It was dark at 3am when the students left the holding bay at Formosa Park to be bussed to Anzac Cove.
Liam said it was freezing cold when he walked into Anzac Cove and the darkness was broken only by the large screens displaying messages from the tombstones of diggers.
"At the start when we all got there everyone was kind of hushed and waiting in anticipation," he said.
"Then as the messages started to flood the screens and speeches (started), it went through an emotional phase.
"As the service progressed we had dawn finally rise and people's emotions kind of changed as the sun rose."
It was a long journey from Ballina to Gallipoli.
It began with a flight to Sydney, followed by a 14-hour flight to Dubai, then a quick six-hour rest before boarding a four-hour flight to Istanbul and a six-hour bus ride to Canakkale on the Gallipoli peninsula.
Ella said the Anzac Cove rocky outcrop, the Sphinx, was illuminated for the service.
"It helped us understand what they had to face 100 years ago and the land, how they had to struggle to get up and over as well as fighting," she said.
Jake said it was "incredibly cold" but there was a silent connection felt by everyone at the service.
"It was just really humbling seeing tears in people's eyes, it was quite moving," he said.
After the Anzac Cove service, the four students and school principal Robert Tobias walked up Shrapnel Gully to attend the Lone Pine service.
ErinAmy, who is keen to join the defence force, said the Lone Pine service was a highlight of the trip for her.
All four students had to submit a piece of work focusing on an Anzac theme and sit a panel interview before being selected for the nine-day tour.