By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby
Teenager Edward William Kaile captured the mood of a grieving nation when he ran, carrying a Papua New Guinea flag, alongside the cortege of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
On Friday, he was challenged by an aunt to run alongside the casket as it made its way to the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium for the funeral service.
At 5-Mile, the 17-year-old grabbed a PNG flag and ran barefoot alongside the casket until the funeral procession reached the Poreporena Freeway.
On Sunday, Edward, again, ran alongside the cortege making its way to the Jackson Airport for the flight home to Wewak, where Sir Michael was buried at his Kreer Heights property in Wewak after an 18-day national mourning period.
Kreer Heights overlooks Wewak town in East Sepik.
Kaile joined the cortege near the end of the Kumul Flyover at Erima and ran alongside the casket to the Apec Terminal at 7-Mile.
Pictures of him running and carrying the PNG flag touched the hearts of many.
His parents are from Tufi in Northern and Makerupu in Central.
He told The National from his home at Gordon in Port Moresby that when he took up the aunt’s challenge, he did not realise that people were taking pictures of him.
All he knew was that he was running with Sir Michael, letting him know that he was there to support him on his final journey.
Kaile knew he was representing the country by carrying the PNG flag alongside the “father of the nation”.
“As I ran, I thought about how this was the last time I would run alongside him,” he said.
“I was proud but also sad that I was saying goodbye to him too.
“To me, it wasn’t a challenge.
‘I was doing it for everyone’
“I was doing it to represent everyone around the country.
“When we neared the Apec Terminal gate, I missed a turn and did not finish the run.
“But I was happy I escorted him to the airport. When I returned home, I was told that my picture had gone viral on Facebook.”
Prime Minister James Marape even shared the picture, saying Edward represented the future of Papua New Guineans who would continue the legacy of Sir Michael.
Edward said: “I did it to remember what he did for the country and what I have today is because of him.”
Asia Pacific Report publishes EMTV and The National reports with permission.
This post was originally published on Asia Pacific Report.