Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Normandy--Pausing to Reflect (Tom)

On Sunday, we left Paris and made our way to Normandy. While the Normandy countryside is beautiful, and most of the scars to the terrain caused by the War sixty-five years ago have been covered over by time, there is an overwhelming atmosphere that this is an important place and that great sacrifices were made here. Tourism-wise, D-Day and the Battle of Normandy are important industries, but matters are conducted with a sense of respect and dignity for Normandy’s history. That feeling culminates at the American Cemetery, just behind Omaha Beach, where 9,387 Americans who died in the Battle of Normandy are buried. From the middle of the Cemetery, you are surrounded in all directions by the headstones of the graves of those who died so far from home (even further in 1944, before international travel was common). All of the graves face west—looking toward the United States. Most of the headstones are marked with the name, unit, date of death and home state of the person buried. North Carolina, Georgia, Wyoming, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Kansas—all the states are there. Most of the grave markers have a cross at the top of the marker, although there are some topped with the Star of David. The dates of birth are not included, but we guessed that most of the dead were only 18-25 years old—kids whose lives were brought to such a short end by the war. Some of the headstones do not include any information, but only a short statement --“Here lies an Honored Comrade in Arms—Known But to God.” On this trip and on other trips to Europe I have seen many amazing things—and am grateful that I have had the chance to do so-- but nowhere has touched me the way this green lawn with its markers of rising crosses and stars lined in long rows touched me. In addition to our somber visits to the Cemetery, Omaha Beach and other D-Day related sites, we also spent some time in the very lovely town of Bayeux (the first town liberated by the Allies). We saw a somewhat entertaining 1000 year-old 285 foot long tapestry depicting the Norman invasion. The headphone audio guide included a guide for children, which Gabriel enjoyed quite a bit. The three of us also enjoyed playing tennis on the court at the Chalet where we were staying, made even more exciting by the cheers in the form of “Moo” we heard from the dairy cows in the pasture just beside the court. We also had several delightful meals at authentic French Bistros, where our inability to speak French was put to a challenge. Despite a few misfires—our Fruit de Mers plate included escargot (which was left untouched), we ate well.

1 comment:

  1. I am happy you were able to visit Normandy. I recall as a young teen when the invasion took place. Radio reports were the source of info on what took place on that sacred tract of land. Thanks for sharing your thoughts regarding the battle that turned the tide for victory. Grandpa