D-Day + 70 Years

An American flag is hastily put together

The Stars and Stripes being stitched together.

In 2008 I spent a short summer semester in Paris. A group of friends and I took a train ride up to Normandy to visit the landing beaches. We decided to get something to eat in a small restaurant near the station. A sign on the door said “Welcome to Our Liberators” on it. We all ordered the croque monsieur and it was a crock of merde.

We didn’t know where we were going exactly. We picked a road and starting walking. People were scarce and the view all around was wide open. Eventually we came to Sainte-Mère Église and found a bus to the museum near the beach.

I can’t remember anything from inside the museum. What I’ll never forget is the crosses – the graves of the soldiers who died that day. I wanted to read every single name. I remember feeling their presence. Reading each name I imagined a face and a life. And I remember the walkways, walking where men who had done something mythical walked and relived memories I can scarcely imagine.

We descended the hill to the beach. It was slightly windy with patches of gray. We all meandered along in the sand, each enjoying some quiet time. I collected some sand to bring home.

As we walked back up and exited the museum, we found that we missed the last bus. We started walking along the road again. There are still ghosts in that area. At least it feels like it. I could swear there were soldiers lying in the tall grass in those fields, on their back, face up, bathing in the sun, not knowing they were no longer part of this world.

We walked into a small guest house on the road and called a cab to take us back to town. Going through the winding Normandy roads I fell asleep, then woke up in Paris. A free Paris.

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