Each day, students will share some aspect of their time in France. Today, we will hear from Roanna Z. Lydia G. and Carlyn K. as they reflect on their experience at the Normandy landing beaches.
Today was different than most. We had the opportunity to visit Normandy, the beaches, the D-Day museum, and the cemetery of the Americans who died fighting in France. For some this was a very personal day. We have all studied World War II in school and heard stories from friends and family. But to stand on that ground was a whole new experience. At the cemetery we were literally back on U.S. soil, but there was a figurative meaning to this too. I felt more connected to my country than ever. Watching the flag being lowered today meant so much more.
Today was an eye-opening experience for me. While I do remember learning about D-Day and World War II during Western Civ. my freshman year, it was a completely different experience to be at the actual site where the American soldiers landed. I found it really interesting visiting the museum that held some of the actual weaponry used during the war and an hour-by-hour account of the first day soldiers experienced on the beaches, but the most profound moment for me was standing on the cemetery. Even though I am Chinese and not American, I don’t think that the experience was any less moving. I don’t really think that nationality had anything to do with it, it was mainly the fact that tens of thousands of soldiers not that many years older than I am willingly sacrificed themselves for such a selfless cause that made the experience so touching. Standing there, with the rows and rows of gravestones that reached far beyond what I could see, I just don’t think I have any words that can describe the extent of the emotion that I felt. The stark contrast between the white markers and the green, complimented by the pouring rain, created an extremely beautiful but heartbreaking picture.
Throughout our trip to France, we have been navigating cultural and linguistic barriers in order to learn more about ourselves and others around the world. We remark on our differences and experience life from another perspective. However, at our visit to Normandy today, we were reminded of all the similarities between these two countries and their people. While we read stories of American soldiers sacrificing their lives to liberate others, dying thousands of miles from home for the liberation of people they would never know, we saw French people laying flowers on the tombstones of unidentified soldiers lost in battle. They understood and grieved these losses just as much as Americans did. France suffered greatly in the war; as did Germany, as did Italy, Russia, England, Japan, Poland, everyone. As I realized this, for the first time that day I ignored my soaked feet and forgot my surroundings. I simply, like everyone else who visits this place, stood amongst the fallen, unable to express my thanks.