Daily Archives: January 16, 2018

Student Reflections

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.

Carlyn shares:

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.

Roanna shares:

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.

The American Cemetery

Lydia shares:

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.

Photo credit: Lydia G.

Normandy Landing Beaches

Today, we got on a bus at 7:30am with our eyes set on Normandy. It was a dark morning, as they always are, since the sun does not rise until about 8:50am. We drove North trying to make sense of the countryside in the darkness. As the sun began to show we saw ourselves surrounded by beautiful green valleys and farms to our left and to our right. We were about an hour away from our destination, and we were very eager to get there. As we approached the beach, M. Fevrier began telling us about the history of D-Day and the significance of what exactly was accomplished on this day. He shared that everyone in France was touched by the World Wars. Everyone new someone that died in the war. The liberation of France by Allied forces is a part of history that, as M. Fevrier told us, we have an obligation to remember. We’ve all learned about World War II in history class at some point or another. However, being on the landing beaches where history was made is another experience all together.

Utah Beach

We started off the day by going to Utah Beach which is the most western point that the Allies seized on June 6th, 1944. We stopped and went to the Utah Beach Landing Museum where students had the opportunity to explore individually. They learned that this beach was a late addition to Operation Overload by General Eisenhower and was critical to the successful liberation of occupied France. This beach was also the first place where American troops landed. After our time in the museum, we went to see the beach. We spent time there taking it all in and really tried to make sense of exactly what took place on the sand we stood on.

Omaha Beach

After this powerful moment, we headed off to lunch where we continued our conversations and talked about everything on our minds. Our last stop of the day was the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Here we got to truly see and understand the toll that World War II had. More than 10,000 American soldiers are buried here, and their graves are each individually marked. We spent time walking through the cemetery grounds and got to see the infamous Omaha Beach. As our time at the cemetery came to a close, we had the opportunity to see the flag-lowering ceremony at 4:00pm sharp. It was powerful and emotional to watch as we stood in the rain and listened the the trumpet playing in the background.

Needless to say that today’s experience will stay with us forever. There is so much to unpack and to talk about, and we look forward to sharing it with everyone.