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.
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.
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.