I am transfixed each and every time I see news footage of the American, Canadian and British soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. Over 150,000 Allied forces successfully landed on five beaches along a heavily fortified 50-mile coastline. While the soldiers coming ashore on four of the five beaches encountered relatively light resistance from the German forces, over 2,000 perished on Omaha Beach, which was a codename.
The turbulent waters sickened many soldiers as they made their way across the English Channel from southern England, not to mention the fear that surely enveloped even the most courageous of them. I study their young faces as they make their journey, and try to imagine what they’re thinking, the final thoughts for many of them.
I root for the boys who are close to the beach, or already on shore, then watch in horror as the unlucky ones fall to the sand and into the water as they’re gunned down by the German troops. I wonder if any of the fallen men’s wives or girlfriends are alive today, 74 years ago yesterday, and how they must feel watching the clips airing all over the TV and internet. I would like to meet one of them to hear her story, and to personally thank her for the sacrifice her partner made to save us from the Nazis.
My two visits to Normandy have been my most memorable trips. Walking on the serene beach, I recall the haunting 1944 images of fear, pain and destruction. Close by, the lush and peaceful American Cemetery in Normandy is blanketed with row after row of stark white crosses and Jewish stars that mark the graves of the fallen soldiers. It is an essential reminder that others gave their lives so that we could live ours without fear and hate.
We must never forget that.