Reflections in Normandy

Programs for this blog post

Liberal Arts

Authored By:

CIEE Rennes

As I stepped out onto the boardwalk overlooking the English Channel beaches, I hesitated to look down. All morning I had filled my mind with the gruesome images of one of the most critical, yet destructive battles that occurred during World War II: D-Day. I had read about it in novels or in my history classes, but now here I was, standing on the same ground that thousands of soldiers stormed in an effort to liberate France from Germany’s grasp. I took a deep breath and peered over the edge. However, instead of the mass of weaponry and the wounded, all I saw were the waves gently splashing against the rocks. The wind was calm, the seagulls called playfully to each other, and there was a scattering of people peacefully reflecting on the history of this beach. How could it be possible that at one point, not too far in the past, such brutality ever occurred here? As I continued along the boardwalk, I switched between the imagery of the war and the tranquility of the present moment. I reflected upon how much has changed since that day: how the rubble from the destruction of the previous infrastructure has been replaced by new farm towns, how the ground once bombed relentlessly now grows gardens, and how the air, once filled with the smoke of gunfire and soldiers’ cries is now clear and quiet. I thought about how we have changed as the new generations replace the old ones. I thought about how we have progressed since that day, and how far we still need to go. Would the men and women who fought for peace in this world be proud of how it exists now?

This weekend was packed with museum visits and walks on the beaches. Our first stop was to the World War II Memorial Museum where we learned a lot about the logistics, strategies, and rationale behind the war leading up to, during, and after D-Day. We then visited the beach where the mission “Gold” took place. After, we went to the Germany Artillery Batteries and reflected on all the barriers the Allied soldiers faced. The next day we went to Omaha Beach, where we visited the American Cemetery and then got to actually walk on the beach.

In a weekend packed with emotions, it was nice to see how beautiful the beaches and memorials have become. It was encouraging to see how it’s possible to change even the worst of situations. If nothing else, I hope to take from this weekend a renewed passion to change the world I live in for the better.

Kate Andy

St Lawrence University