Having lived in Normandy for a year, it would have been more than remiss of me never to see arguably the region’s biggest draw…
I know there’s a lot going on today–Friday! TFIOS!–but I still think the best thing about today is that it’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day. An important turning point of the last indisputably “good” war America fought in, a day so many sacrifices were made.
Ten years ago I was studying abroad in Dijon when two friends and I decided to hop the night train to Paris and then on to Caen so we could be there on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day. It was an interesting trip to say the least–trips you don’t plan at all always are–but we do have some good memories of that day. (And some super unsophisticated photos, like the above–I used to think it was cool to date-stamp every photo, though it does come in use here, in case you think I’m lying.)
There were a lot of old men in uniform that day, and I just stared at them, thinking of the stories they could tell. My Papa is 94 years old and has dementia, yet he can still recall that day with amazing clarity (He didn’t land on those beaches, he disembarked at Le Havre, which is probably why he’s still with us).
Little did I know at the time that in a few short years I would spend an entire year of my life living and working in Saint-Lô, a little-known yet extremely important Normandy town in terms of World War II history. Little did I also know that I’d be inspired to write a novel that revolves around the events of that fateful day and what happened to a town caught in the crossfire–a town later dubbed “The Capital of Ruins”.
To the memory of the victims of the bombardment that destroyed the town of Saint-Lô, the 6th of June, 1944
Whatever I or anybody else writes, we can never do justice to what happened that day and the horrible ways in which so many people died. But we can try. I think that’s the beauty of stories, as opposed to historical texts; the attempt to take us into the lives and minds of the people who lived and died on that day, what they thought, what they felt.
Tonight, I’m going to rewatch Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day, whatever my dad feels like watching (he’s a huge history buff). I’m going to drink some Calvados and be thankful for my Papa and every other soul who was there on that day, fighting for freedom.