The Day My Eyes Rained

07.24.2011Yesterday I visited some of the most moving sites I’ve ever seen—the D-Day museum, Normandy beaches, an American WWII cemetery,a German WWII cemetery, and Pointe du Hoc. I boarded the bus in the morning expecting to have an emotional day, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced. It’s difficult to put it into words, what I felt while looking at the pictures and reading the letters from soldiers. It was almost surreal to be there after having learned about WWII and D-Day at school for the past 10-12 years. It’s one thing to read about war in a text-book and a completely different thing to see the impact it had on those who lived it. We visited the museum first and after 15 minutes I was crying. What got me the most was seeing the pictures of women searching for their husbands amidst the fallen; of children’s faces full of fear and lacking nutrition; of massive groups of people being herded onto trains, headed for concentration camps. And the letters. Two in particular that, while writing this and thinking about them, brought chills to my arms and legs and a little mist to my eyes. The first was a letter from a German soldier to his wife, telling her that he had become numb to the task of extermination, feeling nothing as men, women, and children took their last breaths at his hand. The second was a desperate plea from a man who knew he was about to die, begging for whoever found the letter to remember and to pass-on the names of people he cared about and people who had died before him. And then I cried some more. After that emotional rollercoaster, we headed off to Omaha Beach, one of the sites of the D-Day landing. Then the two cemeteries, and finally Pointe du Hoc, a preserved battle site with bomb-made holes and destroyed shelters. It almost felt wrong to be there, walking through these places where so many people died. Even the beach, with perfect sand, blue skies, and sunshine was shrouded in an air of sadness. And the crosses at the cemeteries that were marked as “known only to God” still give me shivers. I cannot possibly detail every emotion I felt yesterday, but the most important thing I wanted to share is that I think it’s really important to visit places like these because it makes everything that much more real. It helps put life in perspective. Emma, one of the monatrices, was talking to me at the museum while I was crying and I really love what she told me. She said, “These things are sad, but they were made for a reason. They were made for our generation so that we can see them and make sure that this never happens again.” And I completely agree.