Our first day in Normandy

Written by Windsor Warlick ’19 (March 5, 2018)

Bright and early this morning, all the students woke up and prepared for a long day exploring the history of Normandy. Although we were all excited for the day, France’s 7:30 am still felt like our 1:30 am so getting out of bed was difficult. After trying to shake the jet lag off, all of us finally managed to make it downstairs for breakfast. Most of us were surprised to learn that the French often drink their tea/coffee out of a bowl. Satisfied from our bowl beverages and breads with spreads, we loaded up onto our tour bus and headed to our first destination: Musée de la Paix.

Every sign and caption we saw provided explanations in French, English, and German. To fully immerse ourselves, we tried to ignore the English despite how tempting it was. After walking through the exhibit with all things pre-war titled “avant 1945”, we met up again for lunch. After several years of hearing about the classic “un sandwich de jambon” in French class, we were finally able to try this authentic French cuisine ourselves. Following lunch, we watched a short twenty minute film depicting the too-often-forgotten months of fighting after the initial invasion on the beaches of Normandy. Since D-Day is usually the most advertised part of the liberation, it was interesting for us to learn more about the efforts that lead to France’s release from the bloody Nazi rule. After that, students were permitted to view any other part of the museum that hadn’t seen yet. The German bunker seemed to be the most popular. All well versed on D-Day and the battles that followed, we were ready to go and see the real thing.

We met up with our guide, Claire, and ventured to Point du Hoc where we were able to walk in an actual bunker used by the Germans on D-Day. Claire prompted us to try and decipher if the divots in the ground were from air raids or shot from the battle ships, round versus oval respectively. We marveled at how the beautiful crystal blue water was juxtaposed with the tragic events that occurred there over seven decades ago.

Prior to our trip, Dr. Rezelman gave us some background on the infantry division who stormed the Omaha beach. When we stood on the edge of the bluff looking down on the beach, we could not believe that the tragedies we read and heard about really happened right where we were standing.

Our final destination in Normandy was the American Military Cemetery which was by far the most moving place we saw—9,386 marble graves dispersed across the vast field. Although a majority of them were crosses, there were 500 Stars of David. We were also interested about the four women whom the guide said were buried there: one was an American Red Cross worker, and three were postal workers who designed a system of using a soldier’s dog tag number to ensure that he received the correct letter.

We said “au revoir” to our guide and headed back to the youth hostel where we were treated to a delicious dinner of soup, fish and rice, local cheese and bread, and apple pie for dessert.