They Are on my Mind

On June 6, 1944 thousands of men, some still boys, fought and died on the beaches of my childhood. The survivors rarely spoke about what they went through that day. When they landed in Normandy they had two goals in mind: free Europe and also protect their fellow soldiers.

When I walked those same beaches they were so often on my mind.

Today we are honoring all of them.

I chose to re-publish one of my own blog posts.

 

 

When I was a little girl, growing up in Normandy, I knew only two things about the United States of America.

People living there spoke American English.

It was the country that ended World War II.

One of my oldest childhood memories goes back to a day my father and I stood on a beach along the Atlantic coast. Since I had only seen the Manche (the English Channel), I asked him what stood beyond the Atlantic Ocean.

America, he said.

I detected an edge in his voice. I was too young to pinpoint the emotion behind, yet I knew to recognize reverence.

Until I moved from France to the United States my father’s only connection with America was tied to the liberation of his small Normandy village by a coalition of American and Canadian soldiers right after D Day.

Here in the United States I’ve met a handful of American men who fought in France during WWII but none who landed on the beaches of my childhood.

I spoke once to a woman whose father was among the ones who set foot on Omaha Beach in the early hours of the day that would bring peace to Europe. I was so moved by the fact that her father had walked through the villages and small towns that are the fabric of my childhood landscape that I asked her if I could meet him.

I wish you could, she said, but he died last year.

When his daughter told me his age, I calculated that he was twenty years old when he arrived in Normandy on D Day.

Five years older than my father on D-Day.

Younger than my son is today.

 

As years pass, D Day and the reason why those men and boys fought seems naturally very remote for contemporary children and teens. Fiction can bridge time. A few of my very favorites books that depict, in unique ways, unforgettable WWII.

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hess (also in French)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (also a French version)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyle

Night by Elie Wiesel (also in French)

If you read French, this is a classic:

Un Sac de Billes par Joseph Joffo (the movie is great, too)

Their fight, death and survival is so alive today.

 

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