Saturday, June 06, 2009

D-Day Plus 65 Years

Kathleen here. This morning I made coffee, turned on TV news and got in on the singing of the national anthems of the allies from the invasion of Normandy 65 years ago today. It was an accident tune-in, but I watched the rest of the celebration and was moved by so many words and images. I'll share one or two thoughts.

The images that moved me most:
The wizened faces of surviving veterans of that day, men and women seated right up front with heads of state. Expressions in those faces and in the way they sat and moved hinted in some way at what those eyes saw, those ears heard, those minds remember first hand--images only experience can truly bring to bear. They couldn't have known then what a difference they were making for generations to come. Now they do.

The missing man fly-by. Daddy was a pilot, but during the war he was a young paratrooper. He wasn't there for D-Day, but he was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge. I miss him.

The sounds: Taps, as always, brought me to tears. Wow. That bugler has some wind power.

The words: Our president gave a fine speech. He spoke in sweeping terms about alliances and heroism and historical significances. But what moved me were the anecdotes. He told a few individual stories, and that's what brings an event like this home to the human heart. He told of survivors and fallen heroes, but one story brought the past and present together in a single life, a single day, full circle. One of the veterans who traveled to Normandy for this ceremony visited the graves of his fallen comrades yesterday for the last time. He died in his sleep last night.

This is what we do as story tellers. The whole of human experience is reflected in the story of one person living one life. No, think about it. A good story helps us understand who we are. A good romance makes us feel good about that. Without those personal anecdotes, the president's speech would have been instructional, patriotic, and grand. But by making reference to extraordinary moments in the lives of otherwise ordinary people, he brought the day home.

3 comments:

MarthaE said...

Wonderful comments - Thanks for sharing Kathleen!

Anonymous said...

Kathleen,
last year I went to visit Normandy and it was really what I called a travel into history. I went there very well prepared on what happened over there, during the D-Day and every beach was talking to me. I knew also personal stories about people that died or survived there and your President " brought you there" making you feel the connection with real people and real stories! You should be proud as American for what you have done for us. We Italians will be always thankful to you for what you have done for us. When you enter the American Cemetery and you see the crosses giving their back to you and facing home ( America) you heart stops....
And Yes, you are right a good story helps to understand what we are..
Ciao
Rossella ( Rome Italy)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Rossella, thanks so much for your post. I watched "Into the Storm" on HBO last night--about Churchill. Interesting man. The right one for the job that needed to be done, but not for post-war Gr Britain, as enamored as he was with empire.

It's so important to study history, and I fear we're not doing the best job here lately. I think our new president's world view will help us move in a more enlightened direction.

I've only been to Europe once, but Italy was my favorite part of my 3-week, multi-country tour with a bus load of teachers from North Dakota. Loved Rome. Adored Florence. Oh, I do hope I get to go again.