Friday, June 6, 2014

... and on the 6th of June...

It seems to me that the Meaning of Things here in Europe can be measured very differently than in the USA.  We're currently experiencing one of these moments when differences become obvious.

Paris ~ City of Light

Years ago when Jude and I first came to Paris together, the map seller at the north entrance to Pere Lachaise cemetery smiled and warmly greeted us in excellent English when he learned we came from America.

In the hallway outside our apartment last week a normally rather reserved Frenchman reached over and squeezed my shoulder while he said "... thanks to our American friends..."

On Tuesday in our conversation group someone asked what we were doing on the 6th of June.  I mumbled something about "nothing special, why?"

Last night Jude and I watched part 7 of one of the BBC Farm series episodes and were struck by how deeply etched memories of the past remain.

This morning as Jude and I watched Telematin we realized the day's broadcast was to be cut short.  Broadcasting on France TV2 is given over to special programming with appearanced made by M. Hollande, M. Obama, M. Putin, Mme Merkel, and the Queen of England.

Paris ~ City of Light

Taken individually we could pass each event off as something inconnu.  Taken in total a Thread of Meaning emerges.

So what was all this about, then?

At Pere Lachaise, the map seller said "...we French remember how you Yanks helped us."  Our neighbor said "... we French are free thanks to our American friends."  People in our conversation group wondered if we were going to pay homage to our shared histories.  The BBC Farm episode we watched helped educate us as to the size and scale of the effort the US put behind England and France.  Telematin prepared the way for a day of memory, human loss, and celebration of ultimate victory.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy83,000 English and Australian soldiers and 73,000 Americans landed and parachuted onto France.  It was a huge, costly effort.  Omaha beach had not been properly bombed and the Allies met a much stronger than anticipated German force.  Over a 1,000 Americans died on the beach that day.  More than 4,000 English, Australian, and American soldiers were confirmed dead on the first day of the invasion.  By the end of June 875,000 men had crossed the channel from England to set foot on France.

Paris ~ City of Light

I have to admit that the importance and meaning of history hadn't sunk in.  My most vivid memories of war were limited to seeing a few WWI (not WWII) vets who had suffered severe chemical burns that caused their faces to droop and to wondering how I could find a way to afford a Victory Year 1945 Phillipe Rothschild wine (which was rated as highly as the 1961 vintage from the same cellar).  Pretty meaningless and shallow stuff, this.

It's humbling to feel, not just pass by and read and lightly ponder, but to really feel and thereby know in a different and deep way that some events in history are extremely important to the present moment.  Many of the people we've met appreciate America for the support our politicians, industry, and countrymen actively gave to the liberation of France.

They know.  They remember.  They honor those who enabled peace in the present moment.

Paris ~ City of Light


  1. Thank you for the reminder...

    1. It's a strange feeling to realize I don't have the depth of understanding or experience that these folks do.