As I was writing a speech for a Model Congress trip I’m going on at the end of the month, I kept thinking about my computer background. Here’s what it looks like:
It’s actually Omaha Beach. The Omaha Beach. The Omaha Beach of World War Two’s D-Day fame. I took this picture in the Normandy American Cemetery while the wind whipped my hair about and the sun made the top of head unbearably hot.
There were white crosses that went on forever like this.
After some wandering down paths and tripping over a step, I noticed that there were some people carrying beach chairs. I edged closer to listen to hear what language they were speaking. American English. People rarely come to cemeteries with beach chairs, so I started to follow them. In a non creepy way. A let’s just pretend there is something really interesting right behind them that I must go examine sort of way.
They stopped to confer at the top of a path that led down the bluff. Could you really go down onto the beach? I started follow the path. After winding around some trees, I saw this.
People playing on Omaha Beach. The Omaha Beach. The place where thousands of men died, rushing out of boats to take the Germans by storm. It was just a holiday place to them. I could still see the blood in the water and the bodies slumped over motionless. I stood at the end of the path, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand, thinking about all of the sacrifices made in that war and how it would feel if I had been born many decades earlier and had lost cousins or brothers on this very beach.
And as I stared out at the people and the water, I was struck by the fact that a situation can be two separate things at once. People must have vacationed here before the war and they do now. The beach was both a place for quietly remembering the dead and for laughing and swimming. I may have been sobbing at the thought of all the dead men, shot down on the land that I was standing on, but I was also giddy with excitement as I explored my favorite war. It was all rolled together into one and felt funny and strange inside of me. So I remained rooted to the spot until time ran out, and I had to turn away and amble back up the hill. The same hill that men had fought to climb so many years ago.
In other news, I wrote the speech without crying and only minor rolling on the bed.