Want to feel awe and a significant amount of insignificance? Visit the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It is located on the site of Omaha Beach. I visited there on the 28th of June in 2010. The day had started at 7 am when I had gotten up and quickly dressed and packed up. I got over to breakfast at about 7:20 am when we had to leave at 7:30. I quickly got some bread from breakfast and was ready to board the bus.
The bus trip to Saint Michael lasted about 2 hours through some amazingly beautiful scenery. Saint Michael is an old abbey that was built in the north of France. The strip of land is it built on would flood when the tide rise and it only when the modern road was added could you consistently make it to the abbey without worrying about being stranded. The church and monastery are located at the top of a hill that required us to climb up many stairs to reach it. Once we reached it we had an amazing view out over the countryside. The rest of the church was okay but nothing special when compared to what else we had seen. But those views are my standard by which I will compare all other beautiful panoramic views against.
Afterward the church, we went to grab lunch as we were leaving within the hour. I ended up with a omelet and fries that was very good. I left my portion of the bill and quickly went and bought some souvenirs before realizing that I was five minutes late from when we were told to meet at the bus. I quickly hurried to the bus where the rest of the group miss the professors where waiting.
Once they did arrive at the bus we left and ended up on the road again. This took about another 2+ hours to get to the American Cemetery and Memorial. When we arrived we went through the museum that was okay but was not that great. Then I went outside. The first thing I did was walk down to the beach where I turned around and looked up. As I looked at it all I could think about was that men who where my age and younger fought up that hill. I could not comprehend how they could have down it. Little did I know that I would have my answer quickly.
After climbing back up I saw the cemetery. There were countless white crosses and Stars of David. I do not know how many graves were in each section but I know that the sections went up to J. I walked down one row and I was saddened to see so many unidentified graves. If the grave was of a known soldier it had when they died, what their name and rank was, and what division they were in. If it is an unidentified soldier it would say “Here Rests in Honored Glory A Comrade in Arms Known But to God”.
In the middle of the sections was a beautiful chapel that I could not get really see much as a small group was there. At the beginning of the section there was a large memorial area that was impressive. At 4:30 we left to go catch a train back to Paris for one last dinner.
Although it was an adventure to finally get home on Wednesday my time in France will always be remembered as a great experience for me.