Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Standing there..... a reflection from Juno Beach

David, you were recently in France and as part of your journey there you visited the coast of Normandy..... Specifically you visited Juno Beach  and the Canadian Centre there...

What were your first impressions?

At first it seemed like just another museum......but as the guide started telling us the story of what happened, the bunkers etc....I realized that this, this war, had been a much bigger deal than I had ever thought.

What specifically made you stop and think?

When the guide told us first about the defences the Germans had made, their fire power and their confidence in their ability to repel any invading forces......Incredible that any invasion succeeded.

When I started to listen to the numbers of people who died on Juno beach coming into that first rush....It was so shocking.

Obstacles littered the landing beaches

How did it feel to stand on that Beach?

It felt surreal.....it was such a "normal" scene.... there were ,fishermen, people walking and yet so much history was all around, it was a battlefield, so many died.......hard to wrap my head around that.  

There is a new movie at the Canadian Centre at Juno Beach.... how was that?

It was impactful, such vivid footage of people rushing onto the beach and being shot down.  Hard to imagine what those young men, who had been trained for this invasion must have felt as they were told to jump off the landing craft into the water and told to run......

How did you feel after that movie?

We all felt shocked and surprised.  Somber......sad.

The next day you moved on to the Canadian and American cemeteries.  How was that?

The Canadian cemetery we walked in to was surprisingly just on the side of the road, nothing very showy or remarkable but once in it it was striking just how big it was.... it took forever to walk across.

Reading the tombstones and their messages was hard .....the hardest part was the ones with no names...that said "Known only to God"....they fought the war and no one knows their names... that is so sad.

The American cemetery was also huge but more official, had a parking lot, signs, a proper museum with security.... it felt over done at the beginning.  But once in the cemetery,  in the park,  it was again shocking and terrifying how many crosses there were covering acres and acres.  Even though it was grand and huge, here it felt personal and about the graves, about the soldiers represented.

As this part of trip ended what did you take away in your heart?

I took away a new understanding of  what was sacrificed for the freedom of a country other than our own.... what sacrifices were made for people far away from Canada by Canadians.

How is this Remembrance Day different for you?

I have something different to think about...... "Lest we forget" has a new meaning..... all we have is some graves on the side of the road in France and there really should be more. They gave their lives as a sacrifice for the greater good of the world.  I feel there should be something closer, here in BC that is a better memorial.

As we were talking it was 11:11am....... we paused...... David is clearly moved by this experience.

(all photos by David)

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