A Dark Day in Normandy

Les Braves Memorial at Omaha Beach. "The 3 elements consist of: THE WINGS OF HOPE -- So that the spirit which carried these men on 6th June 1944, continues to inspire us, reminding us that together it is always possible to change the future; RISE OF FREEDOM -- So that the example of those who rose up against barbarity, helps us remain standing strong against all forms on inhumanity; and THE WINGS OF FRATERNITY -- So that the surge of brotherhood always reminds of our responsibility towards others as well as ourselves."

[…Caen, France…]

The mood is mellow and somber here in Normandy. Dark and heavy clouds have lingered for the most part of the day like a persistent tune that you can’t get off your head. I would feel a drop of two from the sky, and then I smell the threat of rain, although it never came.

Over the beach of Omaha, there’s a long stretch of blue-gray sky, with a sliver of light trying to pass through. That break in the sky lit up the beach to a golden color, right in the area where they had set up three shiny sculptures they call Les Braves. Kids played around it, shoveling the grains of golden sand carefully onto their plastic buckets like they were precious stones. They stay for a long time, sinking their tiny feet into the soft sand, then they start building a sandcastle that gets thinner and thinner as the winds from the South blow past it.

It’s almost cute how they play carelessly on the same beach where many brave young men have given up their lives on that fateful day they call D-Day.  Their innocence excuses them from not knowing, their youth saves them from the ills of the troubled past.

Up on the hill, not very far from this beach is a long stretch of manicured lawn, filled with crosses and some with six-point stars. There are withered roses, miniature flags, unpolished pebbles, silent prayers, and unwritten notes.

Underneath them all are where these brave men lay – thousands of them under a carpet of green grass, separated by white marble headstones, some of them with their names engraved, some are just called unknown.

From the shores of Omaha Beach to the hills of Normandy, they make their presence known, perhaps hoping the castles the children build don’t end up like hopes that perish on the sand and dreams that disappear with the wind.

There seems to be different explanations to this Jewish tradition of putting a pebble on their dead's headstone but here's one I found interesting: "People in different parts of the world believed that the soul of the deceased haunts the grave for a long time. On account of that continued fear, prehistoric men rolled great rocks in front of to graves, so that boulders should prevent the dead from escaping and plaguing living relatives. The small pebble form a substitute for the one big boulder. It is as though the survivor who had visited the grave of a relative and so exhibits his piety to the dead, protects himself from their envy or hostility by putting those stones in their abode, preventing the dead from escaping." Or quite simply, these days, it is a mark of respect, a permanent token that the person is remembered and not forgotten.

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6 responses

  1. Great composition with the shallow DOF…enough depth to give the viewer the perspective of where the shot is taken, but not enough focus to take away from the subject of the photo.

  2. Hi Yen!
    I am moved by your words! Having visisted this place some years ago, my memories come back to me …
    thanks for sharing such beautiful impressions and pics!
    a hug, jude

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