An empty German pillbox stands to my right, surveilling the beach. Day after day of drizzle and rolling waves only. I can imagine how achingly boring it must have been for German soldiers manning these defenses. I look out the small openings in the walls and try to imagine nothing but boats on the horizon — those boats bringing wave after wave of allied soldiers. I can’t. Looking down on that tranquil stretch of sand. I can’t imagine it. This peaceful scene simply cannot be the same place thousands of men died
Down on the beach now, I turn from the water’s edge to look back up at the tall bluffs. You can just make out the pillboxes. It’s not that I can’t imagine landing on this beach and seeing that bluff, bullets raining down on you, the smoke and din of battle. I can’t imagine moving forward. How did they do it? Seeing the Germans on the hill picking off the men around you. Dodging bodies floating in the red water. Dodging bodies covering the beach. And still going forward.
It’s something half-remembered from a movie. Or I’ve read the map incorrectly and we are in the wrong spot. Because this simply can’t be Omaha Beach. I’ve seen the pictures, watched the documentaries, and listened to my grandfather tell of that day.
Now in the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, I again look down on the quiet open shore. Not here. Nothing so horrific could happen here. Behind me, rows upon rows of crisp white crosses whisper, “it happened here.”
June 6, 2019