The church bells rang for more than 15 minutes this morning at 9 am in Cherbourg, France. They rang out across the harbor as it woke for the day. They rang out across the hills that top the peninsula and out across the sea. They rang so clearly I swear you might have heard them in Portsmouth. Oh, that you could.
The bells rang today for freedom, and for a mission that cost so much yet still chalked up success in so many ways. The most important? That 70 years later, the leaders of the countries that participated in this crucial moment all came together to commemorate the loss and the gain from the calculus of choices made.
We set out from Le Havre to Cherbourg before 6 am, leaving early in the morning so that we could cross the Pont de Normandie [http://instagram.com/p/o6xR5JTWJp/] as the sun rose. With Obama, Hollande, Merkl, Cameron, and Putin (to name a few) gathering on the beaches and cemeteries of Normandy, the Calvados region was on lock down for most of the day. With most of France’s gendarmarie in force, little seemed left to chance. But the places we chose to celebrate felt untouched by martial intervention. Indeed, that “Liberte, Egalitie, Fraternite” spirit carried the day…helped along by copious cups of beer and wine and Coca-Cola.
From Cherbourg we went out to the airport at Malpertus to watch the C-47 “Whiskey 7” and 2 C-130s assemble for their overflight of the region [http://instagram.com/p/o6yKqzzWLF/]. Though the only view we had was through the fence, it still made my heart glad to hear those rumbling engines over the French countryside. We are so lucky here in the United States for the access we enjoy–but that’s another story.
After the takeoff, we hopped in the Peugeot and drove down to Sainte Mere-Eglise. As luck would have it, we reached the exit off the N13 in time to see the three-ship cross in front of us on its way to overfly the town. Once there, we joined the festival atmosphere, as all countries bonded in the spirit of the day.
We then headed a few kilometers to Sainte Marie du Mont, the closest major town to Utah Beach. The church there sits on the town plaza, with leafy trees surrounding its Renaissance bell tower [http://instagram.com/p/o6zpBRzWNC/]. Those bells rang the hour of 6 pm, with a full 18 hours of D-Day behind us, and so many parts of the mission complete against all odds, and many more to come.
from June 6, 2014