I’ve always been fascinated by history. Although I may not remember every monumental date or influential person, I have a great appreciation for those who came before me and the amazing things they did. However, I feel that learning about history is one thing and experiencing it is another entirely.
A few years ago, in the fall of 2016, I was fortunate enough to study and travel abroad in England for three months. There I had some of the most memorable experiences of my life and learned more than I could have ever imagined. One of these top experiences was going to Normandy, France and visiting the beaches where D-Day took place.
In just one day we went to Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, La Pointe du Hoc, the American Cemetery and a few other historical markers along the way. My group started off the day energetic and excited but with each new stop we became more and more drained. It was amazing to be able to physically be in all of these historical places but at the same time it was extremely emotional as well. People soon retreated to their own rows on the bus, put their headphones in and were just left alone to deal with their thoughts and feelings.
We visited the beaches first and I quickly became overwhelmed. I got the same sensation when we went to La Pointe du Hoc afterward and I weaved in and out of the many trenches and ruins that scattered the clifftop. It was weird standing there where so many had fallen. To me though, the most powerful place we went was probably the American Cemetery.
I thought I knew roughly how many people had died but I was vastly mistaken. The number I had heard meant very little compared to the countless number of graves I saw that seemed to go on for miles. I was surprised though because I expected the place to be shrouded in sadness and gloom but it was actually quite beautiful there.
Visiting all these places in one day was a lot but it was also one of the most memorable days of my life. I learned about D-Day in school growing up but actually going to Normandy and seeing it for myself made it all the more real. I will forever cherish the pictures and memories I have from that trip.