Reflections of the 80th: Colleville-sur-Mer

Though the American Cemetery was closed to the public, after collecting my media badge at Media Operations Center, I entered the grounds of Colleville-sur-Mer on 5 June in the early afternoon.

On stage, sound checks were going on. Off to the right, mainstream broadcasting platforms were setting up.

ABMC staff missed no details. Over 10,000 guests would arrive the next day.

A sea of chairs was set from back to front.

Aside from that quiet preparation, and a few wandering staff, I was the only one there.

That, in and of itself, was startling.

No one was on the grounds except me and 10,000 war dead.

It gave me a profound sense of a consuming Presence.

This isn’t to say that sense could be had only if the grounds were empty, but it was my introduction for what was to come.

Looking out to sea, ships were standing in place under a light, graying mist, holding guard along the coastline.

I’d been talking to myself for the last week, wondering how it is I’ve had the extraordinary good fortune to be one of the media crew attending the 80th Anniversary of Liberation here on the Normandy Beaches. There was no answer.