posted on Nov, 20 2006 @ 11:50 AM
Hi! I wrote the following for my father and my uncle, both served in WWII in Europe.
In The Streets
Saturday, September 3, 1994, Lyon, France. The cool air outside was refreshing, though the crowded market street did seem surreal to me. The sun was
dazzling my eyes, a major change from the florescent overhead I had been typing under for the past 14 hours. My employer, an attorney is by my side
complaining about the promise he has to keep. My incentive to work through the night and the two time zones has been the promise of an expresso, a
croissant, and most importantly, the parade celebrating the Liberation of Lyon from the Nazis 50 years ago.
My knowledge of the history of WWII and the WWII underground resistance had been sketchy when we had arrived in Lyon. I had studied the war in school
but had really not given it much thought, only enough to pass the tests. To me the war was years ago, all summed up in a couple of chapters in my
history book. It wasn’t real to me, and besides, it had been fought on battlefields far, far away, hadn’t it? It had nothing to do with my
Pretty shallow, right? But probably not uncommon to my generation and the succeeding ones; you see, now I know that the reality of it couldn’t be
contained in any book, you would have to experience it to understand it, or next best, go there and listen to the people, the survivors.
The reality started to sink in slowly, in bits and pieces, usually while running my errands around town and I began to notice brass plaques on many of
the buildings. I became curious once and asked the super marche caisse (cashier) what the brass plaque on his building was for. Talk about a scene.
In front of several patrons, all women, all under five foot (starvation during the war), all over 60, the cashier left his register and went out into
the street in front of the store and re-enacted the brutal murder of a 15 year old boy who had been standing in the window of his family’s apartment
above the marche.
In the street the Nazis had been threatening and abusing everyone for the underground strategic attack of the night before. The Nazis felt that the
proud Lyonnaise did not have the proper groveling look to them, so in retribution the Nazis, seeing the boy above, pulled him from his family home,
into the street. The cashier’s rat a tat tat tattat ended the story. Each plaque in Lyon (and there are many) has a similar story behind it.
We hear a deep rumble as we climb the steps out of the Metro into a loud, flag waving crowd. Pushing our way through we can make out a line of
American Sherman tanks, track assault vehicles, small artillery pieces, troop trucks and jeeps making their way up the wide boulevard toward us.
Ex-Army, my employer makes sure that I know each vehicle’s name and its use, his booming voice barely audible over the crowd’s cheers. The people
are focusing on the drivers of the vehicles, boys, 17 or 18 years old, all of them in WWII U.S. uniforms and each with a mouth full of bubblegum,
grinning and waving at the crowd.
Now I am moved because I realize that this is a re-enactment of 50 years ago when our forces moved through the city liberating the town. As the
column advanced, pushing the Nazis out, the people had come out into the streets, wanting to see and never forget the image burned into their memories
of the young gung-ho troops moving steadily ahead, pushing the nightmares of war into the past.
Looking around, I saw champagne poured, wine opened, then passed around, and tears. They were remembering. Remembering torture, malnutrition, lost
family members, and friends lost to war.
The parade continues, now with vets who have come for the celebration. They have tears in their eyes too, but for a different reason. They are being
remembered and honored sincerely, exactly as they deserve; no clowns, no floats, just thankful eyes and heartfelt cheers which hold more meaning for
them than a thousand medals.
Cheering with the crowd wasn’t enough. I wanted to really show the pride I had in our troops. I NEEDED a flag. The city had given them out free
but had run out. A little old lady next to me had several in each hand. I leaned over and asked her if she could spare one. “Are you American?”
she asked. “Yes.” “Did your family fight in the war?” “Yes, my father marched through the Arc De Triumphe.” “Here, give them to your
father for me, yes?” “Yes, I will, thank you.” “No, No, No, THANK YOU.”
[edit on 20-11-2006 by seentoomuch]