I had the great privilege of visiting Normandy nine years ago. The northern regions of France get short shrift, with both tourists and French residents alike, often derided because the weather is frequently rainy and cold.
But Normandy is truly one of my favorite places in the country with some of the friendliest people I've ever met.
When you see news reports this week about locals still thankful to American, British, and Canadian tourists passing through, it's no joke. There are signs in the windows and on the restaurant bills and scattered around local towns, all thanking the allied visitors for liberating them. It felt odd because I know I was thinking, "I didn't do anything. I'm just here as a tourist because I love France and I love history."
But the gratitude on their part is completely genuine and heartfelt all the same. The beaches are an especially surreal place. Quiet, solemn, almost eerie. They are living tombs. You only hear crashing waves now (and very strong winds on some days), but you can only imagine what it sounded like 75 years ago today.
There are a lot of lessons and praise that will be celebrated in D-Day thinkpieces today, but I cannot pretend like it is easy to celebrate this important anniversary at a time when this country has regressed to the point it has. Just because all of this happened decades ago does not mean it cannot happen again.