Destiny's Dawn: Remembering the 70th Anniversary of D-Day

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By Bill Simons

On the eve of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion of France in 1944, we share reflections from when we walked the beach early on the morning of June 6th, 2002:

Touch the sand, a hard cold plain.

Gentle waves break easy, muffling a distant echo within this sea—dark and foreboding.

Lazy lagoons capture still water. A gull swirls free, the sparrow offers a morning song above cruel hills. Waters, so murky, cling to their secrets by this flat, too-wise beach, where a mighty tide was turned.

The surly crimson pools are unseen; still, the knowing grains harbor a bitter truth, beyond our grasp.

This morning, steel clouds hide a horizon like no other; a horizon that wrought a vast gray armada for the ages: 5,423 ships, one goal.

On that day—“The Longest Day”—boys from Moline and Mobile, the sons of Brooklyn and Burbank, Phoenix and Philly, huddled cold in shivering clusters. Wide-eyed, bone-wet, tossed woozy by the uncaring sea—they puffed their last soggy smokes and whispered muted prayers, the final invocations before destiny’s dawn.

What unforgiving fear did they feel? What gut-wrenching terror shook their souls before they strode forth—each one to meet his fate?

Some never reached shore. Packed heavy with battle gear, they sank, a fatal stone descending—an unsparing depth.

Some managed just a single step, dropping to that hard beach. Others scaled storied cliffs, subdued bunkers, or trudged on to wage war in the hedgerow maze, emerging to tell tales—a generation’s pride.

Today, the morning wind is cool. But nothing like the chill of horror that gripped the boys of Omaha on that wide, too wide, beach below cruel hills. Wretched little rises turned imposing peaks; impenetrable bastions raining fire, a fierce explosion, tearing flesh—the sea runs red.

Such agony—dreams and destinies ripped asunder—and a shout of death heard by that distant steeple. The mourning dove flees—the world ablaze—and chaotic flames tell of the madman’s fury, a potent poison.

So step by terrible step, the battle is fought, the beach is won, a continent is conquered. Step by step, the Nazi knot is undone, and we wake from a twisted dream to again embrace that elusive thread, life’s fragile gift.