By Ann Minnett
“The story of one person is the story of humanity.”
Earlier this month my husband and I walked the grounds of the American Cemetery in Normandy France where 9,387 American military dead are buried. Some sections were open to the public to stroll between the markers and perhaps find lost loved ones. Although we had no family members to locate, the memorials, the beautiful setting, and pristine white markers moved us to silence. Each headstone listed the man’s name (4 women were buried there), service rank, home state, and date of death. I lingered over a few markers, concentrating on each man’s name as I zigzagged through the maze. It felt wrong to skip even one, and that’s when the impossible task of honoring all of them overwhelmed me.
I headed toward the central path, and there was a cross bearing the name of Raymond F. Eggers, TEC 5, from Oklahoma. Both sides of my family come from Oklahoma. I was born there. The enormity of war and killing and dying settled onto the headstone of this one young man who died in France 72 years ago. The fact of his grave stone touched me far more deeply than the enormous maps depicting American and British divisions landing on the beaches or parachuting into the countryside behind German lines or even the regimented rows of gravestones stretching in all directions.
Later, on our way through pastoral Normandy toward a seaside village up the coast, it dawned on me why one stranger’s grave stood out among the enormity of the events memorialized in the vast cemetery.
I could relate to the personal story of one man. His background. The loss of him.
And isn’t this where good authors excel? For readers the grand story emerges in telling the ‘small’ moment of one individual.
Enjoy your Memorial Day. Let us be grateful for those who came before and for those we touch today.
Beautifully said, Ann. Another such example is the little girl in the red coat in Schindler’s List. It wasn’t until he started watching that one Jewish child in the ghetto that he began to help all of them he could. Humanity lies in each one of us. Karen
Perfect reminder for today of how Americans and the world set aside their petty differences and pulled together to defeat a common enemy. How much, how real was the cost.