Archive for capital of the ruins

June 7, 1944

Posted in Kids with tags , , , , , on June 7, 2014 by xi'an

[I wrote this post a few years ago, but the 70th anniversary of the D-day brought back those memories and I thought it worth re-posting…]

This is the day I almost got un-born, not that I was born at the time (!) but my mother, then almost seven, came close to dying under the Allied bombs that obliterated Saint-Lô (Manche, western France) from the map that night, in conjunction with the D Day landing in the nearby beaches of Utah Beach and Omaha Beach. (The city was supposed to be taken by the end of June 6, but it was only on July 19 that Allied troops entered Saint-Lô.) Most of the town got destroyed under 60,000 pounds of bombs in an attempt by the Allied forces to cut access to the beaches from German reinforcements from Brittany. (Saint-Lô got the surname of “capital of the ruins” from Samuel Beckett after this bombing and it took many years to reconstruct.) My granparents and their three daughters barely went out of their house before it collapsed and had to flee the ablaze Saint-Lô with a single cartwheel to carry two suitcases and the three girls. Several times did my grandfather hide them under his leather jacket for power lines were collapsing around them…
They eventually (and obviously) made it alive out of Saint-Lô, only to be rounded up with other refugees by German troops who parked them in a field, most likely to be used as hostages. Taking advantage of the night, my grandfather managed once again to get his family away by crawling under the barriers on the darkest side of the field and they then reached (by foot) a most secluded village in the countryside where my great-grandmother was living at the time. From when I was a child, I have heard this story so many times from my mother that it is almost pictured in my brain, as if I had seen the “movie”, somehow.