Have you, dear reader, ever been to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy? I have, and it is a great and terrible experience.

The first thing you notice — Or that I noticed, anyway — is that everything is at exact, symmetric, well-defined, 90-degree, military angles. This is in stark contrast to the surrounding French countryside, which is soft, rolling, contoured hills, and the general disarray of nature and French construction projects. The fact that you’re standing atop an army of dead men doesn’t hit you immediately; not until you put together that all those sharp angles are headstones, and the smooth, neat lines are all just rows — upon rows upon rows — of headstones. It’s more people than the mind can readily comprehend, and when it does, it is staggeringly awful. It’s just like the opening in Saving Private Ryan:

The volume of death, when you begin contemplating it (this will take a few minutes) completely dwarfs any experience you’ve had in civilian life. It’s unbearably overwhelming.

One can only surmise their final days, seconds. Even though the monument itself implores visitors, “Think not only of their passing; remember the glory of their spirit.” What stories and rationalizations must they have told themselves in the weeks leading up to that June morning? “It won’t be so bad. I’m equipped, trained, and prepared for this. This will pass; I’m with the best, it won’t be me on the KIA lists. I’m doing this to make a better world for my children.” Even though I’m sure some of them were only going at the threat of prison or severe penalties, and I’m sure plenty of them were craven or psychopathic (any group of humans could be described thusly), the glory of their spirit was simply that they screwed up the determination to wade out of those landing craft (or jump from airplanes) in a few seconds, and either make it to the beach, or catch a stray round (yes, I’m aware not all the graves at this site are for those who died in the D-Day landings; don’t interrupt me when the rhetoric’s flowing). As for the passing itself; there is a carnival of nightmarish options one can readily imagine (see: the following ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan). Personally, I’d dread drowning in the surf, or being shot in the lungs and drowning in my own fluids. I’ve heard that’s especially horrific way to go; unlike other ways to die, you retain consciousness while you drown, because your body retains hope of survival even when there is none, and your brain wants you up and alert in case that opportunity presents itself. And those medics, who had to make the terrible decisions of who would be more likely to live and who got what little life-saving treatments they had? How many of those men survived the day and later were terrorized by their memories and consciences for the horrible choices they were forced to make?

I don’t appropriate that imagery or their memories lightly; I do it because that is the only comparable scenario in living memory that can prepare us for the revelations that are tumbling down the pipeline at high speed. Because, by this time, tomorrow, even the low-ball CDC records (which currently show 8910 deaths on US soil), will show the unthinkable: if we were to remove all buried servicemen buried at Normandy and made those graves exclusively for Americans who died of Covid 19, there would not be enough graves. To put it in perspective, there are 9388 people buried in that cemetery; although, again, not every one of those graves is from those who died in combat (the most recent burial there was in 2018, when a brother was buried next another brother). And the CDC’s numbers are at least 24 hours old. According to BNO News (a news agency based in the Netherlands), 10807 Americans have died from this disease. Even if you think this is some fabricated, deep state number made to make Beloved Leader look even more incompetent, no one with even a seven-year-old grasp of health and biology is going to be able to deny this type of problem as it worsens over the next few weeks. And, according to an article in Mother Jones, most patients who die from this disease drown in their own fluids. Stay indoors. Avoid everyone, even if you have no symptoms. If not for your sake, for your friends, family, and neighbors. Please.

UPDATE: As of today, (April 7, 2020), the CDC lists the total number of Covid 19 deaths as 12064. The gap between that number and the Normandy Cemetery is 2676. The number of Americans who died in September 11, 2001 attacks is 2996. When Beloved Leader warned of “American Carnage,” he failed to point out that it wouldn’t be committed by Mexicans, but by Americans who refused to stay indoors in the spring.

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store