LISIEUX, France – The remembrance evening started with a head count: How many in the hall experienced the 1944 liberation of France? Of 400 people, barely three dozen hands went up.
“There aren’t many of us, are there?” said a hushed voice in the crowd.
In Lisieux, as in other Normandy towns that took the brunt of the D-day invasion 60 years ago, the dwindling number of townspeople who experienced it are rushing to preserve their memories in a world transformed.
For some, a German leader for the first time joining the VIPs at June 6 commemorations in Normandy will be jarring. Others will find it heartening — a symbol of a peaceful, united Europe risen from the ashes of World War II.
The Cold War’s end will be highlighted by the first-time attendance of a Russian leader, President Vladimir Putin, while the present-day reality of Iraq means President Bush may be among the less popular VIPs, even though his country led the liberation of France.0