On the way to the airport we made a stop to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum in Dulles which is basically a massive airport hangar filled with historic and significant aircraft like the Space Shuttle, Concorde, Enola Gay and Blackbird.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a group of WWII Honor Flight Veterans from Kansas. The students and teachers shook the hands of dozens of men who, 70 years earlier, were fighting in World War II.
One of the guys I shook hands with asked us about our Albert Small Normandy Institute shirts and I told him everything that we were doing and was astonished when he said, "I was over there on Omaha Beach." Seeing that as an invitation to keep talking I asked him if he could share more with us. Apparently, he was a radio operator who was hoping to be able to avoid a lot of combat. After he safely landed on Omaha Beach and made it up to a secure location he was told that they were to dig a foxhole and he'd be put there with a machine gun.
After helping secure Normandy and the Cherbourg Peninsula he moved toward Germany and was even part of the soldiers who helped liberate Buchenwald Concentration camp. Several of us took a photograph with him before having to say thank you again and good bye.
Our group headed to Dulles Airport full of anticipation and excitement. "Sleep on the plane if you want to be well rested," was the advice we were given. A few were successful in that venture but most of us grabbed little or no sleep.
The flight went very smoothly across the Atlantic and we flew right across the Cherbourg Peninsula which was the first big objective of the Allies once they gained a foothold on the beaches and adjacent towns of Normandy.
Matti is not a big fan of the landing portion of a flight and she was a little disappointed when the pilot needed two approaches before he put us on the ground. As our plane made its final approach to Charles De Gaulle Airport, about 300 feet above the runway he suddenly pulled up and banked away from the airport. He rose again to 5,000 feet before swinging around again and safely landing. "There was some ambiguity with the landing procedures," the pilot came on and told us.
"Ambiguity" is not a word you want a pilot or a surgeon to say during the most delicate part of the procedure! Matti was very relieved to be on the ground and even the most experienced fliers on that plane said they've never done anything like that before and hope to never do that again.
The good news is that we are in France, we are tired but we are safe and sound! Today's blog is over even though, for many of us, it's going to feel like one long day. That's appropriate, however. It's June 21, the longest day of the year and D-Day is often referred to as "the longest day."
Au revoir for now!