11 November 2009

L'Armistice: The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month

I'll keep the history lesson short! Today is Armistice Day, an official holiday in France and throughout the world.  Americans know this holiday better as Veteran's Day. It commemorates the signing of the Armistice Treaty on November 11, 1918, which ended the major hostilities of World War I.  This is a particularly important day for the city of Metz, which had been seized by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War.  After the Armistice was signed in November of 1918, the French reclaimed Metz, and it officially became part of France again after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.  Metz fell again to Third Reich Germany in World War II, and became the site of a bloody battle between American and German forces, and was finally returned to France after the war.  Obviously, this continues to be a touchy subject in the Lorraine Region, and although there is a lasting German presence (architecture, food, etc), from my observation, the region is fully and proudly French.

Today, I witnessed an impressive ceremony commemorating Armistice Day at Place D'Armes in the city center. Surprisingly, few Messins turned up to watch the ceremony, and it seemed like there were more participants than spectators.  Considering the importance of this holiday, I was disappointed to see so few in attendance. Nevertheless, I fought back tears during the reading of the names of the fallen, and marveled at the enormous sense of pride that swelled within me when the military band played La 
Marseillaise, the French national anthem.  There was an indescribable presence hanging in the air, and it spoke to me. At this moment I realized the extent to which France has already become a part of me.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jamie,

    Lovely pictures and a very poignant post!! It's worth pondering that the sacrifices of people over 80 years ago made it possible for you today to move freely across borders, take pictures unchallenged and strike up conversations with strangers without them having any fear of you.

    It is a good exercise to reflect that Freedom isn't free, and never has been, as your Patron Saint well knows. It is also a good exercise to work and pray that this will someday no longer be the case.




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