This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. John 15:13 (The Message)
Today, we drove to New Orleans. I am not sure whose idea it was, but oldest son was happy because he loves New Orleans and wanted to see the World War II Museum. Husband didn’t care either way, but I imagined beignets for breakfast followed by a yummy lunch in the French Quarter. As it was, we left too late for breakfast so went straight to the museum. Looking at the exhibits as a historian, I was impressed with the designs and the mix of artifacts, models, quotations and film. The path through the museum took us from the war’s beginnings to specific campaigns to life on the home front and the war’s end. There were plenty of opportunities to sit down and listen to oral history interviews or short documentaries and some interactive exhibits to keep younger visitors entertained. I learned that Franklin Roosevelt changed the words in his Pearl Harbor speech at the last minute switching “A day that will live in world history” to “A day that will live in infamy,” and that the D Day invasion was more of a disaster than a success. As long as we were in the museum, I maintained a professional distance from the subject matter. But, part of our ticket included a 48 minute movie narrated by Tom Hanks that was in “4D” including sight, sound, smell and motion. With Hanks giving an outline of the history of the war including statistics of how many died, the script also included true stories of the men and women in the military as well as victims who experienced the war. I could shut my eyes to block out the horrific photos of the dead and dying, but, I could not ignore the sounds of gunfire, the flashes of light, the rumbling and shaking of my seat. By the time the movie ended with a celebration of war’s end interspersed with images of those in service disappearing from sight, I was sobbing and shaking. The reminder that they gave their life for me was overwhelming. Of course, I had to quickly pull myself together as the lights came back on because I knew that oldest son and husband would make great fun of me. But, I needed a break and did not want to see anymore exhibits or learn anything more about the war so let husband and oldest son finish seeing the museum alone while I waited in the lobby and contemplated what the Japanese tour group leaving the museum thought about all they had seen particularly the images of Japanese soldiers. The afternoon ended with that trip to the French Quarter, lunch in a Creole restaurant and the anticipated beignets as well as an eye opening visit to Bourbon Street. The hours I spent experiencing World War II will stay with me forever as I remember those who stood between America and the evil that threatened us and concern that some of us will use that freedom to get wasted.