|Photo by Tim Street|
|We said goodbye to Paris and the Seine one last time.|
I woke up to the joyful sounds of French cartoons and a ringing phone.
It was 7:15 AM. After a week of teasing pockets of sleep and constant, continuous leg motions, I knew this morning would be rough. Even the golden colored shower with infinitely adjustable vertical placement wasn’t cutting it.
My hazy tiredness was surrounded with a sense of bittersweet anticipation. We were going home. I was looking forward to sleeping without interruption and spending less than ten dollars on a meal. Going home means leaving Paris, a city rich with history, money, and an enthusiasm for life that was as contagious as it was bedazzling. After a dozen tours and several hours of cramped travelling, my mind and heart were full of knowledge and appreciation for what the men of the past did so I could enjoy the present.
It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine the sacrifice of the Allied soldiers. After seeing Normandy beach, numerous craft of World War II, and cities where some of the fighting took place, I was left with a sense of awe at what transpired long ago through ash, explosions, and sweat. The cemeteries and memorials in France and England exist so we never forget. They were successful.
These thoughts dominated my mind as we packed our luggage for the last time and hopped on the bus in the early morning. For a group known for cheerleading charisma and an immense sense of camaraderie, the air in the bus was unusually still. Faces looked out windows at the rolling prairies and countryside of France that had greeted us several days before. Deep down I knew the scope of it all was finally registering. This was it. Our trip among thirty friends was hours away from becoming the past tense.
The initial flight was delayed by a little more than an hour. The huddled group created a lovely traffic jam in the terminal exit. We had mastered this “road block” skill while in Europe, but with thirty tourists and narrow streets, it’s not hard to get in the way. We eventually made our way onto the plane, another massive airbus complete with mini televisions and pre-packaged, reheated meals of various mystery items. My, oh my, how the perks of flying stack up.
Because of our delay, we were cutting it close with our flight to Indy. As the group was halfway through the Philadelphia airport, we realized that the plane might leave without us. This instigated a sluggishly awkward sprinting mob. We carried our luggage, our tickets, and our sweaty selves past stores and curious onlookers, wondering why we were moving at such a frantic pace. After spending the last week being the “tourist,” a few looks of disdain didn’t phase me.
We made it. Barely. The rest of the passengers seemed to be disgruntled at our disregard for time, but it truly wasn’t our fault. For those wondering who the heck these rowdy folks were, Colin and Sandy put those thoughts to rest by making puppets out of their air sickness bags. They displayed their lovely “bag couple” to one of the flight attendants, and she smiled, not sure what to make of these artistic creations. The intercom rang.
“Congratulations to row 12 for being most creative!”
Our entire group cheered, as the two were rewarded granola bars for their efforts. More disgruntled looks came from the front of the plane.
I soon realized the bag people came to personify exactly what the trip was about. Not only had we broadened our cultural horizons, but we had become a family. We had eaten, slept, and traveled together for the past 200 hours. Our bond could be seen and felt without saying a word, and by this point, we didn’t care about what others thought. We had become stronger individuals.
Life will commence as normal on Monday, or get closer to it. I speak for my peers when I say we will begin again wiser and humbled. This journey brought Ernie Pyle and World War II to life more than any descriptive writings from the events could ever have. Now it is time to soak it in, and try to give others a glimpse of our fantastic voyage.