IN OTHER WORDS : June 6, 1944

Sixty years ago, the free world held its breath. In US, daily life paused almost completely, subdued by the news that the invasion of Europe — D-Day — had begun. In a way, D-Day sums up for us the whole of World War II. It was the frontal clash of two ideas, a collision between the possibility of human freedom and its nullification. Even now, we are still learning what to make of it, still trying to know whether we are dwarfed by the scale of such an effort or whether what happened that day still enlarges us. It certainly enlarges the veterans of Normandy and their friends who died in every zone of that war.

It’s tempting to politicise the memory of a day so full of honour, too easy to allude to the wars of our times as if they naturally mirrored WW II. The ico-nic starkness of the forces that met on the beaches of Normandy makes that temptation all the greater. But beyond the resemblance of young soldiers dying in wars 60 years apart, there is no analogy. We may find the heroics of D-Day stirring in the extreme. We may struggle to imagine the hell of those beaches, as the landing crafts motored toward France. Those were brave times. But it was a bravery of shared sacrifice to an occasion that everyone prayed would never need to come again. This is a day to respect the memory of 60 years ago and, perhaps, to wonder what we might rise to if only we asked it of ourselves. — The New York Times