Thursday, November 10, 2011
Remember To Remember
Leaving Paris, the train to Luxembourg tracked the Marne River valley, rolling eastwards through the Champagne region and then veered north to Reims. I recall glimpsing the famous cathedral -- not at night but in harsh daylight. But what I remembered the most (and hadn't foreseen) were the haunted place names along that ride. The names confronted me through the train window one-by-one as stops along the way: place names like Verdun-sur-Meuse. This map shows how the train's route between Paris and Luxembourg crossed the Western Front of the First World War:
Years later, around 1997, my wife and I visited London together. We parted ways the first day with different agenda. She went to an art museum while I went straight away to the Imperial War Museum. I walked there from Chelsea, up and along the Thames and past the Houses of Parliament (perfectly timed with noontime chimes from Big Ben). I spent the entire afternoon there alone, viewing the machinery and materiels and remembering the men and the horrors that I read about as a boy. I remembered that haunted train ride. I still think about it around this time every year.