When American soldiers came marching into Chartres on 18 August 1944, five-year-old “Rocques” stood on the street corner near his home, and cheered. He didn’t know that the soldiers had just watched thousands of their fellows die on the beaches of Normandy. He didn’t know that they were exhausted and afraid and missed home. Rocques knew that the Nazis were gone. And now, he and his family would be free.
When I first met Monsieur Rocques in 2007, I needed an apartment to rent for just 3 months in Chartres. Such a short time was the normal. But, because I was an American, he was happy to rent me one of his.
He had not forgotten the way of freedom, he told me. He kept its memory close to him in a photograph.
When he took it from his wallet, I could see that it was not just a souvenir. It was a piece of himself. It was the day that everything changed for him. He was standing on the street corner, smiling and waving a French flag on La voie de la Liberté as the Americans passed through.
He knew the way of freedom like no one I had ever known. And sixty plus years later, he had not forgotten what those soldiers had done. Nor, would I ever forget.