On a day when the world pauses to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, South Pasadena’s Nicole Laborie remembers it vividly as a 7-year-old living on Omaha Beach in Normandy.
The three-quarter century old memory of the allied invasion of Normandy is still on her mind as she recalls the day that changed the world at those hallowed grounds in 1944.
Laborie, 84, a frequent visitor to the South Pasadena Senior Center, lived in a villa with her family members and will never forget the bombs blasting day and mostly nights.
What does she remember? “Everything,” she said with a laugh, noting all the “German’s, the American’s landing boats and the sea. It was red of blood, with bodies on top of each other.”
Today, here and abroad, there are many tributes of the historic day that Laborie remembers, well, like yesterday.
She claims her mother, Olga, was the first lady to shake the hand of Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, 5-star general and commander and chief of all the armed forces before becoming the country’s 34th president, on D-Day after the troops landed on the beach.
Among the bombings was her family’s villa, forcing them to move and find different places and shelters to live, including a stay at the mayor’s house in town.
She will never forget the German’s coming into Normandy and what she calls their “goose walk” – short, high steps – as local citizens cried at the sight before smiling “out of happiness,” she recalled, when they saw American troops land.
The locals in Normandy loved Americans. “We were happy because they were going to get rid of the Germans, but all the bombing made us cry,” she said.
Much older, Laborie married an Air Force veteran, who was stationed in South Dakota before serving in the Vietnam War. The couple arrived in Los Angeles in 1968 and Laborie, a nurse’s assistant, remembers another important day in history, the shooting of Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as he was on the campaign trail seeking the presidency. Kennedy’s body was brought to a hospital where Laborie was working as a nurse’s assistant. Laborie eventually made it to South Pasadena, where she has called it her home for the past 15 years.
Looking back, thinking of it all, a memory of 75 years, Laborie simply says, “It was terrible, terrible hearing the bombs. They came on one side one night, the other side the next. It was just awful.”
She’s just glad to make it out alive, as she and her family of five, along with a cousin and aunt, watched in awe, seeing American troops arrive on boat and Looking up, the sky full of parachutes as thousands more landed in the water and on beach.
It was a time of uncertainty, a time of sorrow, mixed with happiness in the end.
“Sure, very much,” said Laborie, talking about how scared she was at such a youthful age. “We didn’t have any place to go. We thought, ‘we’re not going to make it.’ They bombarded every night as we tried to find shelter. People would save children first. So many people died. It was really sad. I’m glad to make it and be here today.”
And remember the fight for freedom 75 years ago.