Alyssa GoodmanComment

‘Am I dreaming?’ Letter excerpts from WWI’s last day

Alyssa GoodmanComment
‘Am I dreaming?’ Letter excerpts from WWI’s last day

A hundred years later, their words can still pierce hearts. Fighters writing home from opposing front lines of World War I, a Chinese laborer marveling at the war's end, a woman dreaming of reuniting with her soldier love.

At a Paris ceremony Sunday marking the centennial of the armistice ending the first global war, eight teenagers born in the 21st century read from letters and notes written on the day the bloodshed stopped, Nov. 11, 1918. They then helped French President Emmanuel Macron rekindle the flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Some excerpts from the readings:

A group of people gather in London to celebrate the signing of the armistice on Nov. 11, 1918 (AP Photo)

"My darling parents,

Today has been perfectly wonderful. We got news of the armistice at 9:30 this morning. I got 10 minutes to sort out a detachment for a grand parade in the square of Mons, so I got everybody I could lay hand to scrub the mud off. The streets were packed with wildly cheering civilians chucking flowers at us and carrying on like only a foreigner can. All the street and the square was a blaze of color, mostly, of course the Belgian colors red, yellow and black. Union Jacks, French flags, American flags, in fact every conceivable flag of the allies."

- British officer Charles Neville, Royal Horse Artillery

Wounded World War One soldiers are placed in ambulance during the advance on Lens, France. (AP Photo)

"The war is over and in an hour we will leave. We will never have to come back here.

A light fog curls over the ground and we can clearly see the line of pits and trenches. . These elements of a frightening world and an unforgiving life.

In an hour's time, everything will have disappeared and disappeared to the point that one might believe it never existed. How can we comprehend this?

And we who are here, who should laugh and cry out for joy, feel a heaviness in our stomachs."

- German foot soldier and writer Erich Maria Remarque, Regiment of the XV Infantry Reserve, from the book "After"

___

Celebrants cheer along Broadway near New York’s Times Square as news of the armistice spreads on Nov. 11, 1918. (AP Photo)

"The sirens of the factories seemed to be sounding and cries and joyful songs ring out. The end of the war was announced.

... At 11 a.m., arms and work stopped everywhere. I wanted to see for myself how the French celebrated the armistice. In the city, there was already a sea of people: men and women, young and old, soldiers and civilians, people of all skin colors marched together, hand in hand, singing or cheering."

-Chinese laborer Gu Xinggqing, working in a depot in the Normandy city of Rouen; tens of thousands of Chinese laborers were brought to support the war effort.

In this Sept. 26, 1918 file photo, a U.S .Army 37-mm gun crew man their position during the World War One Meuse-Argonne Allied offensive in France. (AP Photo)

"In the parade were hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the U.S., England, Canada, France, Australia, Italy and the colonies.

Each soldier had his arms full of French girls, some crying, others laughing; each girl had to kiss every soldier before she would let him pass. There is nowhere on earth I would rather be today than just where I am. ...

I only hope the soldiers who died for this cause are looking down upon the world today. The whole world owes this moment of real joy to the heroes who are not here to help enjoy it."

-American soldier Capt. Charles S. Normington, 127th Infantry, 32nd Division

___

"My Pierre, my darling...

As I write to you, in your distant Alsatian forest you are learning the incredible news! Here, the bells ring out wildly.

I am sick with happiness. I cannot write. I'm sobbing desperately with joy.

Never, I can never, express to you the feeling and delirious joy of this first day of armistice. The upheaval to the very depths of my being, and this incredible thought that not one more man will fall, that the immense length of the front is silent. Nothing but silence. Great tears fall, as I think that it is all over."

-Frenchwoman Denise Bruller, in a letter addressed to her fiance Pierre Fort

 U.S. troops of the 107th Regiment Infantry, 27th Division, advance on a path through a barbed wire entanglement near Beauqueanes, Somme, France during World War One on Sept. 13, 1918. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps)

U.S. troops of the 107th Regiment Infantry, 27th Division, advance on a path through a barbed wire entanglement near Beauqueanes, Somme, France during World War One on Sept. 13, 1918. (AP Photo/U.S. Army Signal Corps)

"Am I dreaming? I wonder if I am. ... As soon as I realize how happy I am, I think of my brother and sister, both victims of the war, and my eyes mist over."

"More than ever I am convinced that the war is over. The weapons have been put down: they will not be picked up again. I still have much to write, but finally the whir of the shells and the whistling of the bullets are over."

- French soldier Sergeant Major Alfred Roumiguieres, 343rd infantry regiment

___

"Gently, we are grateful, gently, we are grateful, oh gently.

... Nothing is eternal

Gently, we are grateful"

--Song of peace and reconciliation in the mina language of Benin, sung by Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo in honor of colonial soldiers recruited from Africa and Asia to fight and die for European armies

 Morocco's Prince Moulay Hassan, from left, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Niger's President's wife Lalla Malika Issoufou, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou and Republic of Guinea's President Alpha Conde walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, as part of the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, Nov. 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

Morocco's Prince Moulay Hassan, from left, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Niger's President's wife Lalla Malika Issoufou, Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou and Republic of Guinea's President Alpha Conde walk towards the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, France, as part of the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, Nov. 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

 French President Emmanuel Macron re-lights the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Nov. 11, 2018. (Benoit Tessier/Pool Photo via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron re-lights the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a commemoration ceremony for Armistice Day, 100 years after the end of the First World War at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, Nov. 11, 2018. (Benoit Tessier/Pool Photo via AP)

 President Donald Trump stands amongst the headstones during an American Commemoration Ceremony Nov. 11, 2018, at Suresnes American Cemetery near Paris. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump stands amongst the headstones during an American Commemoration Ceremony Nov. 11, 2018, at Suresnes American Cemetery near Paris. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

 People observe a minute of silence as it rains during an Armistice ceremony at the World War I Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

People observe a minute of silence as it rains during an Armistice ceremony at the World War I Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

 A descendant holds a portrait of an Australian soldier who died during the World War I in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A descendant holds a portrait of an Australian soldier who died during the World War I in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

 A woman touches a wall with the names of the missing at the WWI Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A woman touches a wall with the names of the missing at the WWI Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from left, Morocco's Prince Moulay Hassan, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove attend a ceremony the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, as part of the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, Nov. 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, from left, Morocco's Prince Moulay Hassan, Moroccan King Mohammed VI, US First Lady Melania Trump, US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove attend a ceremony the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, as part of the commemorations marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I, Nov. 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin/Pool Photo via AP)

 A bagpiper plays from the tower of the World War I Australian National Memorial, during an Armistice ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the World War I, at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

A bagpiper plays from the tower of the World War I Australian National Memorial, during an Armistice ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the World War I, at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

 An Australian soldier listens along with visitors as French and Australian national anthems are played during an Armistice ceremony at the World War I Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

An Australian soldier listens along with visitors as French and Australian national anthems are played during an Armistice ceremony at the World War I Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

 Two Australian soldiers walk along graves prior to an Armistice ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the World War I, at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

Two Australian soldiers walk along graves prior to an Armistice ceremony marking 100 years since the end of the World War I, at the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, France, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)