June 6, 1944: D-Day + 68

In my recent series of sermons from Psalm 46, I told the story of what happened in Union Station in Washington, D.C., 68 years ago today.

On that morning of June 6, 1944, thousands of people were crisscrossing Washington’s Union Station. Their footsteps echoed throughout the vast hall, and you could see the sense of purpose on the faces of each of these wartime commuters as they headed north, south, east, and west on their respective trains. For weeks there had been an unspoken atmosphere of expectancy. When would the tide of war turn? When would Allied forces invade Europe? When would D-Day dawn?

Charles Wilson, the president of General Electric, was in Union Station that day and he later recorded the remarkable moment that he observed. No announcement was made from the loudspeaker. There were no radios blaring, no newsboys shouting the headlines.

But suddenly the scurrying and crisscrossing stopped, said Wilson. The hum of a thousand conversations ceased. News passed quickly from person to person: The Invasion begun… They’re landing in Normandy.

A hush fell over that vast railroad station. The beam of sunlight fell into the waiting room as it does into a cathedral. And suddenly a woman dropped to her knees and folded her hands; near her a man knelt down. “Then another, then another, until all around me people knelt in prayer before the hard wooden benches of Union Station.”

Some were no doubt praying for a loved one in the warzone. Others were praying for the troops in general, for the success of the invasion, and for the leaders of the Allied Forces. A hush filled that cavernous station as multitudes spontaneously fell to their knees in prayer.

Then slowly the woman rose to her feet. The man beside her rose, too, and within seconds Union Station was alive with motion and sound again. “But for those of us who witnessed the hush,” wrote Charles Wilson, “Union Station will always have a special meaning: we were there on the day the railroad station in Washington, D.C., became a house of worship.”

–Adapted from A Very Present Help, complied by the editors of Guidepost Magazine (Carmel, NY: Guideposts, 1985), 83.