Sunset was almost over when the first of the planes flew overhead.
A chill had set into the air and a number of the abnormally large number of guests that had set the staff of the small cafe scrambling throughout the day had gone inside, but they came rushing back into the flagstoned courtyard at the sound of the engines. Three V-formations of large bombers passed overhead, their support fighters flanking around them like remoras pacing a shark.
Many of the watchers whispered excitedly to each other, pointing towards the skies. Others shouted angrily and one cheered wildly until he was silenced by others of his group. But most simply watched silently. A few wept.
I had been here often enough that I no longer looked at the planes. Instead, I watched the crowd of tourists. What drew them here, I wondered, to this place. To this event. I had first come here many years ago, for me anyway, because it seemed to be an out of the way place. While many came to visit Paris, or Normandy, or Berlin or even Auschwitz, very few came to Le Fleur de la Mer, this small cafe on the northern coast of Belgium. Most were now engrossed in watching the next wave pass overhead, though a few others watched the crowd as I did. We glanced at each other, nodded slightly in recognition, then returned to our observations of the others.
The staff has been struggling to handle the unexpected number of guests but they too look upwards at the planes as they fly, concerned expressions on their faces. They have reason to be concerned. I know what will happen to this place. In a few weeks the cafe will be closed and this courtyard will hold guns with which to shoot the planes that will soon be coming this way. In a few months it will be destroyed. It will never be rebuilt.
This has always been a popular destination. First there were the researchers and historians, coming to test and verify their theories. Then the alterationist came, to try and see if this one time they could change things. They failed of course. They always fail. The great river that is Time allows us to sail upon its surface but resists all attempts to channel or divert its inexorable flow.
And so now there are the tourists. “The Last Great War”, the brochures call it. And so they come. Some to learn but most simply to watch. And so we watch as the sun sets on the 7th of September in the year 1940 and the first bombers fly overhead on their way to begin the blitz of the city of London.