One million red rose petals will rain down on the Statue of Liberty during a ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of D-Day on Friday.
During the spectacular tribute, a French group will unleash the flower shower from three helicopters to commemorate the fateful day Allied troops landed on the shores of Normandy, on June 6, 1944.
“It’s a powerful symbol. We want to show appreciation,” said Rod Kukurudz, of The French Will Never Forget, which is staging the ceremony. “If it weren’t for the sacrifices, heroism and courage of all American solders killed in Normandy, who knows where France, or the world, would be now.”
Three helicopters dropped one million red rose petals over the Statue of Liberty on Friday in New York City in honor of D-Day’s 70th anniversary.
The nonprofit worked with state officials and the US Coast Guard and spent roughly $100,000 to stage the event, he said. It also hired workers to count and refrigerate the petals, which weigh 1,200 pounds, Kukurudz said.
After the flurry of flowers, 13 World War II veterans will be honored at a ceremony and reception on Liberty Island. Two 60-by-30-foot flags — one French, one American — will be displayed at the foot of Lady Liberty.
Meanwhile, 18 world leaders — including President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin — will gather in Normandy to honor the anniversary.
Obama on Friday will meet with French President François Hollande for a service at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, where 9,387 US soldiers are buried.
He will also attend a ceremony at Sword Beach, the patch of sand where hundreds of American soldiers died.
World War II vets who survived the historic assault called the anniversary a special day.
“There isn’t a day that has gone by in my life where I haven’t thought about something that went on over there,” said Rocco Moretto, 89, who survived the invasion at Omaha Beach.
“On D-Day, I pinched myself several times, hoping I would wake up, but I never woke up. We saw things you never saw before, people dying in so many different ways. Stuff that you can’t imagine,” said Moretto, who lived in Hell’s Kitchen until he was drafted into the Army’s 1st Infantry Division at age 18.
“As soon as I hit the beach, there were about 12 guys dead or dying. There was people drowning. The water was red with soldiers’ blood. Incidentally, I wasn’t afraid of artillery anymore. I was afraid of drowning. That thought was going around my mind,” he recalled.
“All the anniversaries and, in fact, every day of my life, I’ve thought of my buddies [who died]. They were just fantastic people. I don’t know who assembled all those great men and put them in one place. I’ve thought of them throughout the 70 years.”
Nearly 160,000 Allied troops stormed five beaches in northern France on June 6, 1944 to begin the downfall of Nazi Germany.
D-day was the biggest sea-based military invasion in history.
God bless all Veterans.