Today we began working our way south from the former DMZ and Quang Tri province, following the coastline south. Our first stop was at the town of Quang Tri, which had been the provincial capital until the war flattened it. The old masonry citadel in the center of town received continuous shelling for nearly 90 days, as the two sides contested its possession. There wasn’t much left, so it was made into a memorial garden.
Further south there is a pilgrimage site, where the Blessed Mother appeared several times to farmers during the Catholic persecutions of 1798. This too was largely destroyed during the war. The NVA assassinated the clergy, and set up an anti-aircraft battery inside the large brick church. When the Americans bombed it, the ruin was used as a propaganda tool. The shrine has now been rebuilt, and 500,000 people come every three years to the rites. I could feel a real Presence here, I must confess.
Then it was onward to Hue, where we will be for two nights.
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