Carson-Newman professor to play at D-Day ceremony in France
On June 6th 1944, almost 2,000 American troops lost their lives and thousands were injured on the beaches of Normandy. The fight opened the door for the march across Europe to defeat Hitler.
Months ago, Bivens got the invitation to play trombone at the D-Day ceremony hosted by President Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France. A dozen heads of state are expected to attend, including Queen Elizabeth II.
"For me to be able to go to Normandy is incredible. I have family who served there. I have an uncle who landed on Normandy six days after D-Day. And went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge," said Bivens, director of Carson-Newman Bands.
Bivens is familiar with playing for dignitaries. She retired from the Air Force and Air National Guard where she played in the band for 22 years at inaugurations and embassies around the world.
"There's been so many I can hardly remember," she said.
In 2011, she took her students to perform at the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
"I came back and said 'I don't know how I can top this one.' Because it was just an incredible trip," Bivens said.
But given her family ties to D-Day, she expects this trip may stir even deeper feelings.
"I think it's going to be an emotional trip and I have no words to describe it," she said.
Her uncle, James Taylor Harris or JT, opened up one time about what he saw when he arrived at Normandy.
"He told us, he said 'When I landed I had to climb over all those bodies stacked like firewood,'" she said.
Back home in Morristown, even with declining health, he always made sure to watch Pat's performances and tell her she did a good job.
Bivens said Harris never got the chance to return to Normandy, though he always wanted to.
"I just look at this trip as memorializing those guys they had it right when they called them the greatest generation," she said.
With the world watching, she will play for him.
Next week 10News will travel to France and report on the 70th anniversary of D-Day through the eyes of two men from East Tennessee.
Lawrence Brannan,94, stormed Omaha Beach on D-Day. Clinton Riddle, 93, crash landed in a glider the morning after.
We will have their impressions as they return to Normandy 70 years after first stepping foot on French soil.
Our coverage on the air and online starts June 5th.