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I grew up totally into the sciences, chemistry and biology were my thing. Then in college I kept hearing about this great history class with Professor West. I needed an elective so I decided to take it. It forever changed the way I look at the world.
Dr. West not only covered the historic milestones of the 20th century, he also had these non mandatory extra session on Mondays where he played music while showing slides of art, architecture and fashion of the time. It just brought history to life!
In January of 1990, two months after the Berlin Wall came down, and thanks to the same professor, I found myself in East Berlin on a student trip. It was an incredible moment to be in Eastern Europe, and a little scary too. Four years later I found myself back in Berlin, a city still struggling to understand itself, and that is when I realized that when you travel, you live history, and the more prepared you are before your trip, the more you understand it. This is when you stop being a tourist and start connecting to the people and places that you visit.
Summer of 2013 I was back in Berlin with my family, and again, it felt like a different city. I wanted my children to touch and feel the history that I had briefly witnessed. We had watched documentaries and looked at pictures before we traveled, but nothing came close to actually being there. It is difficult for younger generations to grasp the importance of events such as the falling of the Wall, the Depression, or the World Wars, but it is important for those of us who lived them to remind them that we are who we are and where we are because of those events, and the people who made them possible.
There is a certain respect and reverence that is developed when one stands in the shadow of monuments or events that speak of human achievement and perseverance. Many of these celebrate the triumph of the human spirit over oppression and discrimination. By touching these icons I hope my kids feel humbled and grateful. I want them to understand that they are part of a world that is interconnected, and that they too, in whatever small ways, can and should contribute to the greater good as they are active participants of what tomorrow we will call history.
Pieces of the Wall exhibited at Ptosdamer Platz
Brandemburg Gate. Same view, almost 24 years apart.
January 1990 and August 2013