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Chatterbox: Where photos speak volumes


There is, for each of us, that time of day, hopefully, when we sit down with a pinch of time to burn, whether we’re too tired to do anything else or just need to wind down.

I find myself surfing YouTube. There are some things that burn me, but there are many more that are worth watching ... quick blips that expose us to things we’d never think of researching unless they glided through our thread.

One such wonderful page on YouTube presents a montage of photographs from World War II; each one is followed immediately by a photo from the exact same location, as it looks today. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time to see what was and what is in the same places at different times.

A moment in time on a random street filled with trucks and soldiers far from home, never knowing if they’ll get home, juxtaposed with the same street filled with people on bicycles or at a sidewalk café, smiling. Those lunching may be completely unaware of what was rolling down that street 80 or so years ago.

We may see a farmhouse in a bombed out field filled with half-buried tanks and lines of marching warriors, concerned about their lives and thinking of their loved ones. In the next frame, we may see that same farmhouse, rejuvenated, standing before a pristine field flourishing with new life. One photo may show storefronts with broken windows and rifled soldiers searching for hiding civilians or armed enemies. Then, that same street is shown flourishing with smiling pedestrians, shopping patrons and bustling traffic.

Each set of photographs will create a new and different feeling for each person who sees it. We, hopefully, will always recognize the great sacrifice that was made by each soldier on both sides of every line. What’s most pertinent about these remembered moments is reflecting upon what so many nations’ people gave up to protect the world from the plague it faced. Whether they were in combat, in the resistance, or just praying for an end, we can reflect upon the fruit of all their sacrifices. Remember too, that of the many men and women who helped the war end on the right side of justice died never knowing if their sacrifices were in vain or not.

In a trite comparison, I saw an old photograph of the intersection of State and Main streets in Doylestown. It was fun to see how similar, yet different, it was from what stands at that intersection now. That piece of history is unknown to most modern people who visit, shop, work or live there. Yet, that moment in time would be, not just interesting, but a connection to the past and a vital piece of information for all.

I think that it would be a great project for the historical society of every wonderful small town or big city to post available vintage pictures of streets, buildings, or intersections in kiosks at those places. People walking, touring, or living there could connect with the history, and the history would be alive, every day.

The places around Europe that are featured in the wonderful posts on YouTube could be posted as well, in kiosks at their locations. For this historical page, in posting these poignant, sad, yet still uplifting photos, discretion has been key. The posts reflect discretion, courtesy to all nations involved and respect with neutrality. So, such a history lesson can be displayed, and how wonderful to be kept close to the moments that brought each of us to the place in time where we now freely stroll these streets … a privilege brought to us by the sacrifice of the people in those very pictures.

I’ve subscribed to the page. It makes me smile and cry, with gratitude and respect. Most important, though, it will help those who view it remember how quickly a nation can be swept up into any movement.

Today, the American struggle for democracy continues to lose ground, as we sift through purposefully ambiguous rhetoric, purposeful lies, and cult suggestions and gestures that instigated wars in the past. Reflections such as these photos help us to remember to keep sacred that which so many died believing in, to remember the true price of freedom, and to invest our wit and energy in never settling for less than true democracy.

A picture is worth much more than a thousand words.

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