Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A few years back, I went with a group of friends to Boston for the day. We walked the Freedom Trail, shopped at Quincy Market, climbed aboard the USS Constitution and ate in Little Italy.
The most powerful thing for me was the Holocaust Memorial. For some reason, this isn't something listed in the tour guides. It's just steps away from the freedom trail and when I started through it, I was speechless and moved and just blown away with how intense it was. there are no photos of emaciated people in the concentration camps, no statistics, no images of the barbed wire and the forced labor and the horrific living conditions. There are simply several square glass towers in a row, etched with the serial numbers of the victims of the killing spree. Quotes from survivors ranging from the mundane to the profound are etched inside the towers and on the sidewalk. As you walk through the towers, you are standing over an open grate with warm air blowing up at you, bringing to mind the gas chambers. Tiny white lights shine down under the grates.
I shot almost an entire roll of film when I went through...capturing some of the quotes and the numbers etched on glass. The textures and lighting combined with the content made for some really powerful images. I was thrilled and sobered at the same time.
Shortly after I came home, I was changing the film in my camera, and handed the used canister to a 4-year-old to hold for me. She thought that the little bit of film sticking out of the canister looked like it might be fun to pull. In less than a second, all but a couple of those photos were gone.
I have thought about those photos often in the past several years...missing them. When I look at photos of places I have been, especially when it's a place that had a powerful impact on me, I can be there again. I know that not everybody can feel this, because I've tried to explain it to people before and they don't get it. But I can smell the smells, feel the ground that I'm standing on, hear the sounds, feel the air.
I think it was the year after the Boston trip that I actually went to Poland and saw Auschwitz-Birkenau...one of the most famous of the death camps. I stood where the firing squad stood. I walked the halls and saw the communal toilets. I stood in the reconstructed gas chambers that the Nazis had destroyed, trying to hide the evidence of their cruelty. I walked through the gate and saw the barbed wire and the signs warning inmates they would be shot if they crossed this line.
Last weekend, I was able to go back to Boston and see the memorial there again. Still powerful, moving, sobering. I was able to recapture the images that had been lost years ago.
I've read the Old Testament through a few times. I shouldn't be surprised at how evil human beings can be. How completely merciless and cruel. It is in our nature, passed on from Adam, to sin.
I don't know that building memorials helps to solve the problem. But the Lord had His people build memorials to remember the things He had done for them.
I want to remember the dark times. And the light that I am brought into. The faithfulness my Jesus has shown me over and over again. The gifts and blessings he has brought my way. The victories he has over the sin in me. His mercy that endures forever.