How to 'Be' Rather Than Simply to 'See'

My photo over-lapped onto a photo of Soviet tanks and troops at Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point in the Berlin Wall between the American and Soviet sectors of the city at the junction of Friedrichstrasse, Zimmerstrasse, and Mauerstrasse. February 1961. (Photo courtesy of Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

Last summer I moved to Berlin and started to explore the various 'popular' post-WWII destinations. Naturally, I ventured down Friedrichstrasse and found myself at Checkpoint Charlie. I snapped a few pictures here and there and felt disconnected with the history as I stared at the surrounding environment of fast food restaurants and modern motorists. Later that night as I perused the internet for a historical synopsis of the American checkpoint, I found a photograph that almost directly overlapped one of mine. Suddenly I had one of those 'he was exactly there, and I was exactly there later' moments, which led me to the rare phenomenon of physical being and interacting within a certain place at a certain time. Many people walk past these streets all the time, but how often do people stop and consider that the past was a reality? Though flashy and touristy now with phony-guards swindling passersby to take pictures for a few euros, Checkpoint Charlie represented a place of contention for those trying to permeate its strict border. Perhaps not every tourist wants to feel and understand the past as they snap pictures with their iPhones, but maybe they do this because they are so disconnected with the reality of the place—because they are not being actively engaged. Once someone realizes that a line of tanks once stood where they stand, perhaps they might feel a little more involved, a little more connected, a little more engaged with and sensitive to the historical story.

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