Friday, November 11, 2005

lest we forget

I recently found an essay I wrote for some English course years ago, in which I describe some of the stories my Opa told me about his experiences in the Netherlands during the Second World War. Looking back now, I can see that these stories gave me a more comprehensive and personal look at the everyday impact that war had on the families that lived through it. Here is what I wrote in the essay about one of those stories:

One story my Opa often told me about was how my Aunt Joanne was nearly killed by an errant bullet while the family was staying in a bomb shelter. One way the shelters of the time were designed to protect their occupants was by the use of 90-degree turns in the entrance way. The theory was that all shrapnel would be absorbed by one of the walls before entering the living quarters.

As it turned out, one bullet somehow bounced its way through the labyrinth-like entrance to graze past my aunt, hit a fishbowl beside her, and finally lodged into a wall. One thing that strikes me as odd now as I remember this story is that my Opa told it in a humourous way, although I'm sure he didn't find the situation amusing at the time. I think my grandfather did this for the same reasons we all do when we re-tell a frightening experience: such stories show us how precious life really is, and how easily it can be destroyed, and humour helps us to face that fact.

Lest We Forget

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