When I was ten years old my family took a day trip to visit the Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. This family activity was the idea of my father, a Civil War enthusiast with a lifelong passion for history. As a ten-year-old, I was excited to just go somewhere different and see something new, but I lacked a genuine appreciation for the significance of the battlefield and the importance of this place to American history.

Towards the back of line, at the beginning of the tour, I walked with my dad and by chance happened to kick up a small section of dirt in which I noticed a small dark grey object amidst the footpath. It was an actual Civil War bullet from the battle that I stumbled upon by pure luck and good fortune. I was pumped, but my dad was thrilled beyond belief, if not a little jealous. Sharing in his excitement, this was a moment when history truly came alive for me. I was immediately hooked. Here I was at a real Civil War battlefield, with a real Civil War bullet, and participating in a real historical discovery with my dad!

Even at a young age I was interested in history, and enjoyed reading, but this Humanities Moment intensified that connection and inspired a lifelong passion for history and learning. I left Antietam with a new understanding of how the importance of past, place, and shared experience can truly be a powerful force to bring people together, and I still have the bullet too.

– Jeff Vande Sande (High School History Teacher)