This past summer, my son was offered an opportunity to represent the United States and play baseball in Belgium and Holland. Naturally, I took one for the team and volunteered to chaperone him on the 10-day tour. I had never been to the Continent, only to England and Scotland, and was eager to collect more stamps for my passport. I knew that traveling to these medieval cities and touring the places that I had only taught about would impact me, but I just didn’t know how much.

Our first day, we took a day tour to Bastogne and spent time at the Battle of the Bulge Museum and the memorial there dedicated to the paratroopers and Patton’s 3rd Army who fought and saved the town. Standing on top of the memorial and scanning the panoramic views of the village around us, I couldn’t help but sense the honor and sacrifice so many made to hold that town. I can still smell the air, feel the breeze in my hair, and the pride I felt as I watched my 12-year-old son read the plaques dedicated to those men who fought so bravely to save the world.

It just so happened that the museum, which if you haven’t visited I highly recommend, was also hosting an exhibit that contained art painted on sections of the Berlin Wall. It also had cars from East Berlin that were painted and represented the attitudes of the artists and their conceptions of liberty, freedom, confinement, denial and oppression. The pieces took my breath away…the visions these artists expressed on the symbol of the Cold War were hauntingly beautiful yet also loud and defiant. I will never forget them.

Our first baseball game wasn’t until day 4 of our trip, and we arrived to my delight to a ball field that looked like it was built right after World War II…which it was. It was right next to the local airport that was still in use and I could visualize the GIs playing ball, teaching the Belgians the art of the game, sowing the seeds of peace and fraternity while healing the wounds of occupation and oppression for so long.

There are so many moments from this trip that moved me, but the one place that I will never forget and will always keep in my heart was the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. I really have no words to express the sorrow, the inhumanity and the anger I felt as I moved through the house. The last room which held her personal diary, her writings, her stories instilled a sense of loss and sadness in me that I still can’t express in the right words. It brought back memories of my grandparents’ friends, one of whom had numbers tattooed on her arm. I didn’t understand then what they meant, and I wish so much that I still had my grandparents here now so that I could understand what their friends went through. So I could continue to tell their story. The Anne Frank House exemplified Humanity. Life. And it showed what happens when we forget that we are all human and we all should see each other as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Humans.

– Randee Wittkopf (High School Social Studies Teacher, Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter)