The first three days went by so quickly, I hardly even remembered to text anyone back home or let my mom know how everything was going. My new Dutch friends were kind enough to answer many of the questions I had regarding this strikingly beautiful city.
However, it was on the fourth day that my dad and I really got a taste of Dutch history. The drive from our host family’s home was about 45 minutes. We parked a few minutes away from Barteljorisstraat, the street on which Corrie ten Boom lived, and walked the rest of the way. I remembered every book I’d read about the renowned heroine. It was strange. I could always imagine what she wrote about in my head, but now that I was here, in the same town as my hero, it was so much more amazing. It looked about the same as the pictures I’d seen, just more alive. The watch shop was closed at the time, but the Beje was even more splendid as I, wide-eyed and intrigued, peered upward and all around me.
I followed my dad into the house and instantly took note of how small it actually was. I had always imagined it to be rather big. After all, it did accommodate many a lonely youth who found a home with the ten Booms. We trudged up the narrow, winding stairs to join our tour group and, upon impulse, I reached my hand out and briefly touched the wall leading to her room. I recalled all my mother had told me about the ten Booms and what they had done for our Jewish people. I thanked God for Casper, Betsie, and Corrie ten Boom and their willingness to shelter the condemned of that time period, the Jews. I remember that the room was quiet. I pictured the day when Corrie, weak and feverish, lay in that room, probably enjoying the peace away from the bustle of her father’s watch shop. That same day her life took an unexpected turn. The fugitive Jews had barely sealed the hiding place when her door burst open, immediately dispersing the blessed silence. Soldiers poured into her room and ripped her out of bed, demanding to know where the Jews were. I was there in that very room, standing on the same floor on which she was dragged and beaten during her arrest. Remembering this brings me to a whole new level of humility and appreciation for those who gave much even when they could have lost their own lives.
After the tour we walked down the streets of Haarlem, taking our time to admire the towering buildings, intricate architecture, and bustling little shops and malls. I wondered what it must have been like for Corrie to look outside her window and see the German Nazis marching up and down these walkways. I could almost see the customers entering her father’s shop to purchase new watches or have their broken ones repaired. It felt like I was actually there, in that time, watching as the events unfolded. If I could, I would not hesitate to return to Holland to see everything all over again, because there’s just something about walking in the steps of history.
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