Our Story Begins...
Updated: Jan 19, 2019
Last year, I was home in California visiting my parents for the holidays. The Thomas Fire raged in drought-stricken Southern California - making 2017 the state’s worst wildfire season in history. Heartbreaking stories of families whose homes, belongings, and heirlooms were destroyed dominated the news, reminding us that fires show no mercy.
I realized that all that differentiated my family from theirs was luck and I was struck by how vulnerable my family history was. I asked my Dad to dig out the box in the coat-closet that holds my grandfather’s WWII medals, photographs, and other documents so I could at least digitally photograph them and record him telling me the stories he knew.
As a professional historian, it is embarrassing how little energy I had devoted to documenting my family history. I spent ten years as the curator and oral historian at the 9/11 Memorial Museum documenting memories and producing a podcast of other people’s stories. There never seemed to be time for my family’s story, and I took for granted that the opportunity would always be there. Watching these heartbreaking news stories of loss inspired an urgency to protect my own past.
I knew Grandpa was a pilot in WWII, and before he died he sometimes spoke about a “mission gone wrong” that necessitated his team landing over enemy lines. Until Dad and I started sorting through these letters and documents, neither of us had understood how harrowing the escape was—enemy fire necessitated that they parachute out of the moving plane—or how unlikely their survival was.
We studied the card he carried with him issued by the Air Force that signaled to members of the underground he should be protected. I read letters detailing the stories of townspeople who risked their lives to hide my grandfather and his crew by day and guide them by night. They ultimately reached safe territory and later went on to help liberate Dachau.
I recorded my Dad narrating this story and adding his own memories of his father and will forever have his voice telling the story. I wish we could have my grandfather’s voice, too.
What started as a quest to protect the family treasures and stories I knew about became a process of discovering what I didn’t know, and in doing so inspired a new sense of understanding about my family’s story, and our place in American history.
When I returned to New York, I reached out to Nicole and Maureen, two women whom I’ve known as dear friends and colleagues, with an idea to combine our specialized skill sets of family history research and preservation. A few months later, we formed the History Bridge Group to help more families to protect their own memories and valued objects.
In the digital age, we forget that not everything is protected by the Cloud; we need to work to transform them to get them there. Our mission is to make sure that your family’s precious story is protected in the face of the worst case scenario. Contact us to start today!