He was alive when Pearl Harbor happened, and the room seemed to shrink as he recalled that day.
They were sitting around the dining room table, family and friends alike, the radio gargling. Everyone suddenly became quiet, the dinner party turned somber as the voice on the radio caught their attention. John Grettenberger recalled how it had taken a moment for them to realize it was not a radio show or drill: the announcer was giving them news, news about the devastation at Pearl Harbor. John said people slipped out of his home that night, hushed and stricken by something, perhaps fear.
As I sat in the old farmhouse, listening to him recall his life growing up, I could not help the chills that wracked my spine (and it wasn’t from the cold…Jane Rose had come in earlier that day to turn up the heat in the rickety building so it was nice and toasty). Hearing him speak of being around for something I’ve only read about in history books was definitely amazing; I was given a new view of Pearl Harbor that made it somehow more comprehendible. Plus, I couldn’t help the smile that would creep onto my face as he recalled the ice cream parlor all the kids went to and the games they played; it was so different from today, sometimes I wish I could really see what back then was like.
The most amazing part was where we were: the old, white farmhouse that sits in the Meridian Historical Village. And fun fact: it wasn’t always where it is now. It used to sit elsewhere, and it used to be lived in. Actually, John Grettenberger (Senior mind you- I found this out the hard way when I called and asked for John only to get his son…after a minute or two of confusion, we figured it out) was the last of the long line of Grettenbergers to live in the farmhouse. After he and his wife moved out, they donated the building to the historical society in Meridian Township.
So I was sitting interviewing John Grettenberger senior in the home he had grown up in years and years ago. That moment was when history really came alive for me and for my project.
What I want to do is inspire and change. National Geographic (who I hope to work for someday) states they want to inspire people to care about the planet; to me, this includes inspiring people to care about WHAT IS AND WAS on the planet! Will I bring about a big movement of change with my documentary, activating protests and writing new laws? Probably not (if I do, great!). But I do hope to inspire people to look beyond themselves and into the past in order to learn from it to help the future. Our world is amazing. I believe by understanding the past ways of life and cultures, we can better understand what is around us today, leading to the overstepping of cultural boundaries and bettering the planet. Simply put, the past is already there; all we have to do is be brave enough to dig in and use it.