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“What’s interesting about this picture?” my father asked. This was clearly a quiz, and I was failing. At 86 he was sharp as a tack, found these old photos much more compelling than his stomach cancer, and had no intention of leaving this world till I understood why this literally pedestrian photo struck him as monumental. He smiled as I scanned it for meaning. “You and four friends. What am I missing?” I recognized the old gentleman sitting across from me in his younger incarnation, second from the left. The eyes gave him away. And while I did inherit those eyes, his clearly saw something mine didn’t.
Until I flipped it over and read the back: 31 August, 1939. He beamed as he saw my amazement. This casual snapshot was taken just hours before Hitler attacked Poland, starting a world war that would plunge Romania into chaos. Five teens with time for a campy snapshot, with no clue how drastically life was about to change. My father would go on to survive the Nazis, the communists, the aerial bombings of both Bucharest and Ploesti, and 38 years as a top CIA operative.
This was the calm before the storm troopers.
Paul Minden, Writer