For 40 years I have been under the belief that my childhood home burned down not long after we moved. Tonight I found it still standing on Google Earth. I cannot begin to tell you how very powerful it is to identify it again. I am crying as I write this.
By the time we moved from that place, the city was in turmoil and my neighborhood was in a state of rapid decline. We felt lucky to get out when we did.
In the last decade I have been back a couple of times to walk the old block. Indeed there was a vacant lot where a building once stood but it was too far to the right and the old building that was to the left seemed to come too far into the block. I just chalked up the misplacement to faulty memory.
As I learned tonight, my old building was joined with the neighboring corner building and both facades were redone, eliminating the entrances that formally faced my street. It still stands.
Through the miracle (and yes, to me this is a miracle) of Google Earth, I was able to scroll up the building to my former windows. I remembered how hot our apartment would get in the summer (we were on the top floor). I remembered how those five long flights seemed even longer when I was tired. I remembered going up on to the roof, just to be alone and look around and to feel the breeze.
The street I saw tonight looks tidy and the larger, expanded building well kept. There are flags hanging from several of the fire escapes. There seems to be a pride of place there now.
For decades my old block and, that building was a place to forget. And, forget it I did. I didn't even recognize it when I was standing in front of it. But, it had been there all along. And, now I remember.