Bomb Sight and My Sight

So a friend of mine Facebooked me a link to the Bomb Sight project. Bomb Sight is a remarkable example of the power of the visual representation to see both the macro and micro within a data set. (And that last sentence is my “press release leader o’ the day,” and does no justice to a project you can get lost in if you have any sense of London geography at all.)

Bomb Sight uses a simple map depicting a WWII bomb census (from July 10, 1940 through June 6, 1941.) A red pin marks each point of impact.

A zoom-out to see a London buried under red tells the big story:

Mapping the Blitz in London (7/10/1940 through 06/06/1941) via Bomb Sight

Sincerely, that’s the proverbial picture worth a thousand. . .

And then the small story is centered in my tiny corner of London: There was a bomb dropped right across the street from me (not to mention the three more dropped close enough to have been equally as terrifying to whoever called my home theirs in the 1940’s.) A little additional digging uncovers the death of a firewatcher who lived on my street: Jacob Heiser, of 44 Stanhope Gardens, died in Finsbury (on Old Street) as a firewatcher on May 11, 1941. He was 55.

It’s revealing how this information (separate from any real personal connection other than temporary geography) moved me so. My sense of home here has been so stunningly strong–in a country where I am not a citizen and where my residence has always been known to be temporary.  My sense of loss at leaving the London I know is (perhaps inappropriately) deep.

I sometimes wonder if by going all in here that I’ve made a mistake. You can invest too much, right? Play the fantasy so that reality feels arctically cold? But a bit of WWII data reminds me of that simple truth that seems both slippery (in that holding on to it is nearly impossible) and trite (in that it might be meaningless.) Life is short. No one ever regretted living their circumstances to the fullest, and man, do I love this city.


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