As I looked around my smile faded. My upper lip stuck to my teeth. I saw bricks, blown from our building and other apartment buildings, strewn ten feet deep in the street. My throat tightened. My stomach quivered. I saw a shroud of smoke and haze hanging over everything. It hid the sun. A heap of oddly shaped metal to my right had caught my eye as I had emerged from the hole. I turned to look at the heap. I saw the cannon barrels of what had been the anti-aircraft gun emplacement that had been on our roof.
The whole gun emplacement had been blown from our roof. It lay in the street. Part of It had melted. The gun and brick heap was all that was left of what I had believed to be our impenetrable umbrella of protection. That grotesque and twisted hunk of metal was all that was left of the cannon that had made the explosive noises which had shaken the basement.
Farther down the street I saw another cannon emplacement in the street. I saw a burnt skeletal hand sticking up out of the rubble. My throat was so tight that it was hard to breathe. My temples pounded.
My mouth hung open. As I turned to my left. I looked for the familiar solid line of apartment buildings. Instead. I saw only a desolation of bombed buildings with only chimneys and a few interior walls still standing. Bricks covered the streets in piles from Just a few bricks deep to mountains twenty feet deep.
I inhaled raggedly, not realizing I had been holding my breath. I turned to look at our apartment building. The entrance to our apartment building was about twenty feet from the basement window I had Just climbed out of. The bricks were piled only about four feet deep there. On the outside wall of the entry-way were metal plaques which gave the names of the families who lived in the building. Most of the plaques had melted and had run down the wall. Only the ends of the plaques with the bolts that screwed them into the wall were still in place.
As I continued looking at our building, I saw the area at the corner of the building where the kitchens had been, one above the other. The floors of the kitchens were made of poured concrete instead of wood. They were still intact at the corner of the building up to the fourth floor along with a stairwell. As I looked at the cast iron stove of one kitchen, I could see a cooking pot, very much like one of Mom's, still sitting on the stove top. On the wall, Just to the right of the stove. I saw a mattress frame with the metal frame of a burned grandfather clock stuck into it.
Suddenly. the face of the clock filled my vision. The clock had a piece of shrapnel through its face. The minute and hour hands were stopped on twelve. My hair stood on end. I wanted to get away from what I was seeing.
I turned to look back down the hole I had come out of I felt safer down there. Before I could start back down into the basement. I heard a man's voice calling me, Manny? Manfred, come here." I looked in the direction of the voice but saw only the leveled city. I looked again for the voice. I saw a tall, slender, begrimed man, with another rescue team. He waved his hands. He shouted. "Manny. It's me! It's Grandpa! Come here!"
I tried to answer him, but my throat hurt, and tears filled my eyes. I scrambled across the bricks to Grandpa as my voice rasped, " Grandpa. Grandpa."
Behind me Siegie fearfully called out, "Wait for me!" Behind him Mother anxiously asked, "Boys, where are you going?"
Grandpa shouted, "Erna come here!"
She saw him. She cried, "Oh, Papa."
By the time Mom, Siegie and I reached Grandpa, we were all crying and hugging him.
Grandpa dried his eyes and blew his nose. He said, "I didn't know If I was going to see you alive."
Mom said, "I didn't know what to think, Papa." She had smudges on her forehead and cheek. Her hair was tangled. It hung straight down. She wore a look of amazement. She said, "If I had seen all this seven days ago, I probably would have died from fright." Smoke swirled around us in the alien landscape that was Potsdam.
Grandpa said, "We can't stay here. The wardens think Berlin may get hit again. We must leave here, quickly."
"Where do you want us to go?"
"Eduard is waiting for us at a checkpoint. He has a wagon, some water and some food."
Mom started crying again. Siegie and I grabbed each other's shoulders and grinned. It made us feel better to know that Grandfather Eduard had come after us, too.
Grandpa picked up his rucksack. He said, "I've got some water and some food in here. Let's eat while we walk." We scrambled down off the brick pile and followed Grandpa. We ate as we walked.
As I walked along the rubble filled street. I saw what was left of someone's china dishes. They rested on the top of some bricks. The bottom half of the dishes had melted. They had run down into the bricks. Suddenly. I wanted the dishes. I wondered If I could ever draw anything like that. I knew they were too heavy for me to carry. I kept looking back at them as we walked away.
I saw a piece of shrapnel on the ground. I bent to pick it up. Grandpa saw me. He quickly said, "Son, don't pick up anything strange looking. It might be dangerous. It might explode and hurt you."
It was hard not to pick up some of the scraps from the air raid. So many things that! thought were neat were just lying around. When we saw something interesting, we stopped to pick it up. When Grandpa saw us stop, he growled at us, "Huh uh! Don't pick that up."
We came to one street where a warden with a rifle made us stop. He said, "You can't go this way. There's an unexploded bomb embedded in the street."
Grandpa asked, "Which way is the safest?"
"To the west, I think, only be careful when you climb over brick piles. Some of our men were killed yesterday when they climbed over a brick pile that had an unexploded bomb under it."
"Thanks," Grandpa said as he shook his head. He led us to the ...