I was sitting in the window seat by sheer process of elimination. All the aisle seats had been reserved far in advance by the tall German suit and ties and our unimpressive plane was coasting along at a low altitude out of Berlin over the Brandenburg flatlands. I looked up at the TV screen suspended above me to check the duration of the flight and suddenly noticed on the map that we were flying directly over Dresden.
Window seats apparently have their benefits.
It was a clear blue day and I could see the bend in the Elbe as it snaked through the stunning reconstructed city center. I wondered if I could spot the glass modernism of Daniel Liebskind's recently finished Military History Museum or the rebuilt Frauenkirche.
But then the realization suddenly crossed my mind. My current vantage point was the airspace from which the fury and wrath of so many bombs had once rained over this very landscape. My imagination tried to recreate what this calm scene would have looked like from the air: brutalized in flickering B&W war images, completely destroyed and traumatized.
And now here this was, a united Germany, a green summer landscape, and a plane filled with businessmen traversing across the once burning front lines, helping remake their economic powerhouse of a country into something even grander in its impact than Hitler's militaristic ambitions.
It was an intense moment of recognition about what I had seen and learned about war and rebirth from Germany. But my thoughts also suddenly turned to the part of the world I feel rooted in... the battle-worn and bombed out villages of Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon. Today those conflicts are taken for granted, accepted as simply our new geopolitical 'realities.' Clinical discussions about drones, air space, no fly zones fill the airwaves.
But in that flashing moment, in a plane over Dresden with a clear view of the city and the screen flashing my tiny blip of a plane as it moved across German history... I felt the promise of a future for those places that burn today.
Could a sunny morning flight over Syria or northern Pakistan become an unassuming reality in the future? A modern trip with a smart coffee and an exciting itinerary in cities that now seen distant and inaccessible?
I don't know the answers. But I can say I've seen the possibility from my window seat... and it was beautiful.