My Jacket. My Memories. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Often when I enter my house, I put down my books, take off my jacket, and out of pure laziness, toss it on the floor of my room. Jackets are unbreakable and wrinkle-free, so I usually have no qualms about treating them in this carefree manner. However, there is one jacket which, out of respect, I only place on my body or neatly on a hanger in the closet. I am referring to the jacket I wore on the "March of the Living" during my trip year to Poland and Israel.

Equipped with a hidden hood and a drawstring at the bottom, my jacket protects me against the wind and rain, while providing ample room for sweaters. The deep royal blue material swishes when I swing my arms, and my hands often get lost in the too long sleeves. Wrapping myself in the jacket not only physically warms me from the chill of winter, but envelops me in the warmth of my experience on the "March of the Living."

My sentiment for my jacket stems from what I experienced on April 16, 1996. This date marked Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on which 6,000 youths, including me, marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau in Poland. This mile-long journey was the same path our ancestors marched, exhausted, tortured, and broken, toward their deaths. We, however, marched with pride, to commemorate life and the survival of the Jewish people.

Six thousand blue jackets lined the streets of Ausch-witz. Six thousand mourners. Six thousand people. Each blue jacket represented 1000 dead human beings. We separated into rows of six and clasped hands. The gentle heat generated between our hands (joined within each other's jacket pockets) overpowered the frigid weather outside. Alone, we were afraid. Six million people depended on us to keep their dreams alive. Courage penetrated our bodies through these soldered hands. Bound by our hands and our convictions, we found strength. We marched together.

Reaching the top of a hill was like standing on a buoy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We could see only a capacious expanse of blue. When the first blue jacket entered the gates of Birkenau, the last blue jacket was exiting Auschwitz to start the journey. Blue jackets reached a half mile in front of us, and a half mile behind us. One jacket unified six thousand different people, of various nationalities, backgrounds, and races, brought together by the common goal of remembrance. Our jackets separated us from the hundreds of onlookers lining the streets. Clothed in white dress shirts, suits, sweaters, jeans, and pants, they were different. We bore expressions of pride; they of disgust. We vowed to remember; they wished to forget. We were participating in the annual "March of the Living"; they came to watch the "Jews on Parade."

Unlike a normal parade with joyous music, blaring loudspeakers, laughter and merriment, our procession was mute. From the first step at Auschwitz to the ceremony inside Birkenau, not a single word pierced the silence. Our footsteps and constant swish of our nylon jackets provided background music for our memories. During the March, I reflected on the reason I was there. I recalled the sad stories I had read during my preparation for this trip. I remembered the sweaters, thermals, and turtlenecks layered under my jacket - and I tried to imagine walking in nothing but the threadbare pajamas of the prisoners. I thought of the emotional baggage burdening my grandmother from her experiences during the war. Mostly, I silently wondered about relatives I had never met, because they had walked this path before me. My mouth opened only to let salty tears drip inside.

Occasionally I shifted my concentration from inside my mind back to the view in front of me. I saw hundreds of Israeli flags dancing with the gusting winds. Seeing the blue Stars of David flying vigorously over our blue jackets added another layer under my jacket, one of pride. This fierce feeling burst from my heart and enveloped my entire body. I was marching to prove that Hitler did not accomplish his goal. He destroyed six million bodies, but their memories eternally survive within each of us who chooses to remember. I will remember. And by marching with six thousand people, if only for an hour, the world will remember with me. The left breast of my jacket bears a quotation: "It is the future which can restore the past and keep it from being forgotten." I am the future, and I will protect the future. c


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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