March 12, 2011
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It was quite hazardous, having so many eighth graders in one place, taken from our classes and all poured into one room. There was lethargy in the air—many didn’t see the point of it all, though they were glad to get out of class,—and they talked and carried on, as eighth graders do. But then, he walked in, and our voices became hushed, even of those who “didn’t care," now the whispers of a dry, crumbly paper that comes from another millennia. He was dressed in gray, and when he spoke, he had a quiet authority that was tinged with a note of sorrow that made his voice curl up at the edges, a rough patch on a sea of calm.
He told his story with the strength of a prizefighter, his inflection rising and lowering in pitch with each new phrase, the slightest trace of an accent touching his syllables. And the time ticked by, two and a half hours passed by without a glance at the clock, the story spinning itself, fabricating in front of our eyes; he wove it like a master storyteller. We were enthralled; those who “didn’t care” had long since forgotten their little act, now watching him speak with attentive eyes.
He told of life and loss, swallowing the saltwater tears that threatened to spill over the edge, telling his story with a magic that kept even the most restless of us still. We knew that something was happening; something was changing, changing as the man in front of us brought what had previously been just text on a page to life. And it sickened me, what happened, not too long ago, sickened me that the human mind was capable of committing such atrocities, sickened me that so many had died. Horror, shock, disbelief, that they thought killing people as fun, just another game, Monopoly, perhaps, or poker. Then, relief that he survived, by luck and cunning and strength, survived on his wits and his courage. Sorrow, too, intermixed with it all; we could barely imagine six hundred, let alone six million. Sorrow, it reached deep inside of us and changed things around so that nothing would feel right for days, an unsettled stomach while his words haunted me at night.

He was strong; he was brave, and barely an adult at that. He survived, despite suffering and pain; he dared to live, with no regrets of who he was. And he was a hero, no, he is a hero. Thank you, Ben Lesser. Thank you for everything, you are truly inspirational.

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