Terezin This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 20, 2010
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Rows and rows of graves stretch out before us. A large statue of a menorah stands beside us. Trees block the ghetto’s crematorium from our sight. The only movement is us filing into our positions in our blue polos and khakis. The only sound is the wind stirring the nearby trees.

I look up and see Mrs. Pagenstecher watching us with a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. When she cues us to begin singing, she barely lifts her arm instead of her usual emphatic movements. I open my mouth and start to sing,

“Ani ma’amin. Ani ma’amin.”

By the second verse, my tears choke me. All I can do is mouth the words and try to maintain my composure. I watch Rhea in front on the violin; her mouth is set in concentration as her bow arcs and dips. My eyes drift to the tree beside her. Staring at it, I think back to the stories of the children who never left Terezin, who planted this tree, and who now rest beneath the headstones around us.

The trees become blurry. I notice Rachel and Megan have fallen silent on either side of me. I bite my lip. I feel Rachel’s hand reach for mine, and I reach for Megan’s. One by one, the women in blue form a chain. Seeing all of us connected, I have to fight back a sob. I look back at Mrs. Pagenstecher singing through her tears and out over the graves until I stop at the tree—the children’s tree. I close my eyes and feel Megan squeeze my hand.

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