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March 9, 2013
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Most of our life flies right past us, collecting in a bottomless pool of forgotten ideas, aspiration and dreams. It was on this day that I felt for the first time a handprint imprint into my heart, twisting and turning until it merged with my soul. I will never forget those words in the Holocaust Museum.

On November 17, 2011 my eight grade class flew all the way across the country to Washington D.C. After a week full of history and sight seeing, we decided to visit the holocaust museum last. The bus gradually crept up to the museum as I stuck my nose against the crisp window allowing a blanket of fog to appear under my warm breath. With heavy feet, all 74 of us ascended onto the blanket of blood red leaves covering the cobblestone path leading up to the lifeless brick building. We passed through security with ease and a woman passed out identification booklets describing whom we would be as we traveled through the horrors of the Holocaust.

The grief hit me as soon as we piled into the elevator made to represent a gas chamber. A quiet possessed my body as I assimilated the hopeless despair of 6 million lost souls rushing out of the lifeless elevator, gasping for liberation. Hardship and sorrow seemed to emote from the grey blood scattered walls giving us a heads up for what harsh knowledge we would soon inherit. I began to feel the horrendously loud beating of my heart taunting those who lost what should still be theirs. It beat to the agonizing cries of parents knowing they would never hear their children’s laughter ever again. It beat to forced welcome of death no matter how early he was. It beat to the eerie quiet that took place of sharp forced breath. It beat to the taste of bleeding Jewish stars.

On the far side of the elevator I caught a glimpse of my face alone in the mess of people. Reluctantly I opened the identification booklet to a picture of a young girl named Marta. Hope gushed out of her bright eyes, making it seem impossible for Hitler's crippling fists to smite her. The elevator continued to ascend upwards and I couldn't help but hear the ghostly cries of anguish of those who crammed into a similar room, death hitchhiking on their bony shoulders. A sharp tone pierced through the chilling silence as the elevator arrived at its destination. I gravely let my eyes drift upwards, bracing myself for what would come ahead. The doors opened and nothing could have prepared my mind for the slap that struck my tingling heart. Photographs of mangled corpses’ bones protruding from every inch of flimsy darkened skin. As the ghastly images filled my eyes with heartbreak, I felt my clothes transform into the striped blue and white uniform worn by so many of the captured.

As the end of the museum neared, hundreds of candles lined the walls casting looming shadows on the many concentration camp names lining the wall. These unmarked cemeteries lay bare, no tombstones, flowers or visitors daring to appear out of the heartless camps. The silent knowledge will continue only in our hearts and words.

I remembered at that moment the first time I saw a yellow remembrance candle burning to bring back the memory of millions lost. I was an eight-year-old girl in religious school and I viewed all our traditions as silly. I would sit through what seemed like pointless prayer services gazing off into the distance. I felt isolated and bored because I didn’t understand the meaning of waking up every Sunday morning to relive the same traditions with the same people. I can still remember my reflection in the temple’s cracked bathroom mirror as I vowed to my future kids that I would never make them attend Hebrew school. For what was the point of being part of the Jewish community?

As I sat with the reality of my life, a single tear coated my cheek and I knew that I would never forget. I would never forget the piles of shoes, hair and clothes, or the people that easily could have been our temple family. I apologized in advance to my future children for I knew I would make them attend Hebrew school just as my parents had done to me. I could finally recognize why my parents felt the need to become a part of such a unique community. For we are the ones wearing that yellow Jewish star. We stand side by side, hand in hand, as we continue the journey of life together.

As my quivering hand grasped at the exit door the reflection in the mirror caught my attention. Surrounding my reflection was a crowd of hopeful faces, all of us wearing the striped prison suits. I could feel a yellow star of David being sewn onto my heart. Beside me, Marta grasped my hand and I knew I belonged here forever. Carefully I flipped to the back of the crumpled identification card to learn that Marta’s journey had come to an end. As I felt her heart stop beating, mine stopped as well.

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IMSteel said...
Mar. 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm
Chilling, and beautifully descriptive.  I love the way in which you tell the story, giving the reader a vivid idea of what it felt like to be in that museum.  I don't have any suggestions as far as changing anything, it was perfect.  Keep writing! Could you please comment on my story, The Voyages of the Waved Albatross?  I'd really appreciate it, thanks!
astern replied...
Mar. 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm
thank you so much :)  i will definitely check it out 
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