Haunting. I took the elevator up to the top floor to start the exhibit. The doors open up to a picture of a pit of dead. Bodies melted by fire. Bodies lying on top of each other like meat at a market. The smoke still rising and the smell still lingering. My heart sank beneath my chest, beneath the pit of my stomach and dropped to the floor. I felt sick, vomit stricken but holding it all in. Holding in the anger. Holding in the tears. Not letting it show. Some people broke down right when the doors opened. It was a difficult thing to see. Such brash images, such horror.
Haunting. I saw things I knew about but had forgotten. The way they classified people based on their skin color, the way their noses were shaped and the ways their heads were rounded. Does the world not see people as people? As human beings all here for the same reason? The same being. Traveling by day after day on this big blue and green sphere. The sun shining on each one of us. The stars ahead, planning out our destination. How did this happen?
Haunting. I sat down after a while. I was still sick. Something painful. A needle in my throat maybe. I couldn't speak. I sat in a room filled with the voices of Holocaust survivors. Men and women. Something about their voices hit me so hard. The voice still there, speaking on behalf of millions. The voice strong enough to speak up and remember the haunting memories. The killings. The families devoured by hate. It's a voice that usually hits me harder than an image. Just the rawness of it. The chords hitting the back of the throat. Abused almost. I'm stricken by there voices. I sat quietly and just listened. Making sure to hear the voices of the ones that got away. Each syllable. Each word.
Haunting. The portraits of families line a tunnel. Each so beautiful. Reminiscent of my own family portraits. Families skiing and families laughing and families singing and families smiling. I couldn't understand. They are there. They are fine in the pictures. Why didn't others see this? Why would anyone not understand the inhumanity behind the whole thing? Questions were stirring. Boys and girls staring back at me from the photographs. Their eyes so pure. Their innocence so evident. I can't understand. To let them die doesn't make sense. I felt so much pain, but nothing, nothing at all. I couldn't feel like they felt. Ever. And I don't even want to think about that. This uncomfortableness is real and raw. My heart stuck in a blender, feeling these feelings was so necessary. It stings and it's painful but that's why it's so important to see. So that nothing, nothing could cause something like this to happen again in human history.
Haunting. The shoes. They took my breath. Each shoe lying piled so high. The little girl's shoes shook me the hardest. Her slippers. Ones her mom gave her when she went off to first grade. The ones she would dance to in the kitchen while her mother made her favorite soup. Oh how hard it was to understand. Oh how much I wanted those shoes to be filled with feet. That the dying may not die. But it happened. And the shoes prove it. A quote lay above the shoes saying,
"We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses. We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam. And because we are only made of fabric and leather, and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the Hellfire."
My heart couldn't take it. It was the shoes that pushed me over. I tried to hold onto strength and not give in to the tears. But they came. It was the shoes. The old grandfather's boots he wore at every family meal. The boots his granddaughter danced on when she was too small to stand on her own. I released anger and frustration in those tears. I saw the shoes, through my misty glaze, being worn by the ones that were now gone and I had to release something or I would of imploded, the pressure too much.
Haunting. I'll never forget the images in that exhibit. The lives lost. The heroes that tried to resist. The voices. The portraits. The shoes. The intensity of it all still gives me chills. The coldness runs down my spine and trickles at my toes. I want to forget, I do, but I know I can't. And I won't. For the sake of the children, I won't. For the sake the future of humanity, I won't. I'll continue the story and cry alongside you someday.